Officials struggle to provide crisis care
On Halloween night 2003, David Norris, then 54, who suffered from bipolar mental illness, was dropped off outside the door of the Hendersonville Rescue Mission after being discharged from Broughton, the state mental hospital in Morganton.
Norris, a college graduate and native of Columbia, S.C., had been in Broughton for one of what would be many trips for assessment and treatment. He had no family in Hendersonville. He had his belongings, some medication and a Social Security disability check, according to intake records from mission and recollections of workers.
Homeless shelters in Marion and Statesville had refused him admission for past behavioral problems. He had used his disability check to get into group homes, but never stayed long. (more…)
A reform in distress
North Carolina launched mental health reform in 2001. The task proved massive and challenging, as the state revamped a system that remained almost untouched since the 1970s.
In the four years since the legislation was enacted, the reform has changed the way the mentally ill receive care, from the Outer Banks to the mountains.
The reform is far from complete.
The changes that already have occurred are complex, and often confusing for providers, patients and their families. But a few of the changes stand out because of their scope.
Here is a breakdown of some of those more prominent changes, and a brief history of when it all started. (more…)
Plans to slash hospital size bring about unease
Since the first patient walked into Broughton Hospital in the late 1800s, the state-run mental health institution has seen its share of growth and downsizing.
New plans to slash the size of the hospital, which serves 37 counties in Western North Carolina, have created unease among mental health officials in the mountains.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services operates four psychiatric hospitals in the state. Broughton is the largest. The hospital serves a region of more than 3.6 million people, or about 36 percent of the state’s population.
More than 4,000 patients receive help through the hospital each year, on this historic campus nestled among hundreds of scenic acres in the foothills of Burke County. (more…)
MENTAL HEALTH REFORM
A question of care
Cam Thomas has good and bad days.
Most days, she feels fine. But on bad days, when the medication can no longer control her bipolar disorder, she becomes manic. She cannot sleep. Her focus fades, her agitation rises. She speaks nonstop and she becomes obsessed with such trivial tasks as cleaning the living room or rearranging the kitchen.
"When I start doing that, my family knows I’m in trouble," says Thomas, 37.
Thomas, a former social worker, is not alone.
In last year alone, 16,545 people received treatment through the North Carolina Division of Mental Health for bipolar disorder, a prominent mental illness that can leave its sufferers feeling both depressed and manic. (more…)