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NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services

Archived Division News and Updates

Current Updates

November 30, 2012

People with disabilities find success when they work

Obtaining employment can be difficult for anyone in a down economy, but those with disabilities have a much harder time.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 20 percent of people with disabilities are employed but many more wish to be.

“Assisting people with disabilities of all types find jobs and stay in the workforce results in improved self-esteem, self-determination and recovery rates,” said Jim Jarrard, acting director of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (DMH/DD/SAS).  “Improved outcomes not only help the individual but reduce costs across the system because people that work utilize fewer services.”

In North Carolina, 377,362 people with mental illness, substance abuse issues, and intellectual and developmental disabilities were served through DMH/DD/SAS and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in 2011, yet only about 10 percent received employment services.  North Carolina offers an array of individualized employment services and supports to ensure individuals are successful in the competitive job market, including Supported Employment and Long Term Vocational Supports.

Individuals should be supported, encouraged, and provided access to employment services; because without support, people with disabilities are often kept in poverty, dependency and segregation.  Research has shown that being employed not only enhances an individual's sense of self-worth and contributes to his or her economic well-being, but also dramatically reduces service costs and establishes essential community connections that allow the individual to function as a contributing, valued member of the community.

“Individuals we serve have the desire and ability to seek employment in their communities and earn the same wages as anyone else,” said Emery Cowan, program manager with DMH/DD/SAS.  “Employment should be the expectation for friends and family members with disabilities, not the exception.”

Establishing employment as the first outcome of all disability services will enable the community and businesses to reframe their perspectives about people with disabilities and their potential for gainful and meaningful employment and community inclusion. Most individuals with a disability want to work and contribute to society, and by creating this expectation, communities, employers, individuals and families will be enhanced.

Despite limited funding, there are success stories to be told across the state:

  • Garrett from Siler City works part-time at his local Walgreen’s and also attends Central Carolina Community College.
  • Dwight from Charlotte utilized a job coach to find his part-time job that he has held for three years.  Due to his strong work ethic, Dwight recently was given a raise.
  • Elizabeth in Asheville loves working with kids and as a result of help from her job coaches, she now works with a daycare and has completed some courses related to the care of children.  Her goal is to complete a daycare certification program at the local community college.
  • Robbie in Siler City was named Employee of the Month and continues to be a positive role model for others at the Walgreen’s where he works.
  • John in Greensboro uses his musical talents to entertain diners at local restaurants and seniors at an assisted living facility.
  • Joseph works as a dining room attendant in Vanceboro and lives in his own apartment.
  • Lee from Aurora likes to read and loves his job at the library of a community college.
  • Robert in Charlotte had a long journey with mental illness but received education classes and for two and a half years has worked as a North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist helping others that have gone through similar situations.
  • Nathan in New Bern works for Lowe’s and credits his manager for helping him learn the best ways to interact with customers and fellow employees.
  • Rosalind in Charlotte was hired by Dollar Tree as a stocker but has expanded her duties greatly over the past year and a half due to her proven abilities.
  • Michael from Watauga County has worked for 16 years at Cheap Joe’s Art Supply Store.
  • Carl from Asheville has created success for himself by staying focused on his goals.  He currently works at PF Chang’s China Bistro.

To find out more about employment services for people with disabilities, contact Emery Cowan at or visit this website for more information.


October 25, 2012

DHHS Smoking Cessation Initiative Targets Consumers of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

North Carolina, along with six other states, is participating in a national program to reduce smoking rates among consumers of substance abuse and mental health services. Individuals with mental and substance use disorders make up almost half of all U.S. tobacco related deaths and those with a mental illness die 25 years earlier as a result of their tobacco use.

“Populations affected by substance abuse and mental health issues disproportionately use tobacco,” says Jim Jarrard, acting director of the N.C. DHHS Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (DMH/DD/SAS).  “In our state, just under 20 percent of the general population smokes, but almost half of all mental health consumers and 63 percent of people with substance abuse issues are smokers.”

