Access to care and crisis intervention training for law enforcement officers top the business plan for Alliance Behavioral Healthcare, the state-funded agency charged with disbursing public mental health dollars in Wake and Durham counties.
Durham Commissioner Michael Page, a local pastor who sits on Alliance Behavioral Healthcare’s board of directors, says the group is pushing an array of services to meet longtime service gaps in the community. Page said substance abuse treatment is his top priority for Durham.
“I just think right now we’re in a stage of the game where people need to be able to access services and be able to access it fairly readily,” he said.
Alliance serves a combined population of about 1.7 million—187,000 of which are Medicaid eligible—in Durham, Wake, Cumberland and Johnston counties.
According to Alliance’s business plan, the group will focus on speeding access to mental health providers, citing seven- to 10-day waits after residents called for services. Alliance execs also say they will roll out crisis intervention courses for law enforcement officers in the region, noting residents with mental illness are sometimes taken to jails when they would be best served in a mental health care facility. The report did not offer specifics about the frequency of such events.
Those were just a few of the goals contained in Alliance’s business plan, which also reflected a statewide push for community-based treatment methods, meaning supported housing options, employment and in-home treatment teams intended to head off institutionalization.
State health officials negotiated a settlement with the federal government in 2012, pledging to spend an estimated $287 million on job training, treatment and housing for people with mental illnesses over eight years.
If state lawmakers renege on the settlement, they risk a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice. The state settlement stemmed from a Disability Rights North Carolina complaint that the state institutionalized too many of its residents for years, rather than promoting community programs that encourage independence.
Nevertheless, the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly has cut roughly $100 million from mental health funding in the last five years, state Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, told INDY Week in June.
Meanwhile, groups like Alliance, referred to as local management entities or LMEs, are under intense scrutiny from mental health advocates statewide, who worry the budget-strapped state’s reliance on private companies such as Alliance to manage public mental health cash will lead to increasing costcutting.
Orange County’s LME, Cardinal Innovations, is already the subject of a federal Office for Civil Rights investigation into whether its denial of Medicaid reimbursements for undocumented immigrants breaks the law.
The Alliance business plan presented Monday did not include financial information about the group. Alliance CEO Ellen Holliman could not be reached for comment on the business plan this week, but Page says he believes the agency is doing the best it can despite legislative rollbacks.
“Until they can fine-tune this process, it might very well be the best we can do right now,” Page said. “We have to have the services.”
Update, March 27: O'Rear lost his bid for Student Body President, coming in third with 12 percent of the vote.
Just when racism at Duke and misogyny at Carolina were making me feel like my alma mater NC State might one day have a shot at the crown for "Triangle’s Most Progressive University," this bullshit happens.
Dwayne O’Rear—husky lover of huskies and racist homophobe—is running for Student Body President.
Technician, in one extraordinarily long paragraph, describes some social media interactions of The Bro’s Choice for President.
In Nov. 2010, O’Rear saw two gay people embracing each other and kissing in the Brickyard, which he posted on Facebook about, exclaiming, “helllllllllll no!!!” He also once offered advice “to the cute girls always with the gay guy: get yourself a real man.” In April 2011, he stated President Barack Obama is a Muslim, Islam is a “false religion” and no one likes Muslims. On this same Facebook post, he called another commenter with a Muslim name a “raghead” and told him to “go blow yourself up like your cousins do lmfao!” Last month, he tweeted during an N.C. State basketball game, “Why is there a female commentator covering our game @espn?”
Nice one, Dwayne. Way to empower bigoted white dudes everywhere that they too can run for Student Body President.
Despite the fact O’Rear might actually be tapping into a sizable Good Ol’ Boy constituency at NC State, his comments have not been well-received.
A Technician editorial asked him to drop out of the race and called his views "ignorant and morally questionable."
Check out this epicly uninformed exchange:
Good call, Yousef. You can’t reason with straight, white men, who recognize they no longer exclusively control the United States.
