Regulatory changes take a toll on mental health patients and service providers

Regulatory changes take a toll on mental health patients and service providers

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By Leslie Boyd
LBOYD@CITIZEN-TIMES.COM September 25, 2007 12:15 am

ASHEVILLE – In a system where the catchphrase is “no closed door,” people with mental illnesses are finding no door at all, say frustrated providers of mental health services.

Agencies are closing or losing therapists, social workers and psychologists as a crushing load of regulatory changes push costs well ahead of reimbursement rates.

Amid the tumult, people like Patrick Diraffale, who has bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder, are placed on waiting lists or told to go to an emergency room or agency that deals with patients in crisis, places that might be able to offer real help.

Diraffale was told last week he would have to wait three months for an intake appointment at a local services provider after being hospitalized for six days. He is out of medication, and has been told to use the “coping mechanisms” he was taught in the hospital.

“It’s a life and death issue, right here, right now,” said Kathy Munro, a licensed therapist who contracts with Parkway Behavioral Health Services. “People are giving up, agencies are closing and others can’t take on new clients. Every week there’s a change in the process or a change in the paperwork.” (more…)

About the author

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.