And the choir said, “Amen!”

by Richard Edwards

This past weekend, NAMI of Orange County and MHA of the Triangle hosted their annual legislative breakfast. Over 300 people attended, including legislators, advocates, providers, persons receiving services, as well as a variety of local elected officials. It was a fantastic event, and I was proud to be a part of it.

Sitting at the Benchmarks NC table, I got a chance to speak with Rep. Floyd McKissick of Durham, and District Attorney James Woodall of Orange County, about concerns over treating juvenile offenders as adults and what could be done to address this issue.  Having participated in a recent task force themselves, they were fully on board.  In fact, I realized later, everyone present was on board. Of course, there are always disagreements within the mental health community about where dollars should or should not be allocated…Dorothea Dix Hospital, for instance. But generally, we were of one mind, and our thoughts were on protecting human services in the coming budget process.

Leaving the meeting, I had a conversation with Orange County Commissioner, Bernadette Pelissier, with whom I am on the Board of the Orange-Person-Chatham Local Management Entity. She is rotating off the OPC Board, due to other commitments, and while that’s disappointing, she pointed out that she is not the Orange County Commissioner that OPC needs to convince–she is already on board. Just like the people at the Legislative Breakfast–even the legislators, all Democrats, all re-elected, all in the minority–they have our vote. And they’re not in power.

It got me thinking about Chatham County’s recently elected County Commissioner, Brian Bock, a conservative Republican who was elected in November. He has been appointed to our mental health board as Chatham’s Commissioner representative, but he didn’t attend the most recent meeting, or the legislative breakfast, and he hasn’t returned phone calls from the LME Director.

So, even though the NC Association of County Commissioners has mental health as one of its top 5 legislative priorities for this year, I’m guessing Commissioner Bock is probably not on board.

And my angle is that this is a golden opportunity to have a conversation with someone who is not sitting in the choir pit, as it were.  Because as sad as I am that Commissioner Pelissier won’t be on the OPC Board anymore, she isn’t–and never has been–the person we needed to win over, and what’s more, she couldn’t give us access to the community of citizens who don’t see mental health services or substance abuse services or services to persons with developmental disabilities (much of which is paid for through tax dollars) as a priority.

And, so, as we prepare for what is bound to be a very difficult budget cycle–and not to take anything away from the aforementioned legislative event–my angle is that two people who genuinely disagree with each other having a one-on-one breakfast may be more critical than a 300-person rally where everyone is of the same mind.

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2 Comments to “And the choir said, “Amen!””

  1. Mr. Edwards,

    I can understand your concern about not seeing me at the recent meeting or breakfast. Unfortunately, I’ve had schedule conflicts that prevented me from attending. I hope to meet with Judy Truitt within the next week or so.

    Best Regards,

    Brian Bock

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