To address this disparity, the N.C. Leadership Academy for Wellness and Smoking Cessation was developed in partnership with the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California San Francisco.  The Academy is designed to enhance collaboration among mental health, public health, substance abuse, consumer organizations and other partners to work together to reduce this health disparity.

At the initial Leadership Academy in August 2011, more than 35 stakeholders developed a 5 year strategy and set goals to achieve by the year 2016. Among the goals: 

  • to reduce the smoking rate among the substance abuse population from 63 percent to 50 percent.
  • to reduce the smoking rate from 49 percent to 39 percent in the mental health population. 
  • to reduce the smoking rate in the general population from 19.8 percent to 16 percent by 2016.  

The group met again in September 2012 to review progress in implementing the strategies toward their goals, which included:

  • raising awareness about the disparity in smoking rates, engaging consumers and community organizations as advocates for tobacco control policies and cessation services;
  • providing training to substance abuse and mental health providers that will better equip them to address the issue of smoking with their clients, providing referrals and utilizing QuitlineNC.

“Tobacco use causes more deaths among clients in substance abuse treatment than the alcohol or drugs that brought them to treatment,” says Margaret Brake, program manager with DMH/DD/SAS.  “By working together we can have a huge impact on this problem with these populations.”

QuitlineNC offers free tobacco treatment and support services for any North Carolina resident who wants to quit using tobacco.  QuitlineNC also offers resources to health professionals, employers, friends and relatives wanting to support someone trying to quit tobacco use of any kind.

QuitlineNC can be reached online at or by telephone at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).  Quit coaching is available in English and Spanish with translation services for other languages available.

Additional information about the NC Leadership Academy for Wellness and Smoking Cessation.

Additional information on quitting smoking is available.

Review the NC Leadership Academy for Wellness and Smoking Cessation Action Plan.


October 10, 2012

North Carolina Plan for Implementing the USDOJ Settlement Agreement

North Carolina has agreed to develop and implement effective measures to prevent inappropriate institutionalization and to provide adequate and appropriate public services and supports identified through person centered planning in the most integrated setting appropriate to meet the needs of individuals with SMI, who are in or at risk of living in congregate settings and offer alternative choices. This plan describes the tasks and workflows necessary to implement the details and timelines contained in the State’s Settlement Agreement signed August 23, 2012 with the United States concerning community integration of individuals with SMI in or at risk of entry to an adult care home.

This plan is intended to be an internal North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) process document, may change over time, is subject to annual legislative appropriation, and is not intended to create enforceable rights for any individual based upon any of the timelines or descriptions contained in the plan. This plan is not an admission by the State that corrective measures are necessary to meet the requirements of the ADA, the Rehab Act, or the Olmstead decision, or that any citizen or resident of the State is entitled to housing or a housing subsidy under the United States or North Carolina Constitutions, the ADA, the Rehab Act, the Olmstead decision, or any other federal or State law or regulation.

Read the full plan and flowchart below.


September 19, 2012

Nearly 30,000 Storm Victims Served by Crisis Counseling Program  

Fourteen months after the NC on the Road to Resilience program began, it has successfully completed its mission of providing crisis counseling to people in counties ravaged by storms and tornadoes through a telephone hotline, face-to-face outreach and referrals to local resources.

April 16, 2011 was a calm Saturday in North Carolina until tornadoes, severe storms, and flooding carved a wide path of destruction through the state.  After the storms had passed, federal disaster declarations were established and the work to rebuild began. 

The North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (DMH/DD/SAS) forged partnerships with two federal agencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), to provide services to the people of N.C. using federal dollars.

“DMH/DD/SAS received grants totaling $1.3 million from FEMA and SAMHSA to provide crisis counseling to people in counties ravaged by storms,” said Steve Hairston, operations support section chief at the DMH/DD/SAS. “Those grants resulted in North Carolina’s Crisis Counseling Program, NC on the Road to Resilience.”

