Michael F. Easley

The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina Dempsey Benton

North Carolina
Department of Health and Human Services

For Release: IMMEDIATE
Date: January 3, 2008


Contact: Debbie Crane
(919) 733 9190

DHHS Secretary Announces Plan To Fix Mental Health System

RALEIGH – NC DHHS Secretary Dempsey Benton today announced a plan to fix the state’s mental health system, in particular its psychiatric hospitals.

“As you know, Gov. Easley gave me clear marching orders back in September – fix the state’s public mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services system,” Benton said.  “In the short time I have been here as secretary, I have noticed too often people were ‘talking past each other’ not ‘to each other.’  I am going to change that.”

“Every year, 25,000 people are served through our 14 state facilities. We owe those folks and their families the best possible service,” he added.  “Every dollar wasted is cheating the folks who count on us and the taxpayers.”

As part of the plan, Benton is moving the state-operated services section out of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services to report directly to him.  This section is responsible for day-to-day direction of all 14 of the states’ public mental health facilities.

Other changes include:

  • A Hospital Management and Operations work group will be convened to work with the State Hospital Directors.  The Committee will be comprised of individuals external to the department and will include academics, former state facility managers, advocates, the North Carolina Hospital Association and private providers. Areas of review will include protocols for violence, for placement of restraints, and administrative guidelines that can be consistently implemented throughout the state hospital system. 
  • A work group will be established to review the implementation of the state’s Crisis Service System, and the state’s overall strategy for providing inpatient services (beds) across the state. The group will review the current implementation activities and refine the definition of the core level of crisis services which should exist in all areas of the state.

  • Creation of a new web site to improve public understanding of the activities in the State operated facilities and  to ensure transparency. The site can accessed at ncdhhs.gov and will be fully operational by the end of January.  It will include a broad array of information, including admissions/discharge data, patient deaths/injuries and staff injuries.
  • Delaying the closing of Dorothea Dix and Umstead hospitals 60 days, giving the new Broughton Hospital management time to improve operations and also assuring sufficient time to address any remaining construction issues with the new hospital.

  • Forming an external work group to assess the construction and operational questions associated with opening of the Central hospital.  The group will meet with the architect and project manager to review these questioned areas. Also, they will ensure the new facilities at Cherry and Broughton meet high quality standards. The group will also review the plan for the transition of services from Dorothea Dix Hospital and John Umstead Hospital to the new hospital.


Public Affairs Office
101 Blair Drive, Raleigh, NC 27603
FAX (919)733-7447

Debbie K. Crane