They say there’s no harm in asking and that’s exactly what the Guilford County Board of Commissioners did in a very big way at their Thursday, Feb. 7 meeting: asked the State of North Carolina for $10 million so the state could foot half the cost of constructing a new adult care mental health facility on Third Street in Maple Professional Park in Greensboro.

The ask is one of the biggest the county has ever made of the state and it’s an extremely important one because Guilford County is absolutely committed to the project and an afternoon work session right before the regular evening meeting drove home the point of just how strapped the county is for capital dollars right now.

Guilford County’s new mental health center, which is projected to cost around $20 million, is one of two buildings that will be built on the Third Street site as part of the county’s major new mental health initiative with Cone Health and Sandhills Center Inc. – the behavioral health management entity that oversees the administration of mental health and substance abuse services in a nine county district that includes Guilford.

Sandhills is financing and constructing a second building on the site that will address children and adolescents with mental health issues.

The board made the request of the state in the form of a resolution adopted unanimously. That resolution stated that Guilford County requests the General Assembly vote in favor of $10 million to help support a comprehensive line of mental health services in the county – including crisis assessment in the 16-bed adult facility that, once built, will be open around the clock. It stated that the money would be used “to help implement this collaborative model, designed to better provide more effective, efficient and holistic provision of medical care to our most vulnerable populations in crisis.”

Commissioner Jeff Phillips, who’s been spearheading the mental health overhaul for the county, said he and other county officials had been in talks with state legislators from this area and said that some of them felt “very positive” about the prospects for the state funding the request.

Several weeks ago, State Rep. Jon Hardister told the Rhino Timesthat he could certainly see the NC General Assembly getting on board.  Hardister said at that time that it could even be done without adding any new money to the state budget since the budget already includes funds in it’s Dorothea Dix Fund meant to enhance mental health services across North Carolina.

Hardister said then that in his mind it’s certainly a worthy cause for state backing.

“It is not rare for the General Assembly to support mental health at the local level,” he said. “We all recognize that it’s a problem.”

A big problem it is in Guilford County.  Between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018, more than 21,550 people received mental health, substance abuse or related care in Guilford County and, during that same period, over  $143 million in Medicaid, state and local funds went toward providing behavioral health services in the county.