By Kay Castillo, Director of Advocacy, Policy and Legislation, National Association of Social Workers, NC Chapter
Week five of the North Carolina General Assembly’s short session brought to us the House budget. Unlike the Senate, the House took extra measures to introduce and discuss their budget. Last Tuesday, House members reviewed their budget section by section in subcommittees to hammer out details before taking it to the full Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
Following Wednesday’s seven-hour committee meeting, the bill went to the Finance and State Personnel Committees before going to the floor for debate on Thursday afternoon with a final vote on Friday morning.Moving forward, a conference committee will be appointed to combine the Governor, Senate, and House budgets. While the House debated the budget all week, the Senate took up mostly non-controversial bills and adjourned early Thursday morning.
House Budget Proposal Highlights:
House Budget Money Report (special provisions, further descriptions about the budget)
- No prior authorization for mental health medications (in Senate and Governor’s budget) or cuts to the medically needy on Medicaid (in Senate budget).
- Medicaid Reform similar to Governor’s recommendation and funded at $1 million. (pg G-19 of Money Report)
- Provides funds for implementation of drug screening and testing for Work First Program Assistance. This is only funded in the House budget. This comes from legislation passed in the 2013 long session but was never funded. (G-9 of Money Report)
- Funds $750,000 to Critical Time Intervention (a social work supported model) to support short-term case management services for persons leaving inpatient psychiatric facilities, adult care homes, and other institutions. This is only funded in the House budget. (G-15 of Money Report)
- Funds $300,000 for Child Protective Services (CPS) Initiative to help decrease caseloads to 10 per worker and other division changes. Additionally, the budget contains: $8.3 million in additional funding for CPS (same as Senate); $4.5 million for expanded in-home services (same as Senate); $750,000 increase for statewide oversight of child welfare services; $700,000 increase for CPS evaluation; and Foster Care Assistance is increased by $5 million. (starting on pg 81 of the budget)
- Creates a strategic state plan for Alzheimer’s Disease including ways to improve research, awareness and education, caregiver assistance, long-term care, and more. (pg 88 of the budget)
- Funds $5 million to expand community-based crisis intervention services. (pg 94 of the budget)
- Funds over $2.3 million for Traumatic Brain Injury supports and services. (pg 91 of the budget)
- Allows funding for Personal Care Services to residents in group homes that was provided in last year’s budget but will not all be spent by the end of the fiscal year, June 30th, 2014 to be extended until June 30th, 2015. This is approximately $2.2 million left from the $4.6 million appropriated.
While not perfect, the House budget is much better than the Senate budget put forth. You can visit this link to see a House and Senate Budget Comparison for the Health and Human Services Budget. We thank House members for taking our state’s most vulnerable populations into consideration while developing the budget and providing extra money to mental health, developmental disabilities, child welfare, and other necessary services.