You can read an entire reddit thread here, which includes plenty more gems from O’Rear.
O'Rear's explanation is twofold.
First, he claims many of his friends have access to his Facebook account and that he is not responsible for the majority of the posts. It's unclear whether this explanation will actually distance him from his core constituency, as well as the rest of the NCSU campus.
Second, O’Rear and his former campaign manager admit that O’Rear really was a racist asshole a couple of years ago, but that he's better now (head explodes).
Here's what Alex Canoutas, who resigned as campaign manager, told O'Rear, according to Technician.
“I just told him ‘It’s over, dude. You need to protect your image and reputation at this school. You need to apologize to get people not to think so lowly of you anymore. If you don’t say anything it’s like you’re standing by those views and you still have them. I’ve been your buddy since freshman year, and I know that’s how you were then, but that’s not how you are now, so you’ve just got to issue a heartfelt apology to let people know that.’”
NC State votes for its new Student Body President today. Don't forget to vote, bros.
In defending county commissioner’s hostile takeover of school ownership, commission chair Joe Bryan recently told INDY Week that the measure had widespread support, going back years.
He was quick to say the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce had pushed such a proposal in the mid-2000’s—as if the Chamber’s blessing signals that all reasonable people should agree.
But yesterday, the Raleigh Chamber’s endorsment didn’t mean quite as much to Bryan.
The Chamber wants both bills that have come as a result of the commissioner’s legislative agenda—one that would redraw Wake County school board districts and another that would transfer school ownership to the commissioners—to be quashed.
Bryan’s response: “It’s a little late in the day for the Chamber, and they’re not presenting much,” Bryan told the News and Observer.
In a February interview with INDY Week, Bryan put far more stock in the Chamber’s opinion.
“If you look back to 2006, I think it was the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce that said commissioners should have the authority to build, own, and maintain the schools,” Bryan said. “These views are generally representative of the business community and also the education community.”
I’ve interviewed Bryan twice in the past month about the county commission’s legislative agenda regarding the school board, which many have called a “power play.”
On both occasions, he earnestly defended the agenda as nothing more than good policy.
Bryan argues that it makes sense for county commissioners to own the schools, since county commissioners have to ask for tax dollars. Fair enough.
He also argues that people in Wake County deserve to be able to vote in more than one school board race. That also makes sense, even though the gerrymandered districts that legislators have come up with do not.
The point that Bryan wouldn’t take on is that regardless of whether or not the measures are good policy in a vacuum, the political reality of Wake County also comes into play.
Political reality number one: the county commissioners and school board members, more or less, hate each other.
Any time one body asks the legislature to change the power dynamic between the two boards, without getting the other board’s agreement, that amounts to a sort of power grab, no matter how pure your intentions.
Political reality two: several key issues, which don’t factor into Bryan’s arguments, indirectly hang in the balance. The school board is currently working on a new student assignment plan and both boards are supposed to agree on a new construction bond.
One of the bills, as I have previously written about, has the potential to completely upend the new assignment plan. That’s something the business and education communities in Wake County can almost undoubtedly agree on: more student assignment chaos.
Let’s be clear on another point. The Chamber is a very moderate organization, and doesn’t always come down on the side of the Democratic-controlled school board. The Chamber, for instance, was vehemenently opposed to former superintendent Tony Tata’s firing.
Bryan’s “good policy” argument is somewhat compelling. But when he cites an organization or disavows it based on whatever suits his agenda—well, that sounds more like politics.
Apparently, when you sign a contract with the State of North Carolina, the ink never dries.
In December, then-Gov. Bev Perdue and the North Carolina Council of State voted to lease Dorothea Dix campus to the City of Raleigh for 99 years, so the city could create a massive public park.
But on Thursday, several lawmakers (none of whom represent the Triangle) introduced a bill that would rescind the deal.
“It would be a sad day if the word of the State of North Carolina has become worthless,” Raleigh City Councilor Bonner Gaylord wrote to INDY Week in an email.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she was “shocked.”