The program served almost 30,000 people during the initial phase by providing crisis counseling services, group education, and materials within the first 60 days of the disaster.  The initial service program included door-to-door outreach within the communities affected, town-hall style meetings, along with the hotline for referrals and other assistance.

The second phase of the NC on the Road to Resilience program worked toward rebuilding communities by providing support groups, working with schools and faith communities, and providing motivational speakers to help empower the affected communities.  This part of the program has had contact with more than 17,000 people in Bladen, Cumberland, Halifax, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Onslow, Robeson, and Sampson counties.

“The program showed the people of North Carolina that they can experience devastating events and bounce back from them,” said Hairston.  “Most of the counties and towns affected by the storms and tornadoes are thriving again.”

The NC on the Road to Resilience Program employed 30 people throughout the life of the grants, including recent graduates who had their first professional experience providing outreach to the communities where they live.

September 12, 2012

September 17-22 is Falls Prevention Awareness Week

Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries and the second leading cause of nonfatal injuries among North Carolinians age 65 and older.  Governor Bev Perdue has designated September 17-22 as Falls Prevention Awareness Week.

“Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), especially for older adults,” said Jim Jarrard, acting director of the North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (DMH/DD/SAS).  “Because most falls occur at home, there are simple steps you can take to prevent dangerous falls.”

The following tips will help keep your home safe and free of falls.

  • Lighting.  Make sure that you have good, bright lighting in your home. Use night-lights in your bedroom, hall and bathroom.
  • Rugs.  Make sure rugs are firmly fastened to the floor or use nonskid backing.  Tack down loose ends.
  • Electrical cords.  Move electrical or phone cords so they are not lying on the floor in walking areas. Do not run cords under rugs.
  • Bathroom.  Put grab bars in your bathroom for support when moving on or off the toilet, or stepping into the tub or shower.  Consider using a seat while showering for a safe, stable position for washing legs and feet.
  • Stairs/stairwells.  Install handrails on both sides of stairwells.  Be sure the stairs are well lit.
  • Kitchen.  Store items within easy reach. Avoid using stepstools or stepladders.  Keep items that you use near where you use them.
  • Phone. Add cordless phones so that you have a phone in easy reach to place or answer calls.  Make sure the phone near the bed is a corded phone that will work even when power is out.
  • Footwear.  Wear shoes with firm non-skid, non-friction soles.  Avoid wearing loose-fitting slippers

DMH/DD/SAS is a member of the North Carolina Falls Prevention Coalition that works to increase awareness, promote multidisciplinary strategies to prevent falls, and encourage North Carolinians to take steps to protect those who are at increased risk of falling.  Since its founding in 2008, the coalition has grown to become a multi-disciplinary, multi-network group comprised of key leaders from over 50 organizations across the state.

The coalition will present a webinar on Tuesday, September 18 from 3-4 p.m. that will feature community level successes in fall prevention as well as updates from the state and national levels.  To sign up for the webinar, please visit

Additional information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at


August 23, 2012

DHHS, U.S. DOJ Reach Agreement on Community-Based Care for Citizens with Serious Mental Illness

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Justice today reached an agreement on the state’s plan to offer more choices of where and how citizens with serious mental illness receive care and supportive services.

The plan, which was announced last month, will create housing slots in the community to offer the choice of community-based care for many adults with serious mental illness. It will also invest in job training and employment assistance for those citizens and will set up a comprehensive, 24/7 crisis care program for people with a serious mental illness.

This agreement will modernize our mental health system and ensure that North Carolina is providing the best possible treatment for adults diagnosed with severe mental illness. It will also provide the opportunity for many of these individuals to live in community settings if they choose to do so, and ensure that North Carolina is fully complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal laws.

This agreement is similar to ones signed by governors of a number of other states including, among others, the governors of Virginia and Georgia.

