Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
The Community Relations Director for VAYA Health Shelly Foreman sent commissioners a resolution in support of funding to meet the mental health, intellectual/developmental disabilities and substance use disorder services for Macon County last Tuesday night. Because Foreman was unable to attend the meeting, consideration for the resolution was continued to next month.
The North Carolina General Assembly’s budget that was passed by the House of Representatives in a controversy override vote on September 11 proposes cutting millions of dollars in mental health funding across the state.
Vaya Health serves as the regional agency responsible for distributing state funds to agencies in Western North Carolina who provide mental health and substance abuse services. The budget, which was vetoed by the Governor but overridden by the House and now sits in the Senate, could cut $9 million over the next budget year.
The resolution up for consideration states that “Macon County recognizes that, with appropriate services and supports, individuals with mental health and substance use disorders can achieve recovery; and Macon County further recognizes the individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities can live productive lives in the homes and communities of their choice.”
The resolution says that Vaya Health is responsible for providing those services to 270,000 medicaid-covered and uninsured individuals across the 22 western North Carolina counties. Vaya Health has already reinvested $18.5 million of its Medicaid savings in a broad array of initiatives designed directly to address the needs of citizens in Macon County.
The state’s funding for behavioral health has already been but by more than $458 million statewide over the past four years, with $48 million cuts in single-stream funding to Vaya specifically.
The resolution points out that additional cuts will put a significant strain on local hospitals, Emergency Medical Services, jails, housing and other social service resources, which would ultimate result in a bigger cost on state services.
“Stop cutting Vaya Health’s State single-stream funding so that such funds can be utilized to strengthen access to healthcare services for mental health, intellectual/development disabilities. And substance use disorder needs of uninsured and underinsured Macon County citizens; and allow Vaya Health to build up its Medicaid savings so that Vaya can reinvest in services and supports for our communities rather than mandating that such funds be used to replace reduced State funding.
The Governor vetoed the budget primarily because it didn’t include medicaid expansion, one of his top priorities. Even with cuts to behavioral health across the state, Vaya Health leaders noted that the medicaid expansion would have been extremely beneficial to bridging the gap for individuals needing service and fall between the cracks.
Foreman has listed counties across WNC looking for support for Vaya Health, while the agency prepares for what is to come in the event the budget is passed as written.