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Mental Health Task Force Working On Policy Recommendations

First responders in Guilford County have administered hundreds of doses of Naloxone, or NARCAN, this year. Heroin overdoses and deaths are on the rise.
Jeff Tiberii

Members of a task force on mental illness are developing policy recommendations for state legislators.

The task force was called for by Gov. Pat McCrory, and is made up of about 30 people who are considering how to improve issues of mental illness, substance abuse, public housing, and support systems throughout the state.  State officials are optimistic a task force on mental health can have an impact.

"This is the first time members of the legislative, judicial and executive branches have joined together on this kind of effort," State Health and Human Services Secretary Rick Brajer said.

"What I'm confident of is that there's going to be important momentum coming out of this task force. There will be work that will occur in the short session, but clearly there's going to be work that will occur in the long session as well."

At least one member of the task force is worried about politics getting in the way of helping people. Jack Register is Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Illness - North Carolina. He says he's glad the governor called for the group's creation, and believes this the task force has the support of McCrory and Brajer. However, Register has concerns about what will materialize.

"I worry that some of our recommendations will meet deaf ears; because they involve funding. And I don't know if our legislature and our governor's office are on board with each other in terms of moving our state forward," he explained.

"My fear is that this task force got set in the middle of that constant sort of volleyball match between the governor and the legislature - particularly during an election cycle."

Register says the task force has been given mixed signals about asking for money as part of the recommendations.  The task force is expected to make a series of recommendations by the end of March. State legislators reconvene in late April.

Jeff Tiberii covers politics for WUNC. Before that, he served as the station's Greensboro Bureau Chief.
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