NCPA Blog: What's On Our Mind

May 18, 2017 - With Patients Waiting, New Beds Stay Empty at Cherry Hospital


For the last nine months, more than 100 beds for patients who need acute psychiatric care in Eastern North Carolina have stayed empty, even as patients wait for treatment.

Administrators at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro are refusing to fill the beds until they hire more psychiatrists, hospital Chief Executive Officer Luckey Welsh said in an interview last week.

State records, however, show that Cherry Hospital is staffed as well as one of the state’s other mental hospitals and far better than its third.

Late last week, nearly 30 patients waited in emergency departments for a bed to open up at Cherry hospital, according to Welsh.

At least two of those were adolescents at Sampson Regional Medical Center. They have now been waiting on a bed at Cherry for more than a week, said Shawn Howerton, the hospital’s chief executive and medical officer. On Wednesday, three adults also needing a slot at Cherry languished in the Sampson emergency department.

“It is extremely frustrating,” Howerton said. “You watch these patients and what they have to endure to get the help that they really, really need that we can't find a way to provide.”

Howerton said that at a recent meeting, he and other hospital executives in Eastern North Carolina had discussed how the opening of the new hospital had not eased their psychiatric placement needs. Howerton said that no one from the state or Cherry Hospital had informed him that they were not using the new beds, which were designed to bring the hospital’s capacity to 313.

Cherry administrators have persistently complained of a shortage of psychiatrists. Welsh last year obtained hefty raises for his staff psychiatrists and the doctors who manage them, The News & Observer reported in March.

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May 18, 2017 - NC Awarded $30M Grant to Battle Opioid Crisis

 — North Carolina will receive about $30 million in federal funding over the next two years to battle ongoing issues surrounding opioid addiction.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, a federal agency that works to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness, awarded the grant.

The state will receive $15.5 million for two consecutive years, with 80 percent of the funds going to treatment and the other 20 percent going to addiction prevention efforts.

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May 17, 2017 - Mentally Ill Get Caught in Revolving Door to Prison

By Leah Asmelash

Incarceration is not the best option for mentally challenged offenders: they don’t get the help they need and end up behind bars again.

That’s what a study by North Carolina Central University graduate student Krystal Giles found. And Giles should know: she’s also a contracted transporter for involuntary commitment patients for the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.

Giles transports offenders between facilities, for example, from an emergency room to another hospital. She has seen the same people going through the system, sometimes multiple times in a month.

“These people aren’t getting any help,” she said. “They get out and they go straight back to the hospital. And I was like, obviously the system that we have in place right now is not working, is not helping this population.”

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