DHHS Secretary Al Delia agrees that more should be done to ensure access to community-based treatment for those with mental illness. “North Carolinians who have a serious mental illness have a right to choose the very best care environment to meet their personal needs,” he said. “That choice – whether they live in the community or in an adult care home – will be supported with access to mental health and other support services that will be available in part due to this agreement. Moving forward with a solution to help them identify and access those choices is the right thing to do,” he said.

“Disability Rights NC applauds the Governor and Secretary Delia for their leadership on this matter. They have not only done the right thing to protect the rights of people with disabilities, they have helped the state avoid costly litigation and destabilizing uncertainty,” said Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights NC.

The agreement outlines DHHS’s plan of action to provide community-based services to people with mental illness. The budget the General Assembly passed in July expressly contemplated a settlement and appropriated funding to make this agreement possible. The timeline for completing the plan is eight years; this transition period will enable people who want to move to community-based settings to do so on a workable timetable and will allow sufficient time for North Carolina’s mental health infrastructure to implement this agreement.

Find the full text of the agreement here.


July 13, 2012

Secretary Delia Selects Jarrard to Lead Division of Mental Health

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Al Delia has announced the appointment of Jim Jarrard as acting director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (MH/DD/SAS), effective immediately. 

Jarrard has been deputy director of the division since October 2010 and worked closely with Division Director Steve Jordan, who was killed last week in a bicycle crash.

“The Department suffered a devastating loss with Steve’s death and we will miss his energy and passion for mental health services and the people we serve,” Delia said.  “Jim Jarrard is a knowledgeable and respected leader who I am confident will continue to lead the Division in a positive direction.”

Jarrard has been with the Division of MH/DD/SAS since 1994, serving in a variety of roles.  Prior to becoming deputy director, Jarrard was chief of the Resource and Regulatory Management Section, which is responsible for fiscal monitoring, accountability, and regulatory compliance, support of information technology and contracts management.  He also served as a team lead for Accountability.  Jarrard holds a doctorate in theology and was a pastoral counselor and parish minister before joining the Division.

“Our division is a great model of resiliency for the consumers we serve,” Jarrard said.  “We have a duty to keep the focus on our mission to protect the health, safety and well-being of all North Carolinians.  I look forward to continuing our positive and productive relationships with community advocates, partners and providers.”

The Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (MH/DD/SAS) provides leadership and support to community partners, providers and local management entities/managed care organizations to deliver prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation programs for persons with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse disorders in North Carolina.


June 28, 2012

Multiple Stakeholders Collaborate at Mental Health Leadership Congress

Multiple stakeholders including DHHS leadership participated in several events organized by the Jordan Institute for Families at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work that were part of the project Leadership in Transition to Accountable Behavioral and I/DD Care and resulted in a set of draft recommendations titled Making North Carolina’s Behavioral Health and I/DD System the Best Public System in the Nation. 

“These events were a great way to get together with our colleagues and partners from across the state and talk about what kind of system we are trying to create,” says Steve Jordan, director of the N.C. Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (DMH/DD/SAS).  “The collaborative nature of the process allowed a wide variety of voices to be heard.”

The Jordan Institute for Families was charged by the General Assembly with organizing and fostering discussions among all of the stakeholder groups involved in the state-wide transition to a managed care behavioral health system.  Their work began with high level conversations with the DMH/DD/SAS along with the Division of Medical Assistance.  The Institute also held focus groups throughout the state, speaking with leadership of each of the Local Management Entity-Managed Care Organizations (LME-MCOs) in addition to leaders of advocacy groups and other stakeholders.

To follow up on these early conversations, multiple stakeholder meetings were assembled in Chapel Hill to help guide the direction that the state should be travelling in as part of the transition of the behavioral healthcare system in the state.  At one meeting, participants developed values, drivers, roles and collaborations, fears, aspirations and outcomes which were used as the basis of another meeting where participants developed recommendations.

