Response to the recent Department of Justice motion filed

If you were diagnosed with a chronic illness tomorrow, how would your life change? Imagine the amount of time and energy that would go into your care. Imagine interacting with a healthcare system that’s disjointed, unorganized, and doesn’t intervene until you are very sick. The specialists you need may not even be available in your area. When your condition becomes severe, you may wait for days in the emergency department to be admitted.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to imagine this system at all; this scenario is a reality for millions of adults and children across the state who depend on the public mental health system. It’s no secret that our “system” is not much of a system at all. Most often, people are hidden away from sight in jails, prisons, institutions, or worse – dead.

The U.S. Department of Justice found many issues with North Carolina’s mental health system – spanning from housing to employment to community services. In 2012, North Carolina entered into a voluntary settlement agreement with the U.S. DOJ to address the systemic issues within the mental health system. Since that time, the state has lagged behind in key areas of the agreement. The most recent report from the DOJ independent reviewer indicated serious concerns about the state’s progress towards provisions in the settlement agreement – notably housing, employment, and the community-based mental health system.

On January 9, the U.S. DOJ filed a  motion to further enforce the settlement agreement between NC and the U.S. DOJ. As a statewide advocacy organization, we applaud the U.S. DOJ for taking additional steps to hold the state accountable for creating a system that works. People’s lives depend on it.