“So many people saw this as such a positive step moving forward,” said McFarlane. “It took nine years to get it done. To think about all that hard work it took to get us to a great place is heartbreaking, actually.”
McFarlane said Dix Visionaries, one of the many groups that banded together to preserve the park, have pledged to raise $3 million from local businesses to support designing the new park.
She said much of the money has already been raised. “Not acknowledging the contract is a scary thing to tell the private sector, which is willing to step up and give money.”
McFarlane said the city’s attorney is examing the legislation to determine the legality of rescinding the lease.
Until the bill has been reviewed by the city’s legal team, it’s unclear what the City Council’s next step will be.
According to WRAL, officials from Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s office said the bill would:
• Direct the state Department of Administration to re-lease a portion of the Dorothea Dix campus to Raleigh at fair market value, allowing the city to move forward with its vision of a world-class park for residents and visitors.
• Designate proceeds from the new lease agreement will fund mental health programs in the state.
• Preserve a portion of the property to house the consolidation of 2,500 DHHS employees on-site, saving North Carolina taxpayers the expense of moving them elsewhere.
• Instruct DOA and DHHS to study recommended uses for the remainder of the property identified in the 2007 State Government Facilities Master Plan and report their findings to the General Assembly by March 2014.
• Maintain the purpose for the property outlined in the original deed from 1848, which said the land was to be used for the benefit of North Carolinians with mental illness.
“I’m kind of speechless,” said McFarlane. “The City of Raleigh entered into a contract with the State of North Carolina, and that contract is signed and sealed, and so it is our assumption that is a binding contract.”
Wake county commissioners are being called out on public transit—again.
This time it's Raleigh colleges and universities insisting commissioners stop blocking a half-cent sales tax referendum that would bring light rail and expanded bus service to the Triangle.
In a letter obtained by INDY Week, and mailed to county commissioners today, William Peace University president Debra Townsley writes, "Our fast-growing region simply cannot afford to wait any longer in laying the critical infrastructure for a dynamic future. We believe this is the year to let voters decide on transit."
The letter was written on behalf of Cooperating Raleigh Colleges, a group which includes North Carolina State University, Meredith College, Shaw University, St. Augustine's College and WPU.
The Republican-led Wake county commission is the only government body in the Triangle that continues to block the transit tax. Last year, Durham County and Orange County citizens passed half-cent sales tax referendums to expand public transit. The Raleigh City Council has also shown support for the transit tax.
Wake county commissioners refused to even debate the transit tax last year or take up a measure that would allow the referendum.
The light rail portion of the plan would create three corridors. One would run from Durham to Chapel Hill. Another would extend from Durham to Cary, Raleigh and Garner. The third would connect Apex and Wake Forest.
In her letter, Townsley says that expanding transit will be beneficial to students and unemployed people, as well as entice graduates to stay in the area.
Many progressives also argue that development will boom along the rail corridors once the transit plan is in place. However, commissioner Paul Coble has called the transit plan a "boondoggle."
My work often takes me to community advocacy meetings and puts me in contact with people who fight fiercely for a better Wake County. When I tell them I work with INDY Week, the first thing they tell me, almost 100 percent without fail, is how much they love Bob Geary.
When I showed up at WakeUp Wake County's annual meeting last night, I expected to hear the same thing. Instead, I saw it on the agenda.
WakeUP, a nonprofit group that has advocated for better transit and education, honored Bob as the first recipient of its Stan Norwalk Community Leadership Award.
"Bob has written about many issues important to our quality of life, from transportation to education," said Yevonne Brannon, outgoing chair of WakeUP. "And like Stan Norwalk, [Bob] never shied from speaking his mind if he thought it was something right for the community."
It's also fitting Bob was honored with an award from WakeUP since he helped form the group in 2006. Raleigh was experiencing major changes during that time and a boom of development both in downtown and the suburbs. But no group existed to bridge the gap between citizens and politicians; no major grassroots entity had a voice at the table advocating for good growth.
