Pat Smathers is running for Lieutenant Governor, and he's the first candidate to demonstrate an understanding of the depth, breadth, and urgency of our mental health care crisis. In an email sent yesterday in advance of the Mental Health Coalition Forum on Monday in Raleigh, Smathers tells it like it is:
"We must begin an honest conversation about how we can improve mental health care statewide."
Our mental health system is in crisis. North Carolina is ranked 43rd in the nation for per capita mental health spending. Privatization of the system in 2001, hailed as a solution, has resulted in the closure of hospitals and clinics and ultimately made it harder for many North Carolinians to get help. Our current mental health system is a haphazard array of chronically under-funded programs that have failed all North Carolinians, but most especially our rural residents and veterans."
Mayor Smathers hits the nail on the head. The gang in Raleigh has kicked this can down the road for years, watching as the system grew more and more fragile. With too few exceptions, Raleigh politicians have allowed and encouraged the decline and crisis in our mental health system. Smathers' outsider status couldn't be more welcome than it is in the mental health care crisis arena. Raleigh politicians have cut funding, laughed off the State consultant's recommendations, and counted on public apathy to ignore their failures.