Over 100 leaders from multiple state health and human service agencies, LME-MCOs, the General Assembly, provider networks, faith organizations, advocacy groups, universities and consumers participated in the process that developed the set of draft recommendations.

The main recommendations outlined by the participants include:

  • Utilize data to move from a reactive to a proactive system.
  • Develop a system of education and training that makes everyone a stakeholder.
  • Connect across systems to develop a one-stop-shop portal that provides access to all health and human services information.
  • Employ regulations and incentives for good and poor performers.
  • Gather all stakeholders and key organizations around a shared vision and outcomes.
  • Ensure the appropriate level of funding.

Implementation Update
Forty-two counties are currently part of an LME-MCO including Alamance, Beaufort, Bertie, Buncombe, Cabarrus, Camden, Caswell, Chatham, Chowan, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Davidson, Franklin, Gates, Granville, Halifax, Henderson, Hertford, Hyde, Jones,  Madison, Martin, Mitchell, Northampton, Orange, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Person, , Pitt, Polk, Rowan, Rutherford, Stanly, Transylvania, Tyrrell, Union, Vance, Warren, Washington, and Yancey counties.

July 2012 – Smoky Mountain Center plans to become an LME-MCO and administer services to a 15 county area that includes Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, McDowell, Swain, Watauga and Wilkes counties.

October 2012 – Sandhills Center plans to become an LME-MCO and administer services in a nine county area that includes Anson, Guilford, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph and Richmond counties.

January 2013 – Additional LME-MCOs plan to begin operation that will cover the remaining 34 counties of Bladen, Brunswick, Burke, Carteret, Catawba, Cleveland, Columbus, Cumberland, Davie, Duplin, Durham, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Gaston, Greene, Iredell, Johnston, Lenoir, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender, Robeson, Rockingham, Sampson, Scotland, Stokes, Surry, Wake, Wayne, Wilson and Yadkin.

The current implementation timeline has all LMEs transitioning to managed care organizations by January 2013 although under state law the transition of the entire state must be completed by July 1, 2013.  The additional six months in the schedule will allow for flexibility in the timeframe to ensure success.

Additional information on this process can be found at


June 11, 2012

Now is the Time to Prepare for a Disaster

Hurricanes and other natural disasters are part of the normal weather pattern in North Carolina. We can't always predict them, but we can plan for them.  This is especially important if you or a family member has an emotional or physical disability.  Making preparations before an emergency will save you time and money, and give you peace of mind.
There are 3 steps in preparing for disasters:

  1. Get a kit.
  2. Make a plan.
  3. Be informed.

Step 1—Make an emergency supply kit.

When a disaster strikes, you might not be able to buy essential items.  Have enough supplies on hand to last for at least three to seven days for each member of your household.  Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers such as backpacks or duffel bags.

Some items to include in your kit include:

  • Important papers like proof of residence, insurance cards, Social Security numbers, and emergency contact numbers in a waterproof container.
  • Flashlight with batteries
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Batteries of all sizes including for hearing aids and other medical devices
  • Bottled water (at least one gallon of water per person per day)
  • Canned and packaged non-perishable food and a non-electric can opener
  • First aid kit and essential medications and list of medications for each person
  • Special items for infants, elderly persons, and family members with special needs
  • Toiletries and moist wipes
  • Games, toys, books for children
  • Pet food, identification, immunization records, medications, food, water, carrier or cage, muzzle and leash
  • Cash (including some small bills)
  • Keys
  • Blankets and pillows
  • Clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes

Step 2—Make a plan.

Include your family, friends or support person in your disaster plan.  If you need assistance in a disaster, discuss your needs with them and ask for their help.  Make a list of your personal daily needs and how to meet them in a disaster.  Include a list of items like medications, wheelchair, cane, special supplies or special diet.  Include phone numbers of your doctor, pharmacist, therapist or a support person.

