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State Budget Cuts Impact Substance Abuse Treatment and Drug Court


This year, the North Carolina General Assembly cut tens of millions of dollars from social service and mental health programs, leaving public health management organizations struggling to protect services. WHQR’s Sara Wood reports in the region, substance abuse treatment programs and drug court are taking the biggest hit.

CoastalCare is a regional public health organization managing services for mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse treatment for consumers, including the uninsured who find themselves in a terrible bind: they can’t afford health insurance, but they don’t qualify for Medicaid. The organization is now trying to cover more than 2-million dollars in state funding cuts affecting this specific group of people. CoastalCare Director Foster Norman says the services in greatest demand like substance abuse treatment and drug court are the first to be cut.

“Is that going to be an increased number of people going to the emergency department or the hospitals? Is that going to be more people law enforcement comes into contact with who’ve committed a misdemeanor and law enforcement takes them off to jail? Or probably it will mean more people will be in crisis. So it’s kind of a revolving door. Because if you don’t have the money for ongoing treatment, that will create a situation where more people are in crisis.” 

Norman says the best the organization can hope for is only a reduction in services rather the complete elimination of them, and those reduced services will be enough to keep people stable in ongoing treatment.