News Tamar Raucher | one year ago

Carolinas HealthCare System Doctor Offers Insight to Governor’s Budget Proposal

The plan will help treat people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders – one of the biggest issues facing our state and nation.

Dr. Santopietro Official Headshot (1)Dr. John Santopietro, chief clinical officer of behavioral health at Carolinas HealthCare System, has been working to improve mental healthcare in the state of North Carolina. In an effort to give mental illnesses and substance abuse treatment greater attention, Gov. McCrory on April 11 proposed 30 million new dollars in his budget plan to help treat people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders, which he called the biggest issue facing our state and nation. For the past year, a task force appointed by McCrory has worked on developing recommendations to improve mental health and substance abuse services in the state. These recommendations formed the basis of the proposals which will be funded if McCrory’s budget gets approved after the legislative session starts on April 25. Dr. Santopietro co-chaired a workgroup of the governor’s task force and was the sole representative from Mecklenburg County. He also serves as co-chair of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine’s statewide task force, which helps improve mental health and substance abuse treatment for adults and children. Santopietro says his work group made three main recommendations:
  • Provide increased housing opportunities for people with mental health and substance use disorders
  • Increase case management to help people in recovery and those with severe mental illness
  • Help people with mental illness avoid jail when what they need is treatment
“This is an effort on (McCrory’s) part to bring together leaders from around the state to solve the crisis we have – like most states – in behavioral health,” says Dr. Santopietro. “Visible leadership and commitment from the top, starting with the governor, has been critical to solving this problem. I was pleased by the governor’s announcement about his budget proposal . . . It showed that he believes in and listened to the task force, and that he cares deeply about this topic . . . ” McCrory’s budget proposal includes:
  • Adding 320 slots, at a cost of $3 million, in a Medicaid program for disabled adults that will allow people with Alzheimer’s and older adults to stay in their homes
  • Increasing enrollment in the state pre-kindergarten program by 400, at a cost of $2 million
  • Adding 250 slots in a Medicaid program for people with developmental disabilities that allows them to live in their communities, at a cost of $2.5 million
  • Improving the state child protection system, at a cost of $8.6 million