In community meetings, similar to the one last night, which focused on transportation, some of the heavyweights in local politics had been bemoaning the lack of a grassroots group that could push an agenda. City councilor Thomas Crowder; Karen Rindge, who went on to serve as WakeUP's chair; and Stan Norwalk, a former county commissioner who died last year, were some of the few.
Since then, the group has become a powerhouse in Wake County politics.
WakeUP formed Great Schools in Wake, an organization that arguably played the biggest role in organizing protests against the Republican majority that scrapped the Wake schools diversity policy in 2010. The protests led to the arrest of more than 20 people and national media attention in Wake.
Ultimately, a group of diversity-supporting Democrats regained control of the school board in 2011, due, in large part, to the efforts of WakeUP and GSIW.
All the while, Bob has played his part as a columnist at the INDY, writing consistently about what he saw as the most vital components for making Wake County a great place to live—education, transit, land-use and social justice.
Fighting for change in a community can be a drawn-out, lonely affair. And no one knows that more than the members of WakeUP. That's what made hearing Bob's voice in the paper all these years so important for them.
Without ever setting out to do so, Bob validated their efforts—a priceless service for those who wonder some days if they are fighting a lost cause.
"We all fought over who would be able to give you this award," said Brannon, "because we all love you that much."
On Monday, Wake County commissioners voted to kill a proposal that would have created badly needed school capacity near downtown Raleigh.
The commissioners considered buying the former YWCA building on East Hargett Street to convert into a school. It would have been a win for Raleigh considering city councilors are seeking to increase density in downtown, even though there are few plots of land left in the city's core where new schools can be built.
Here's a partial account of Monday's commissioner's meeting from the WakeEd blog.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners had agreed Nov. 19 to purchase the property, but title problems were later discovered with one of the three tracts in the deal. The school system asked commissioners to approve today this amended deal allowing it to split up the purchase into two parts.
But in a departure from the 4-3 vote in November, the commissioners unanimously voted today for Commissioner Tony Gurley's motion to reject the new request and to declare the prior approval dead.
School staff said that the seller, the bankruptcy agent for the YWCA, was balking at delaying the deal. The school district's proposal was to ask commissioners for a new deal to pay $850,000 so that the first two tracts could be closed with the remaining $150,000 to come when the title issues with the third tract were resolved.
Commissioners will be able to take up the proposal again, and may be willing to move it forward, if the title problems are sorted out.
If the proposal doesn't move forward it's a bad deal for downtown Raleigh which is already playing catch up on school capacity.
Raleigh’s school-aged population grew in total numbers by more than three times as much as the next closest municipality, Cary. In relation to growth, however, the number of schools built in Raleigh does not seem to line up.
While Raleigh’s school-age population grew in volume by three times more than Cary’s, only two more schools were built in Raleigh than in Cary.
Federal Census data show that Raleigh gained more than 35,000 school-aged children between 2000 and 2010. Cary experienced the second biggest jump in numbers, adding more than 10,000 children under the age of 18.
Using an average class size of 27 for K-12, that means Raleigh’s school population grew by 1,320 classrooms. For Cary, growth measured in classrooms would be 372.
Creating urban gardens on vacant lots in economically depressed areas of Raleigh will now be easier, after a City Council vote Wednesday.
Progressive urban planning organizations maintain that community gardens can have a major impact, not only by creating additional food sources in areas with less access to grocery stores, but also by creating a gathering place within the community.
INDY Week previously reported on pirate gardens in Raleigh, which defy the current zoning code. Many of those gardens will now be under the umbrella of the new provision.
But the change won't happen immediately. It is attached to an exhaustive overhaul of the city's zoning code called the Unified Development Ordinance. City councilors could take anywhere from several months to more than a year to fully vet all of the changes.
