Stories from North Carolinians with Mental Health Challenges
Editor’s Note: One of the goals of the Center’s Strategic Plan for 2012–2016 is to “increase the use of stories of people affected by our research.” It is important to see the faces and hear the stories of the public in public policy and to understand that real lives are impacted, for better or for worse, by changes in policy.
In April 2014, Senator Fletcher Hartsell (R-Cabarrus) implored the mental health community at a legislative breakfast, “Tell us your story. Become real to us.”
Mental health system failure is personal and it’s painful. It has different names for different people. In my case, system failure is also known as
Joshua, Jacob, and Isaac Bailey.
The state estimates that there are 230,776 children in need of mental health services across North Carolina. Another 45,321
need substance abuse treatment. A fraction of those get the care they need — 50 percent of the kids need- ing mental health treatment and 9 percent of those needing substance abuse treatment are served.
For me and for many people in North Carolina, the failure of the mental health system isn’t just about numbers, budget cuts, a lack of services, or political will. Mental health system failure is per- sonal and it’s painful. It has different names for different people.
Meet the Bailey Family
In my case, system failure is also known as Joshua, Jacob, and Isaac Bailey. When my husband, Steve, and I adopted these three brothers from the state fos- ter care system in 1996, Josh was eight, Jacob was
seven, and Isaac was four. We decided to adopt from foster care because being a parent meant more to us than parenting an infant. We believed then as we do now that every kid deserves a loving, caring home, regardless of their age.
The Department of Social Services (DSS) clas- sifi all three of our boys as “special needs” be- cause each had a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This meant they were eligible until age 18 for Medicaid, the state- run federal program providing health insurance for the poor, long-term care for the elderly, and services for persons with disabilities. But ADHD was just the tip of the iceberg for our boys, and it took us about five years to build a more complete story about their histories and problems. Among other things, we learned that we were Josh’s ninth home, Jacob’s tenth, and Isaac’s fifth, including back and forth at- tempts at reunifi and living with biological family members.