Editorial

Pain of uncertainty

December 18, 2012 

The families of the mentally ill who rely on some degree of public assistance rightly fear the word “reform.” More than 10 years ago, a statewide effort to move care into communities was disastrous. Now new reform is promising, but organizing care is a bear of a job. A sense of urgency must drive a 40-member team tasked with the effort to change the delivery of care, for the better.

Basically, UNC Health Care and the Alliance managed care organization will partner with Wake County in providing services to people with a broad range of problems, from sexual abuse to drug care to chronic illness that previously would have put them in Dorothea Dix hospital, now closed.

First, though, the county has to help UNC and Alliance figure out what services were being provided and how they might continue. Some advocates for the mentally ill fear that as many as 3,000 people getting help won’t know where to go once the partnership takes over. Hence the need for a step-up in finalizing changes.

So getting the organization together quickly before the services are to be transitioned on July 1 must be a priority. There are talented people on the team, experienced people, and those with considerable organizational skills.

But in addition to the technical challenges these good folks face, they need to be mindful of the anxiety that any change, including that with the best aims, can cause those who will be in need of services. We are confident they understand that.

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