CHARLOTTE – The C. W. Williams Community Health Center held an interactive Behavioral Health Symposium for local leaders May 17 at the Foundation for the Carolinas.
The purpose was to identify gaps in behavioral health services throughout Mecklenburg County and initiate discussions regarding how organizations can collectively address the most pressing needs in mental health and substance use disorders.
Kody Kinsley, deputy secretary for Behavioral Health & Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, and Gibbie Harris, director of Mecklenburg County Department of Public Health, provided updates on the state of behavioral health at the county and state levels.
“It is vitally important that our organizations collectively focus available resources on priority behavioral health issues in order to establish systems of care that are affordable for all and sustainable by agencies,” CEO Debra Weeks said. “With the alarmingly high and increasing rates of behavioral health incidences in our community, the only way to move the needle and affect positive change is if we work together to achieve common goals,”
In 2017 in Mecklenburg County, more than 525 people visited emergency rooms with opioid overdoses: a 45 percent increase from the previous year. In 2016, there were 121 opioid overdose deaths in Mecklenburg County, up from 61 in the previous year. In many cases, behavioral health patients are uninsured, low-income, marginalized citizens who require specialized treatment, which can be expensive.
The May 17 event was the first of several planned behavioral health forums to be hosted by The C. W. Williams Community Health Center to address high quality behavioral healthcare for all people.