Under the Dome

Dome: State in the middle on mental health cuts

STAFF WRITERSNovember 11, 2011 

This is something you don't hear much. And by much, we mean ever.

A report by a national mental health advocacy group concludes that cuts to mental health funding in the state over three years weren't so bad.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness released a report Thursday on state mental health budget cuts since 2009 that showed North Carolina ranked 24th among all states.

"I think our secretary and our leaders have tried to preserve funding for mental health," said Deby Dihoff, NAMI North Carolina executive director. "I don't think it feels that way to the person who tried to use mental health (services). It feels like an environment that is problematic right now. At least (the state) hasn't cut the money more seriously."

The national report looks at two time periods for its report: funding from fiscal years 2009 to 2012, and fiscal years 2011 to 2012.

North Carolina shows a 1.2 percent decrease between 2009 and 2012, where it comes in 24th, and a 7.3 percent reduction from 2011 to 2012, where the cut is the fourth highest, by percentage. The current budget takes $45 million of the $48.2 million reduction from local mental health offices, which were told to take the cuts out of their savings, the report says.

Of course, NAMI would have liked the state to have been one of the more than 30 that increased their mental health budgets this year.

LaRoque will drop suit, pay fine

Republican state Rep. Stephen LaRoque agreed to dismiss his defamation lawsuit against a political opponent and the state Democratic Party and pay more than $17,000 in contempt of court fines to settle the case, according to an N.C. Policy Watch report.

LaRoque filed the case after opponent Van Braxton sent a mailer in the 2010 election about the East Carolina Development Co., a nonprofit economic development firm the lawmaker founded in 1997. This year, Policy Watch's Sarah Ovaska investigated and found loans made to LaRoque's close associates.

Virginia Foxx gets an opponent

Treva Johnson, the Wilkes County Democratic chairwoman, announced her candidacy against Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx on Thursday. Johnson, of Roaring River, is state director of Omni Visions, a statewide agency providing foster care.

Foxx represents the 5th District, which has been a Republican stronghold under her and before her under now-Sen. Richard Burr. But the new redistricting plan makes it somewhat less Republican-leaning in an effort to hurt Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler in an adjoining district.

lynn.bonner@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4821

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