• Many families disappointed with mental health coverage

    By: Jason Stoogenke

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Layla, who did not want to share her last name, is a Charlotte mother who said she has had behavioral issues with her 10-year-old son for about seven years.

    "Biting and kicking, I mean, some of that's normal, but not to happen every day," Layla said.

    Her son has gotten physical with her, his teachers and his grandmother, she said.

    Layla locks her bedroom door at night, locks up sharp objects, keeps all of her medicines in a lock box and has a deadbolt lock on the front door.

    "He says he's going to run away all the time, when he gets mad," Layla said.

    He was getting kicked out of day care, school and camp, the mother said. She had to take so much time off work, she told Action 9 she's lost three jobs.

    Layla has had private insurance and Medicaid.

    "You have to fight so hard for everything," she said.

    Layla would like to see more medicines and treatments covered, lower deductibles and less red tape.
    "Do you wait until he kills someone? Do you wait until he does something like very drastic before he gets the help?" Layla said.

    Other parents have shared the same frustrations with Action 9's Jason Stoogenke.

    The major government-supported think tank, the Rand Corporation, researched insurance and mental health care. It concluded, "Insurance coverage remains problematic ... for mental disorders."
    According to another recent study, "One in four Americans reported having to choose between ... mental health treatment and paying for daily necessities."

    Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea is a psychologist and runs the nonprofit Presbyterian Psychological Services.
    Frawley-O'Dea said the problem is many mental health providers don’t take insurance. They're so in demand that they don't have to.

    But even when providers do take insurance, a lot of patients face other hurdles, which are very high deductibles.

    "The irony is it's often the people that need it most have less access to it," Frawley-O'Dea said.

    The federal government gave North Carolina a five-year, $10 million grant for adults and children specifically for mental health issues, but it's for people who live near the coast and in the mountains.

    The government plans to extend that to the Piedmont and Sandhills in the future, but there's no set date.

    In the North Carolina General Assembly, Democrats are pushing House Bill 5.

    One of the sponsors told Stoogenke it would give about 600,000 people coverage, "including most of the currently uninsured mentally ill."

    Republicans also said they like House Bill 655.

    Lawmakers told Stoogenke that version would cover about half of that and they'd have to hold down jobs and pay co-pays to take part.

    And there are some other options out there.

    Promise Resource Network offers mental health services for free. It is on Hawthorne Lane. You can make an appointment, or you can just walk in. If you can't get to them, Promise Resource Network will come to your location. The number is 704-390-7709.

    Presby Psych gives some patients a discount, and it has a graduate student to help patients who can't even afford that. Both options though are rare in the mental health field. 

    "Our goal is to not turn anyone away," Frawley-O'Dea told Stoogenke.

    As far as medicines go, you may be able to get your prescriptions for less. Stoogenke has done news reports on options like RX Outreach, a nonprofit mail-order pharmacy that serves patients and gets high marks from charity watchdog groups.

    [RX OUTREACH: Nonprofit provides option for cheaper prescriptions]

    Channel 9 is committed to breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health problems and offering real solutions.

    Join us for a primetime special, "Charlotte's Hidden Crisis," on Wednesday, May 29 at 8 p.m.

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