Rhino Times’ John Hammer reports on the City of Greensboro’s proposed mental health department.

Let’s go ahead and get the obvious out of the way–mental health is traditionally a county function, so the city getting into mental health is brand new territory. And –if you keep up with the new these days–you know that those handling mental health are not exactly doing a bang-up job. Just saying.

With all that in mind, there still remain many, many questions about how this will work, one of which is Greensboro often dysfunctional City Council. Hammer writes:

This City Council spent six months, hired an outside law firm and held five public hearings before passing a new panhandling ordinance. Now it appears the same City Council plans to launch an entirely new department, if the memo is accurate, based on a few conversations with a few people in the field, including at least one conversation with Sandhills Center the mental health provider for Guilford County. But the substance of that conversation is unknown. Was the possibility of Sandhills starting such a program for Guilford County even discussed? It would not appear so, because that was not the question being pursued by Hicks-Few according to her short memo.

Another big question–perhaps the biggest–is the amount of money included in the city’s upcoming budget for the proposed mental health department—$500,000. Doesn’t sound like much to me, nor does it to council member Justin Outling, perhaps the coolest head on the council:

Outling said, “This is a substantial new undertaking. We are expanding city services to provide mental health services which is categorically a county function.”

Outling added, “It’s not to say that this is something we shouldn’t be doing. But I have a lot of questions. For instance $500,000 appears to be an insufficient amount of money to accomplish the task that it sets out to accomplish and we are already considering a tax increase.”

He said, “I haven’t seen a thorough evaluation of the program. I don’t want to start a program just to see it fail or sputter in the first years.”

Outling said he had seen nothing about the success of other cities that had tried similar programs, or the cost. He also said from the limited information he had, that it didn’t appear Guilford County was asked if this was a program it would be interested in providing.

Stay tuned–this could be a major issue in the city’s budget discussions.