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Mental Health Task Force To Meet In Raleigh Tuesday

A picture of a crying person.
Joe Penna
A 24-member panel has been appointed to recommend a course of action for helping North Carolinians with a range of mental health and substance abuse issues.

North Carolina's new Mental Health and Substance Abuse task force meets for the first time Tuesday.

Governor Pat McCrory appointed North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin and Health Secretary Rick Brajer  to co-chair the task force. The 24-member panelwill include legal experts, law officers, legislators, doctors and academics. The panel will also include advocates tocome up with a recommendation about how the state should handle short-term and long-term mental health care and substance abuse treatment.

Jack Register leads North Carolina's chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He's optimistic about the diverse group's ability to come up with creative solutions, but he also has concerns.

"Everything that we do around caring for vulnerable people requires funding," Register says. "If we come up with some of the best practices that are available in the country, and we come up with the best ideas for how we should do this, if the funding just isn't there, then what we do is really not going go anywhere."

State Chief Supreme Court Justice Mark Martin says he is hopeful that the panel's united front will convince the legislature to support its findings.

Martin says he's interested in seeing whether the six locally-founded mental health courts can be replicated across the state.

"There should be uniformity and services that are offered statewide," Martin says. "You shouldn't have a more effective opportunity to receive services that you need just because of the county you live in."

Chief Justice Martin says he hopes the task force will have recommendations for the the governor by May 1, 2016.

Tuesday's task force meetingwill be at 2 p.m. the McKimmon Center at NC State University. Martin says all meetings will be open to the public.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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