Your emails and phone calls are working. I talked to nearly twenty Representatives and Senators today and found them all quite interested in listening. Rep. Verla Insko, an honest-to-God leader in this fight, had 210 messages in her inbox by 1pm, and she, along with the other legislators are prepared to find a solution to the crisis wrought by Carmen Hooker-Odom's ruinous decision.
The mental health system has been unstable since it was unmoored under the 2001 reform legislation. As private businesses work to create a sustainable infrastructure, they are repeatedly thrown into crisis by the state's decision. Let's remember that the consultant hired by the state recommended a five-year period of stability to foster innovation and build infrastructure.
Businesses are already cutting workers, and I've heard of three that have already closed. All smaller providers are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. There are 20,000 public mental health recipients in the 11th Congressional District alone. All of them are in danger of losing services - losing access to psychiatrists, to substance abuse services, to group homes. Here's one report from gsodem at BlueNC:
"The cuts came on Thursday, the check they got from Medicaid was shorted by $70,000. Layoffs began yesterday. 14 clerical and support staff have been shown to the door -- All in less than a week. It will start with clerical and support. If the situation doesn't improve, eventually it will bite the clinicians because they are more expensive employees."
I'm having a hard time organizing my thoughts into a fluid narrative, so here are some bullets for you:
- Tomorrow at 11am, NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) and the NCAC (North Carolina Advocacy Coalition), are sponsoring a rally at the capital in Raleigh. Come if you can. Bring signs.
- In the west, county managers are meeting tomorrow and Friday with mental health providers and representatives from Congressman Shuler's office to respond to the crisis.
- Governor Mike Easley isn't returning anyone's calls. He's isolated himself. The legislators, the business sector, and the citizenry are all arrayed against Easley and his Secretary Odom, and they're trying to ride out the storm behind closed doors.
- A group of providers is seeking an injunction in the courts tomorrow, arguing that the Odom's decision constitutes a breach of contract.
- It's rumored that Division of Medical Assistance Director Alan Dobson has moved the date of the retroactive cuts from March 1 to April 1 and that the $40 rate will remain in effect until April 20 at which point a new decision will be made. This could be just a rumor. It could be a political feint. Or it could be a well-intended response. Regardless, it doesn't prevent the crisis.
In your emails and phone calls, you can reference this Hooligan's suggestions:
1. Rescind the Odom decision. Return the rates to what they were on March 31.
2. Recognize this simple problem - Government is always looking to cut costs while business costs of doing business are always going up.
3. Reward providers that are doing things right by compensating them commensurately. Punish those that are abusing the system through fines and prosecutions.
4. Implement a three tier reimbursement system that pays varied rates for differently skilled workers, assigned according to the level of care needs of the client. Alternately, come up with another great idea - we're all ears.
Again, what you're doing is working. Don't stop yet. Governor Easley (919-733-4240), Secretary Odom (919-733-4534), and your local newspapers all need to hear from you. Make as much noise as you can.