The saying goes, “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid,” and Guilford County officials are hoping the State of North Carolina will be one of those forces that comes to its aid in the county’s bold new mental health initiative.
Guilford County officials have a major plan to recreate the delivery of mental health services across the county and they would like some help paying the bill. In early 2019, the county will ask the state for some financial backing for the plan, which state officials have already said they admire greatly.
This week, State Rep. Jon Hardister said he certainly can see the NC General Assembly getting on board. He said that could even be done without adding any new money to the state budget since the budget already includes funds to enhance mental health services in North Carolina.
“The money in the Dorothea Dix Fund goes to mental health,” Hardister said, adding that the county could apply for a grant from that fund.
Two weeks ago, Guilford County announced that it had entered into an agreement with Cone Health system and Sandhills Center, with the blessing of state officials, to completely reshape the way mental health services are delivered. That’s all well and good but the plan calls for, among other things, a new county building estimated to cost about $20 million.
Hardister said 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.”
He added that Guilford County, Cone and Sandhills are making a “substantial” move to address the problem and the state would certainly like to help the endeavor be successful.
Guilford County Commissioner Jeff Phillips, who’s been the county’s point man on the project, said he’s been very pleased at the way the state has received the idea so far.
Phillips said his interactions with Hardister, Rep. John Faircloth, State Senator Rick Gunn and others had been very positive.
“I’ve been very encouraged by those conversations,” Phillips said.
He also said one of the big pluses about this particular issue is that it’s not really political: Both Democrats and Republicans are highly interested in improving mental health services.
“Whether you’ve got a D or an R beside your name, that doesn’t matter,” Phillips said. “It’s sort of like the Family Justice Center and domestic violence – everybody agrees that’s an area we need to focus on. And this is an area where everyone agrees we need to do better.”
The issue is likely to be addressed by the General Assembly in the spring.