The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced that starting in 2024, funding is on the rise for mental health – including funds that will help treat those with gambling addictions.
The NCDHHS recently announced new Medicaid reimbursement rate hikes. This is the first increase to North Carolina minimum reimbursement rates for behavioral health services in more than 10 years.
“Raising these rates will strengthen the care workforce who provide these services an increase access to care for every North Carolinian,” a press release read.
The changes go into effect Jan. 1, 2024, just before North Carolina online sports betting laws go into effect.
NCSharp connected with the NCDHHS to learn more about what it means for problem gambling treatment in the future.
The big change? Funding.
The biggest change is the funds toward behavioral health care. $835 million in funds was approved in the 2023-2025 budget. According to a release from the NCDHHS, this is the “single largest investment in behavioral health by the state legislature.”
These added dollars will help all North Carolina residents, not just those experiencing a gambling problem. One in four children and one in five adults are experiencing a need for mental health help.
A closer look at budget funding and the reason behind it
The North Carolina General Assembly largely mandated the increase in funding in the latest state budget.
“One main reason why the funds were increased was a report commissioned by the lottery from Spectrum Gaming in 2019, to assess the gambling landscape and possibility for sports betting expansion,” the NCDHHS said in an email with NCSharp. “The report recommends increased levels to the problem gambling program.”
Additionally, there is no federal funding. Dollars toward these programs come at the state level.
“While most people are able to gamble for entertainment only, an estimated 5.5% of adults in North Carolina are currently experiencing a problem, with another 15% at risk for harm,” the NCDHHS said in an email. “Current funding levels allocate approximately $.13 per adult 18+, if we take into account youth, that’s $.9 per person. The additional funds only increase the funding levels to $.40 cents per adult, with youth that’s $.27 per person.”
The timing of the funding is key, too. Legal gambling is becoming the norm across the country. In North Carolina, online sports betting is on the horizon, with a launch coming early in 2024.
But with that expansion comes some unwarranted issues, such as younger individuals developing problem gaming tendencies.
“Young people are exposed to gambling at an earlier age, in both traditional forms (casinos, lotteries, sports betting) and new, less obvious forms like gaming, loot boxes and fantasy sports,” said the NCDHHS. “It’s important to note that gambling is not only illegal for those teens and some young adults, and it can also be harmful and addictive to their developing brains. Research shows that children introduced to gambling by age 12 are four times more likely to engage in problematic gambling behaviors later. This is why we place such an emphasis on our youth prevention program.”
Can this benefit gambling addiction in North Carolina?
According to the NCDHHS, the North Carolina Problem Gambling Program has always operated on a $1 million budget since its inception in 2007. The current funding supports several things, such as prevention efforts, no-cost treatment options and a 24/7 hotline.
“Increased funding will allow us to meet the needs of those impacted by problematic levels of gambling by funding additional programs and services. This includes awareness raising efforts, outreach to those at high risk as well as additional services aimed at preventing instances of problem gambling and support for those who have been impacted.”
Problem gambling options in North Carolina
Right now, those with problem gambling addictions have some options when it comes to help or treatment.
With North Carolina’s 24/7 hotline, people can either call, text or chat for help at no cost to them.
“Help comes in the form of remote-based counseling, in-person/virtual clinical treatment, peer support services and motivational text messaging. Our goal is to meet the needs of everyone where they are on their recovery journey.”
Stigma is a big part of the group’s work, too.
“People are more than their addiction. NCDHHS uses the term ‘person experiencing a problem with gambling.’ Problem gambling occurs on a continuum, with those who meet the criteria for a clinical diagnosis from the DSM-5, but the term problem gambling also encompasses those at risk or who are affected by someone else gambling.”
For those looking to seek help, you can call 877-718-5543. You can also text #morethanagamenc to 53342 for free help and additional information.
Visit the website morethanagamenc.gov for the ability to speak with a specialist and learn about warning signs.