Charlotte psychologist: NC’s mental health care system is broken

OPINION AND COMMENTARY Editorials and other Opinion content offer perspectives on issues important to our…

OPINION AND COMMENTARY

Editorials and other Opinion content offer perspectives on issues important to our community and are independent from the work of our newsroom reporters.

The American Academy of Pediatrics declared a recent increase in mental health crises among children and teens in the United States a national emergency.

The American Academy of Pediatrics declared a recent increase in mental health crises among children and teens in the United States a national emergency.

Miami Herald file photo

Welcome to NC Voices, where leaders, readers and experts from across North Carolina can speak on issues affecting our communities. Send submissions of 350 words or fewer to [email protected]

Fix the mental health system

Headlines all across the country are declaring a mental health crisis in our children and youth coupled with a lack of access to quality mental health treatment.

I have been a clinical psychologist working with children and adolescents in the Charlotte area for years, and have some perspective on this problem. The main overarching problem I see is a health care system set up to prioritize profit over patient care.

Many of us providers are exhausted with fighting a system that does its best to get between us and optimal care of our clients in order to maximize profit. Many of us have spent countless unpaid hours on the phone with insurance companies, struggling to advocate for our clients to get the care they need, only to be met with denials, delays and subpar treatment authorizations.

We also struggle to get reimbursed for our services, spending more uncompensated hours dealing with denials of claims and resubmissions.

Some insurance companies are worse offenders than others, so many of us providers narrow our list of insurers we are willing to deal with or don’t accept insurance at all so we can keep our doors open. This of course limits our client base to those that can afford several hundred dollars a month out of pocket.

Furthermore, Medicaid has become so bureaucratically complicated and managed in North Carolina that most individual providers won’t take on that burden anymore, though many of us have a strong commitment to working with the underserved in our community.

The stark reality in behavioral health care in this country is that the wealthy can generally find quality mental health care, but the rest are left behind. I strongly believe that making mental health care accessible to all who need it will require a nationalized model such as Medicare for All. We need to get profit out of healthcare, and get the focus back on the patient. We also need community-based mental health clinics that are accessible, non-stigmatizing, embedded within the community, and staffed with competent, culturally sensitive providers. Healthcare should be a right and not a privilege in our country.

Kristin Rogentine-Lee, Charlotte

Dems, don’t leave rural NC behind

Regarding “To win statewide in NC, there’s one thing Democrats should change,” (Jan. 17 Opinion):

The writer is president of the Progressive Democrats of Wake County.

Simply running up the vote in the metro areas is a losing strategy for the Democratic Party in our state. North Carolina is not Georgia, Virginia or Arizona. Over 40% of the population of North Carolina is still rural. North Carolina Democrats are going to have to win the hard way. It’s not “either or” with regards to rural versus metro. It is “both and.”

One of the myths about rural areas is that voters are mostly white. There is a whole lot of color in rural areas and many of these folks have fallen off the radar because they think nobody cares about them. Democrats leave many votes on the table by ignoring rural people of color.

Just look at what happened in Robeson County. Robeson County went for Obama in 2008. In 2020 it went for Trump.

Also, there are a lot of rural white folks who may not agree with Democrats on social issues but may agree with them on economic issues. If the Democrats could push a message of economic populism in those areas and avoid applying a purity test for candidates they may actually attract voters. While they may not win those areas they can at least stop the bleeding and not lose as badly.

This does not mean the Democrats should ignore the metro areas. Unaffiliated voters are the fastest growing segment of the electorate and the Democrats need to figure out how to attract them on a consistent basis. They also need to make investments in voters between 18 and 30 years of age.

In the long run, the Democrats need a field operation that operates all year round every year. And as I said in the second paragraph they need to avoid purity tests, and I say that as someone who identifies as a liberal. I do agree that we need to do a better job getting our base to show up but I don’t think we should leave folks in rural North Carolina behind.

Henry Jarrett, Raleigh

This story was originally published January 25, 2023 5:30 AM.