There are a number of emotional reactions that may occur or become more severe after a disaster.  Have a plan for coping with these feelings and how to contact your therapist if needed.

It is important to make your plans now in case you can't stay in your home after a disaster.  Do you go to a hotel or a shelter?  What is the evacuation route and how do you get to safe shelter if you do not have a car?  If you have a pet, what are your plans for your pet?  Some hotels are pet friendly and some public shelters have a pet shelter located beside them.

A disaster plan template is available at
Step 3—Stay informed.

Know what kinds  of disasters can occur in your community. Also, before, during and after a hurricane, keep informed about up-to-the-minute risks and safety information by listening to the radio, watching television or by calling hotline telephone numbers. Listen for information on hazardous conditions, school closings, updated evacuation plans and routes.

In an emergency, the single most important thing to do is to follow the guidance from local authorities.

If you are prepared ahead of time, you will be better able to cope with the disaster and recover from it more quickly.

Be safe and be prepared.



May 10, 2012

Children's Mental Health Awareness Week Focuses on Impact of Trauma

The week of May 6-12, 2012 has been designated as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week to increase public awareness surrounding the issues of children’s mental health, to reduce any stigma that might be associated with seeking treatment and to provide resources for anyone that might be seeking services for a child or youth they know.  The theme of the week is on building resilience in young children dealing with trauma.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 84% of children and youth experience at least one traumatic life event before entering adulthood.  Traumatic events could include bullying, experience with death and loss, natural disasters, exposure to community violence, car accidents, sexual or physical abuse, life-threatening medical conditions or painful procedures. 

Children and youth exposed to traumatic events are more likely than their peers to:

  • miss school more often;
  • have more health problems:
  • have greater behavior problems at home and school;
  • use alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana; and
  • attempt suicide.

While some children are able to cope with traumatic experiences with the support of their families, many need professional behavioral health treatment. 

Mental health is essential to overall health and well-being for adults.  Often children are not part of the conversation regarding mental health, but serious emotional and mental health disorders in children and youth are real and treatable.  Children and youth with mental health challenges and their families deserve access to services and supports that are family-driven, youth-guided and culturally appropriate.

For additional information about mental illness among children and youth, please refer to the resources below.

NC DMHDDSAS Child and Family Services
National Association on Mental Illness in North Carolina
NC Families United
NC Families United Youth M.O.V.E.
North Carolina Suicide Prevention Lifeline
National Child Traumatic Stress Network
National Child Mental Health Network
National Association on Mental Illness Child and Adolescent Action Center


April 12, 2012

NC On The Road To Resilience One Year After Tornadoes

Crisis Counseling is still available at 1-866-279-6279

April 16, 2011 was a calm Saturday for most people in North Carolina until tornadoes, severe storms, and flooding carved a wide path of destruction through the state.  After the storms had passed, federal disaster declarations were established and the work to rebuild began. 

The North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (DMH/DD/SAS) received a grant of $635,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide crisis counseling to people in two counties ravaged by storms through a telephone hotline, face-to-face outreach and referrals to local resources.  The grant resulted in North Carolina’s Crisis Counseling Program, NC on the Road to Resilience.

"As we approach the anniversary of the tornadoes, people may feel anxious or apprehensive.  The crisis hotline we established is still open and ready to assist individuals in finding the services they need,” says Steve Hairston, operations support section chief at the DMH/DD/SAS.

The NC on the Road to Resilience toll-free telephone hotline, 1-866-279-6279, is available from 8 a.m. to midnight seven days a week and offers free counseling services along with information about recovery agencies to survivors in areas affected by the storms.  Residents in Cumberland and Sampson counties have access to additional services in their communities, including support groups and disaster recovery teams that can assist residents plan for future disasters.

“The hotline could include referrals to support groups or other services,” says Hairston.  “Planning for future disasters is also available and might take place in a formal setting or brief meetings at a shopping center or grocery store.”

