WakeMed to speed transport for mental health treatment

mquillin@newsobserver.comJune 25, 2013 

— WakeMed will speed the process of transporting patients from its hospitals to mental health treatment facilities for involuntary commitments under an agreement reached Monday with Wake County.

Under state law, counties must provide for the transportation of patients in involuntary commitment proceedings. With the closing of Dorothea Dix Hospital, many patients brought to local hospitals and then referred for mental health treatment must now be taken to the state hospital at Butner, or to other facilities farther away.

County staff say that the Wake County Sheriff’s Office conducted nearly 1,300 transports in 2012, requiring an average of five hours each. Some take as long as 10 hours. The working hours of about a dozen deputies per day are dedicated to mental health-related transports, according to staff reports.

In 2011, WakeMed began paying a private contractor to help conduct some of the transports, to reduce the amount of time its emergency department staff and treatment rooms are tied up with patients needing mental health treatment, and to reduce the wait times for those patients needing care.

The hospital got permission from Wake County Commissioners at the board’s regular meeting on Monday to expand that service. The county does not pay for the transports handled by the contractor, and the contractor is responsible for making sure its staff are trained to meet state standards.

During the meeting, the board also gave final approval to the county’s fiscal 2013-2014 budget, which increases spending on schools, public safety, environmental services and some employee salaries, though the tax rate will hold steady.

The $982.8 million budget for the year starting July 1 grew 4.7 percent over the current year’s budget, because of increased collections in real estate and sales taxes in an improving economy.

The board also voted to accept $6.4 million in additional revenue from the Wake County ABC Board, money that will be allocated later to law enforcement and alcohol education programs. Commissioners praised the board for its efficiency.

Quillin: 919-829-8989

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