Progressive Voices

Executive Director Vicki Smith periodically submits commentary for publication by NC Policy Watch in its Progressive Voices series. Visit the NC Policy Watch website at

"New mental health policies are harming people in need" - Vicki Smith (February 28, 2012)
One of the hardest parts of the work at the group I'm fortunate enough to lead -- Disability Rights NC -- is listening to the stories we hear every day. Stories of people desperate for help because of disability-based discrimination. Stories of abuse and neglect. . . .

"Deja Vu in the world of mental health" - Vicki Smith (November 3, 2011)
More than a decade ago, North Carolina' s system for providing services to individuals with mental health needs, developmental disabilities and addictive disease was deeply troubled. Allegations of fraud, mismanagement and conflicted governance signaled poor accountability mechanisms. In response, the General Assembly directed the state Auditor to investigate the situation. . . .

"A preventable "perfect storm" for people with disabilities" - Vicki Smith (August 8, 2011)
North Carolina's perfect storm was not the result of three weather patterns but three separate exposures of the State's failure to cultivate an adequate community based system of care for people with mental illness and other disabilities. Instead of investing in community-integrated housing and other supports to do right by its citizens with mental health needs and to comply with federal law, the North Carolina General Assembly and DHHS have once again slighted these citizens. . . .

"Serving people with disabilities: Pay now or pay more later" - Vicki Smith (May 9, 2011)
There's a simple and harsh truth when it comes to serving people with disabilities: If you cut services that allow them to live in the most integrated setting, you will eventually force them into more institutionalized settings. This, in turn, will cost the state more money. Serving people with disabilities: Pay now or pay more later. . . .

"North Carolina's broken emergency mental health system" - Vicki Smith (September 15, 2010)
A while ago, my friend fell and broke her hip and knee. What happened next was exactly what should happen in crisis. She was transported to a local emergency room and immediately treated. She received appropriate care until she was transferred to a rehabilitation center. Once there, she received treatment designed to help her regain her mobility and ultimately return home. And while there was a ton of paper work, there was never any question that she would get the necessary treatment.

"Children's mental health needs still going unmet" - Vicki Smith (May 18, 2010)
Imagine being angry all the time but not having the words to express it or the experience to understand it. Imagine being raped or beaten by an adult who is supposed to love and take care of you. Imagine being so traumatized by being the victim of violence – or watching it happen to another — that flashbacks are as commonplace as computer games. Imagine hearing voices in your head that tell you to do things that will get you in trouble at school. Imagine being so sad that you don't want to live into adulthood. These are not imaginary stories. . . .

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