The program served almost 30,000 people during the initial phase by providing crisis counseling services, group education, and materials within the first 60 days of the disaster.  The initial service program included door-to-door outreach within the communities affected, town-hall style meetings, and the hotline for referrals and other assistance.

The second phase of the NC on the Road to Resilience program worked toward rebuilding communities by providing support groups, working with schools and churches, and providing motivational speakers to help empower the affected communities.  This part of the program has had contact with more than 17,000 people in Bladen, Cumberland, Halifax, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Onslow, Robeson, and Sampson counties and will continue until June 25, 2012 in Cumberland and Sampson counties.

Weather and other disasters can be difficult to predict, but being prepared can be simple.  Here are some things to remember:

  • Have a disaster kit prepared that includes food, water, medicine, and important papers.
  • Have a plan to take shelter.
  • Be aware of potentially dangerous situations such as falling debris, live power lines, unsafe drinking water, etc.
  • Follow the advice of emergency workers who speak on the radio, television and other media.

For more information on how to prepare for a disaster, visit this site.


April 5, 2012

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Adults can help prevent underage drinking by talking and locking

Alcohol abuse is a national problem that affects Americans of all ages and from all communities, races and ethnic backgrounds.  Alcohol use causes more deaths to persons less than 21 years of age than do all illegal drugs combined.  This is one of the reasons Governor Perdue has declared April to be Alcohol Awareness Month.

In 2010, North Carolina’s underage drinkers consumed 9.7 percent of all alcohol sold totaling $526 million in sales and 35 percent of high school students report drinking alcohol at least once within the past 30 days.

“In particular, the alcoholic beverages sold in convenience and grocery stores are more dangerous than ever because they contain high alcohol content, sugar and flavorings that make them attractive to young people.” says Michael Eisen, state coordinator of the NC Preventing Underage Drinking Initiative (NC PUDI).

Currently, alcohol is the second leading preventable cause of cancer. It is also the leading cause of preventable death for youth, killing some 5000 nationally each year. Youth age 15 and younger that drink alcohol are four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol and five times more likely to abuse alcohol later in life than those that wait until they are 21 or older.

According to the American Medical Association, two-thirds of teens ages 13-18 gain access to alcohol from their home without consent from an adult. Adults should monitor and secure their alcohol in order to prevent underage drinking. To help with that effort, the NC PUDI developed the Talk It Up. Lock It Up!™ campaign to make sure that adults had the facts about why knowing what alcohol products are in the home and making sure that it is not accessible to underage persons is important.

“Aside from the legal issues for the adult, this is an issue of child safety,” says Eisen. “You wouldn’t leave dangerous chemicals around children in your home.  Why would you leave alcohol accessible to children or teenagers?”

Parents and adults can have a significant impact on a young person’s decision not to drink alcohol by creating clear guidelines that set a “no alcohol” rule and by enforcing that rule with zero tolerance. Discussion guides for parents and other resources are available at

In North Carolina, the costs associated with underage drinking totals $1.5 billion.  This translates to $1,668 per year for each youth in the State.

The NC Preventing Underage Drinking Initiative asks adults to talk with the young people in their lives about the dangers of alcohol and to secure alcohol in their homes so that it cannot be accessed by underage people. Remember to: Talk It Up. Lock It Up!™ More information can be found at


March 27, 2012

Change is happening across the Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (MH/DD/SAS) landscape in North Carolina.  The state-wide expansion of the 1915 b/c Medicaid Waiver mandated by state law in 2011 is underway.

The term “1915 b/c Medicaid Waiver” refers to two sections of the Social Security Act that allow the State to require Medicaid beneficiaries to enroll in managed care plans as opposed to receiving health care through individual providers on a fee-for-service basis.  The Waiver will also provide home and community-based care to Medicaid beneficiaries who would otherwise be institutionalized.

The combination of these two waivers is called the 1915 b/c Medicaid Waiver and only applies to the delivery of services related to mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance abuse disorders.

