County hears of mental health services woes

W. Curt Vincent -

ELIZABETHTOWN — On the same day Prince William and Lady Gaga teamed up to talk about mental health issues, Charlotte Smith sat before the county’s Board of Commissioners on Tuesday and told them, point blank, that the county is getting short-changed in the area of mental health services.

“You’re not getting what you’re paying for,” she said. “It’s all taxpayer funded, and the taxpayers are not getting what they should — there is a severe lack of services in this county.”

Smith went on to talk about the lack of reporting by both Eastpointe and Cardinal — two mental health agencies who are working toward a consolidation — in both their financial and results.

“They used to put their results online, but not anymore,” Smith said. “And when you call, they won’t tell you anything — and they are taxpayer funded and there’s no accountability.”

Smith also pointed out that some of the local agencies dealing with mental health issues don’t provide what they say they do. For instance, LifeBridge, a relative newcomer to Bladen County located on West Broad Street in Elizabethtown, “isn’t open during the hours they have advertised and their phone number gets transferred to a Walmart gift card line,” Smith said.

“I didn’t even know who LifeBridge was (until recently),” said County Chairman Charles Ray Smith.

Smith continued with numerous facts and figures supporting the concern that mental health issues in Bladen County are sorely lacking. She left the board with one request.

“I’m asking that the board write to the secretary of the N.C. Health & Human Services and ask him not to approve the consolidation between Eastpointe and Cardinal — at least until they fully answer our questions,” she said. “And also to request updated and thorough results from our local agencies.”

Peterson assured Smith answers would be forthcoming.

“Cardinal isn’t here yet, but we will get Eastpointe in a room and we will get answers,” he said.

In other business Tuesday, the board:

— Approved an emergency services fee schedule that will break down a general fee of $50 into several parts — including the review of building plans, fire extinguisher checks, approving exit signs, working fireworks shows, etc. — each with its own fee.

— Approved a memorandum of agreement between the Marine Corps., Bladen EMS and Elizabethtown Fire Department for temporary services at a landing zone in Bladen Lakes State Forest.

— Heard from DSS Director Vickie Smith on an agreement with N.C. Caring For Children (Angel Watch) that would allow for a 90-day stay for children age 0 to 10 at a local shelter. The board OK’d the request.

— Approved an agreement with the East Coast Migrant Head Start Program.

— Approved an agreement with Columbus County Health Department and Cape Fear Valley Women’s Health Specialists to act as back-ups for referrals from the Bladen County Health & Human Services Department.

— Approved a first reading of a request by County Manager Greg Martin to change the charge for county ID badge replacements to free for the first one and $5 for those afterward. The charge is currently $25 for each replacement.

— Approved deleting the length of county employment for employees to accept voluntary shared leave from other employees. The policy previously stated there was a 12-month minimum required.

— Heard from Commissioner Michael Cogdell requesting that portraits of current board members be displayed in the Bladen County Courthouse. Martin was asked to look into the cost.

The next meeting of the county commissioners will be Monday, May 1, at 6:30 p.m.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

W. Curt Vincent

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