9 On Your Side Mental Health Town Hall exposes problems - WNCN: News, Weather

9 On Your Side Mental Health Town Hall exposes problems, brings you answers

9 On Your Side Mental Health Town Hall exposes problems, brings you answers

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -

Our state's mental health system has people asking a lot of questions.

"A number of providers have closed," says Michael Turner, a mental health service provider employee. "A lot of people aren't receiving services and I'm just interested in knowing how the community feels about what's happening, what's needed."

But, there are sometimes few answers – until now.

On Thursday night, 9 On Your Side brought all your questions about mental health to a panel of experts in our first ever Mental Health Town Hall.

No topic was off limits – from medical advances, to available resources, to how educators are addressing mental illness in our schools and the need to reduce stigma and discrimination.

"I think a lot of the stigma comes from misunderstanding about what mental health is, what causes it," says Betty Howes, a member of Greenville's chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI.

Our own Jeff Varner asked most of the questions on the crowd's behalf. That is, until Amy Brown spoke up.

"It appears that there is a growing trend of families being denied services," Brown, who works at the Arc of North Carolina, told the panel.

Brown, like other families who have shared their story with 9 On Your Side, is frustrated with East Carolina Behavioral Health – the organization that manages local providers.

She says the processes ECBH requires to approve services for the mentally ill is long, tedious and ineffective.

"For those families that are willing to fight it out and go through the appeals process, it's very frustrating, it's very long," Brown says.

Leza Wainwright, the executive director of ECBH, responded to Brown's concerns.

"It is not our goal to deny anyone the services they need," Wainwright said. "In fact, we have a responsibility to the state to ensure that everyone who needs services gets them. I would absolutely encourage anyone who has had a service denied and they think that's inappropriate, please do exercise your appeal rights. Those due process requirements are there for a reason."

When 9 On Your Side asked Brown if she was satisfied with Wainwright's response, however, she said no.

"ECBH has affected many of the rural families, especially where we don't have all of these other non-profit agencies to fill in their gaps," Brown said. "But it seems that anyone that tries to stand up and help people maintain their services gets cut off the ECBH pay list."

Wainwright said ECBH does everything it can within the system and she encourages anyone with a service denied to file an appeal or a complaint. She plans to meet one-on-one with Brown to further address her concerns.

If you have questions of your own, be sure to call into our Mental Health Phone Bank Friday night from 5-7 p.m. More experts will be manning the phones to bring you answers.

 

    

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