Editorials

NC budget cuts set back mental health

North Carolina’s Republican legislators leave no stone unturned when it comes to cutting the state budget to make possible tax cuts most benefiting the wealthy and businesses. Then, they roll that stone toward the disadvantaged and people of modest means.

The latest action will cut $110 million from the budgets for the state’s eight regional mental health centers. The GOP solution? They say the centers can just use their savings to fill the gap, rather than use the money saved to look for new treatments and innovations.

So, while those who are able to afford private care can have access to new treatments that might improve or even save their lives, those who depend on state-assisted care will be denied those treatments.

And, of course, mental health agencies fear more cuts in the future.

That’s all the Republicans seem to think about when it comes to the future. They’ve slashed and burned worthy programs in the budget in the name of handing out tax breaks that, as it turns out, don’t amount to all that much and are compensated for with tax increases on things like car repairs and other services.

And what about the consequences of that lost tax revenue down the road? Republicans are budgeting only with the present political benefit in mind. If another recession hits, they’ll let future legislatures worry about the shortfalls that will hit all areas of the budget.

The hard-right Senate, which has demonstrated no regard for North Carolinians in poverty or close to it, was the originator of these cuts, of course. The House ultimately caved in during negotiations.

As originally conceived, the regional agencies were to use any funds left from standard appropriations to invest in new developments in care. But that promise now has gone with the wind, and they’ll be forced to spend their money until their savings are gone.

The shortsightedness, the lack of any kind of sympathy for constituents in need of mental health care, would be astonishing were it not part of a disturbing pattern designed by Republican lawmakers to pound the defenseless poor at any opportunity.

And without new treatments that might help, those who depend upon the state for mental health treatment will hold the line at best and perhaps suffer more severe problems should their difficulties persist.

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