According to S.L. 2011-264, House Bill 916, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is required to restructure the management responsibilities for the delivery of services to individuals with mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance abuse disorders through the 1915 b/c Medicaid Waiver.  The expansion of the 1915 b/c Medicaid Waiver will result in the establishment of a system that is capable of managing public resources available for mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities and substance abuse services, including federal block grant funds, federal funding for Medicaid and Health Choice, and all other public funding sources.

The waiver expansion follows a pilot program by PBH (formerly Piedmont Behavior Healthcare) in 5 counties (Cabarrus, Davidson, Rowan, Stanly and Union) that began on April 1, 2005.  The pilot program has demonstrated that the State can provide quality mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services through private and public sector cooperation and at a lesser or comparable cost than the fee-for-services model used in other Medicaid programs.

There are multiple goals for expanding the 1915 b/c Medicaid Waiver that include:

  • Improve access to Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Abuse (MH/DD/SA) Services
  • Improve quality of MH/DD/SA Services
  • Improve outcomes for people receiving MH/DD/SA Services
  • Improve access to primary care for people with mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities and substance abuse issues
  • Improve cost benefit of services
  • Effectively manage all public resources assigned to the Local Management Entities-Managed Care Organizations (LME-MCO)

The General Assembly plans that the transition will be completed by July 1, 2013 and several steps have already taken place.  In October 2011, PBH expanded beyond the original five counties to include Alamance and Caswell counties.  An additional five counties, Franklin, Vance, Granville, Warren, and Halifax were added January 1, 2012.

A second LME, Western Highlands Network consisting of Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Transylvania, and Yancey counties transitioned to an LME-MCO on January 3, 2012.

Additional LMEs will be merging and transitioning into LME-MCOs over the next 9-12 months.  For additional information on the 1915 b/c Medicaid Waiver and what it means to you, visit this website.


March 22, 2012

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise.  In North Carolina, the fastest growing cause of teen deaths is poison, primarily due to the misuse of prescription drugs.  Teens often obtain these substances from the medicine cabinets of friends or relatives.  The 50th anniversary of Poison Prevention Week is the perfect opportunity to clean out your medicine cabinets and safely dispose of unused or unwanted medications.

“Safely disposing of over-the-counter and prescription drugs saves lives and reduces injury for the community,” says Susan Robinson, program manager for the Prevention and Early Intervention Team at the North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services.  “Teens are the most at risk of death in North Carolina due to medication poisoning.”

Working together to encourage the public to safely dispose of unused and unwanted medication, Operation Medicine Drop is a partnership of Safe Kids North Carolina, the Riverkeepers of North Carolina, NC Partnerships, Alliances, Coalitions and Collaboratives, along with  local law enforcement agencies.  By providing safe and secure ways for people to get rid of unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications, Operation Medicine Drop helps prevent accidental poisonings and drug abuse while protecting our waters.  There are over 230 events across almost 70 counties statewide this week!  Find an event near you.

For more information about Operation Medicine Drop and Safe Kids NC, please visit their website.


January 6, 2012

Beginning January 3, 2012, residents in Asheville and the eight-county area that surrounds it became part of the transformation that is occurring in the way services and supports are provided for people with mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse needs in North Carolina.  Western Highlands Network, through its transition into a managed care organization, has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to a new, cost effective model of care that we believe will improve access to services, improve quality of care, and improve outcomes for the individuals we serve. 

With the passage of Session Law 2011-264, this managed care model is being implemented in 11 regions across the state over the coming year.  The state has set high standards for these managed care organizations and will monitor their performance to ensure local presence and public accountability to respond to the unique needs of local communities.

I am proud of the partnership Western Highlands Network has established with its stakeholders, municipal leaders, and with the state and congratulate them on this achievement.  We look forward to their success in managing services for the communities they serve and improving the lives of local citizens. Ready NC Connect NC