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Fred Thompson will certainly be asked about his K Street days

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Crisis found

If this state could have planned a crisis in mental health, it likely could not have come up with a better scenario than that which is unfolding this summer.The long-running, under-funded reform we’ve been promised has had its legs cut out from under it. Mismanagement led to a loss of confidence in the legislature, led to a lack of money to do the job, led to cuts to programs, more mismanagement and now downright mistrust that the state can salvage the strategy of shifting to community-based systems and away from centralized hospitals.

And so, with reimbursement rates dropping and funds drying up, all over the state clinics are shutting down or starting to charge for things that were once provided free. And some of our most vulnerable citizens and their families are left to deal with it.

Compounding this crisis is the utter lack of leadership from the stewards of the state. It is as if dealing with mental health (a good start would be admitting the system is in crisis) is a choice – an issue to be taken up when there’s extra money around or time to fit it into the schedule. That is leadership from 30,000 feet. Meanwhile, at street level, patients, family members, friends and caregivers are watching the devolution of mental health care in this state in horror.

Those who can’t pay the new fees or travel because of clinic consolidations and closings will drop out of programs.What good people have tried desperately to knit together for years will unravel; and while we wait for people we’ve elected to step up, local governments, hospitals and social service agencies will pick up the slack. The sad fact is that lack of funding on the part of the state results in more EMS and public safety calls and more emergency-room visits.

We will all pay for this lack of foresight and leadership. And for the families watching what support they had crumble, the cost will be dear indeed.

Polls again

Fred Thompson, who no doubt will quickly be asked about his K Street days once he’s officially in the running for president, is now number-two among North Carolina Republicans – that from a recent survey of voters from Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, which added the actor and former US senator from Tennessee for the first time in last month’s presidential tracking poll.

Thompson’s 25 percent support tops Sen. John McCain (16 percent) and Mitt Romney (13 percent). Rudy Giuliani continues to hold his lead with 32 percent.

On the Democratic side, former Sen. John Edwards stays in the lead with 33 percent with Sen. Hillary Clinton at 27 percent and Barack Obama at 20 percent.

Can you rephrase that?

Speaking of polls, I was a little taken aback by NC Association of Realtors VP Tim Kent, who said on a recent talking heads show that 81 percent of North Carolinians are opposed to a real estate transfer tax. I found it a little hard to believe that such a high percentage had even gotten up to speed on the issue, let alone formed an opinion.

Turns out that the survey questions helped people understand the issue a little. Like this nicely worded statement, which more than half of the respondents said they strongly agreed with:

“By increasing taxes on a person selling their home, the Legislature is just punishing people for being successful. If a person was responsible enough to buy a home, they should not have to pay increased taxes on the sale of the home.”

Clears things right up, don’t it?

Kirk Ross travels the state for Cape-FearMercury.com and writes about state governance at ExileOnJonesStreet.com. He can be reached at editor@capefearmercury.com

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