Urban gardens in vacant lots, as opposed to lots with attached dwellings, had previously required a special-use permit, which required applicants to pay $200 and go through a special hearing process. Such gardens will be limited-use under the new code, removing the need for a fee or special hearing.
The change currently only applies to areas of the city zoned R-10, which allows up to 10 dwelling units to be built per one acre. The majority of R-10 zoned property runs from south to east along the city's beltline and comprises many of Raleigh's food deserts.
R-10 doesn't include The Wedge, a pirate garden near NC State University, which we previously reported on. However, as changes to the UDO continue, R-10 zoning is likely to expand into more of the city's core, according to city planners.
While The Wedge is technically illegal, it has benefited from city money and the city has made no effort to shut the garden down.
Read the headlines and stories from every major TV station as well as The N&O and you’ll see that the Wake school board passed a “new” student assignment plan Tuesday night.
But the plan’s not really new, which would make it more like the second assignment plan in three years. Give or take a few details, the plan is a return to the same base assignment structure that was in place in the 2011-12 school year.
Students’ addresses will again be tied to a particular school, based on the same assignments that were in place in 2011-12. The assignments for the current school year are based on a choice assignment plan, created by former superintendent Tony Tata.
In that plan students were not assigned to a school based on their address. Each student ranked a list of five or more schools instead. Based on a list of priorities and school capacity, students were then assigned to one of their choices.
Under the choice plan, economic stratification among schools increased, which led Democrats who control the board to strike down choice. Last night’s vote was the final step in ending choice assignment. But in itself, it does not represent a new direction.
Democrats still have to decide what the new direction will be. Each has said in the past that they would like to see some measure for socioeconomic balance restored to assignment.
But for now members of the Democratic board majority say they are putting stability above all else. That’s why the plan that was passed last night does little to rock the boat.
Some Republicans argue that ending the choice plan furthers instability in Wake’s education community. Tuesday’s meeting, however, was relatively calm.
“I’m a bit surprised that on a night we’re voting on student assignment, we only have three speakers,” said board chair Keith Sutton. “People must either be happy or waiting for us outside.”
Watch a video produced by Wake County schools that explains the “new” plan here:
A new robo-call by Republican candidate for N.C. House District 35 Chris Malone tells constituents that he wants to "get good kids out of failing schools."
Malone currently serves as a Wake County school board member and has recently been mired in scandal over allegations of an affair with fellow board member Debra Goldman, who is running for state auditor. Goldman also named Malone as a suspect in the reported theft of $130,000 worth of jewelry, coins and cash from her Cary residence. Malone was later cleared by Cary police.
The latest robo-call pulls the curtain back on the conservative approach to schools. Malone's message says, "I want to get good kids out of failing schools, so every single kid can have a great education."
Such logic seems flawed. If Malone pulls the "good kids"—Does this mean white kids? Rich kids? Smart kids?—out of "failing schools," it’s unclear how the failing school will then be more likely to provide a “great education.”
Presumably, Malone's statement is a representation of his belief in neighborhood schools. It could also be a nod to school vouchers or school choice.
I've called both Malone and Millberg for comment and will update this post when I hear back.
Here's the full text of Malone's robo-call.
This is Chris Malone calling. I’m running for North Carolina House 35 to do three things.
First, I want to help create jobs in Wake County.
Second, I want to get good kids out of failing schools, so every single kid can have a great education.
Third, I want to stop the politicians from wasting your tax dollars and mine.
How do I know I can accomplish these things? Because I have in the past. Because I’ve been a voice of reason on the Wake Forest planning board, the Wake Forest town board and now the Wake County school board. I know how to get things done, I have and I will continue to do so. And I will not be stopped from fighting for you and your family’s quality of life.
I’m Chris Malone and I’m asking you for your vote in the North Carolina House.
My personal cell phone number is 919-395-4903. Again, 919-395-4903. Call me anytime you have a question. I am a public servant and I work for you.
This call was paid for by Malone for NC House and thank you folks.