Each week, youth in Wake County with complex behavioral health needs require immediate protection in a safe, supportive environment; however, the number of children with these needs currently far exceeds the spaces, services and foster families available. This can sometimes result in teens sleeping in emergency rooms, local hotels or even in County Social Services offices converted into living spaces.
To address this critical need in our community, the Wake County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved $2 million on Monday to fund a partnership with Alliance Health, enabling the establishment of three short-term, transitional homes for youth who are in the custody of the County and require an immediate therapeutic residential level of care. Alliance Health is a managed care organization serving Wake and other surrounding counties with publicly funded behavioral health care services.
“This is a game-changer for youth in our care and staff who work tirelessly to ensure they have a safe, stable environment to lay their heads each night,” said Wake County Commissioner Dr. James West. “We’ve been pushing for change and more resources toward this urgent need, and we’re thankful to our partners at Alliance Health for stepping up to help provide life-saving stability for our kids at risk.”
The planned facilities will provide a safe environment for 12- to 17-year-olds who need clinical support and comprehensive assessments to determine long-term needs. Each home will have up to 18 beds and Wake County will fund the startup costs. The ongoing operations will be funded through Alliance Health, with an estimated annual operating budget at around $1.12 million for each home.
The homes are expected to open in 2023. They will include:
- One home dedicated to serving youth with co-occurring intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental health diagnoses; and
- Two homes dedicated to serving youth with mental health and substance use disorders.
The majority of children in Wake County custody are living in appropriate placements that meet their needs and/or are living with family members; however, children with acute mental, physical and/or behavioral health needs require 24/7 supervision and require the services of homes that are licensed by the Division of Health Services Regulation (DSHR).
Over the years, access to appropriate placement options and services has decreased nationwide and the COVID-19 pandemic only intensified the problem.
“This isn’t just a Wake County problem. Across our country, social services departments are currently experiencing significant challenges finding placement for youth who have complex mental and behavioral health needs,” said Wake County Health and Human Services Director Nannette Bowler. “This crisis highlights an urgent need for intervention and reforms at both the state and local levels.”
This investment by Wake County Commissioners board supports their community health and vitality goal of improving access to affordable, high-quality care for all residents experiencing medical and/or behavioral health challenges.