Community health centers in New Bern and Havelock will soon offer outpatient therapy and psychiatric care to patients struggling with mental illness and substance use disorders.
Craven County Commissioners agreed unanimously on Monday to accept a recurring $100,000 federal grant to hire a full-time counselor and to provide patients with psychiatric care via videoconferencing.
Right now, the county lacks enough mental health professionals to meet the population's need, said Scott Harrelson, county health director.
“Your local jail administrators and your sheriffs are saying, ‘Hey, we’ve become the de facto holding cell for a lot of these people with mental health, substance abuse issues,'" Harrelson said. "And they feel like they are inadequate to meet a lot of the needs of these folks."
Harrelson says he noticed a reduction in mental health professionals in the area about two decades ago when the state cut funding for local agencies to provide those services.
"A lot of these psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health professionals moved," he said. "When they were no longer employed as a state employee, they moved to larger cities or maybe even out of state and that left a void in the rural communities for mental health services.”
The department's therapist and psychiatric care will also serve patients who live in Pamlico, Jones and Carteret Counties, Harrelson said. And all patients, regardless of insurance coverage, will be eligible to receive services, he said.