Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne is often in the background at Board of Commissioners meetings, but Payne played a front and center role at Guilford County’s Monday, Oct. 18 virtual meeting between the commissioners and the county’s delegation of state legislators.
Payne was the point man for all of the county’s requests for state help – including a $1 million ask for money to go toward the operation of the brand new Guilford County Behavioral Health Center.
The afternoon online meeting was held so that the commissioners could let the state legislators – the state senators and House representatives from districts that include Guilford County – what specific help county leaders would like to see from the legislature.
Payne told the state legislators that the new mental health center, which recently opened, cost $20.8 million to build and costs about $5 million in county money to run every year.
Payne pointed out to the state legislators that Guilford County had anticipated $7.7 million in state funding toward the construction of the new facility.
“As everybody knows,” Payne said, “that budget was never adopted,” Payne said of the budget that NC Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed, leaving the state with no budget signed into law for the 2019 to 2021 fiscal years.
“We have sunk a lot of capital into this building,” Payne said at the meeting, adding that every year it will cost millions to operate.
“A large portion of that is for opioid addiction treatment,” Payne said, adding that the county had an idea where the $1 million could come from.
A consulting firm that provided services to opioid makers for years, and advised them on “how to lie about opioid addiction,” paid $17 million to North Carolina to avoid litigation from the state’s Attorney General’s Office. Payne suggested the $1 million come from that $17 million.
This money is distinct from the money involved in the well-publicized national litigation against the main drug makers and distributors.
Republican District 59 state House Rep. Jon Hardister said at the meeting that the request sounded “reasonable,” to him, and other state legislators also said they were going to explore the possibility of getting the $1 million into the hands of Guilford County to help cover operating costs this year.
It is a blessing to have a facility like this in a city the size of Greensboro, and it is sorely needed. If the Triad is like the rest of the nation, there will be 400-500 “public incidents of psychiatric distress” in the region annually. These incidents could be as benign as finding missing Alzheimer’s patients who wander off, or as critical as domestic violence situations or child abuse or hostage/suicide negotiation. I’d be happy to pay a half cent sales tax to support these services, which will take the mental health response away from cops and avoid any tragedies which can cost a city tens of millions in liabilities. I’d also be happy to donate MORE to this facility to hire ON-CALL mental health professionals who can help people experiencing crisis, administer medication (including Narcan), dispatched through 911 and the suicide prevention hotline. $1 million is great, but it will not go far instituting these critical services that require highly trained, highly experience people who should be compensated well for their education, training and patience. Greensboro has a chance to be a model city for the treatment of mental health issues as treatable disease and drug addiction as a public health issue. The operational costs for this facility will be far less than the insurance costs and settlements you’ll pay for killing one unarmed taxpayer in crisis. Walk around G’boro, talk to some of the men and women standing on street corners looking for handouts and tell me a few of these folks won’t be needing these services relatively soon? The life you save may be yours.
There’s at least 173,087 citizens of Guiford County that could use the services of a new mental health center.
I know of 9 on the city council and several on the county commissioners that can use a lot of help
Well hells bells, can I get a million for being a good little taxpayer? Go kick rocks!
What happened to the money sent to Guilford county that our Skip and crew was trying to decide whom to give Millions of dollars to Mark why not call Skip and use that money .He only wants to give it away such as the schools of Guilford. Who squandered $10 million and then went to commissioners to get more The original $10 million was for security/metal detectors for as many schools as possible.Ehen asked Our Superintendent was all thumbs she did not know where that money went .