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Expanding Mental Health Services In North Carolina

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Stabilizing and expanding mental health services will be the focus of the new Assistant Secretary of Mental Health Services Development for the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Building our capacity to serve individuals with mental illness, developmental disabilities or who suffer from substance abuse in communities across our state has been the directive to this Administration,” said DHHS Secretary Lanier Cansler in naming Michael F. Watson to the position. Watson will provide the leadership and oversee the Department’s efforts in building a strong mental health system. Watson is currently chief executive officer for Sandhills Center for Mental Health, Development Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services.

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“The Governor has charged this agency to build a strong foundation for improved access to mental health services. I am confident Mike is the person to help us chart our course toward increasing our community capacity for MH/DD/SAS services to those parts of the state where we already have options, and to expand it into the parts of the state where the capacity is lacking,” Sec. Cansler said. “We also will draw on his knowledge as we work toward finishing stabilizing our state facility operations as well as undertaking the strategic planning necessary to guide our future needs for state-provided treatment care.”

Watson has more than 20 years of experience and leadership in developing and operating MH/DD/SAS services on a local and regional level. Since 1983, Watson has led the Sandhills Center, which is an eight-county local management entity (LME) serving Anson, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Moore, Montgomery, Randolph and Richmond counties. He also served as assistant director of the Division of Youth Services in the N.C. Department of Human Resources from 1978-83. He has been named Professional of the Year by both The Arc of North Carolina and the N.C. Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

"I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity that Sec. Cansler has offered me,” Watson said. “The last few years have been extremely difficult ones for the community mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse system in North Carolina. Our consumers and their families deserve and should expect access to effective community services. Despite the stark fiscal realities that confront our state, we must work to create a stable, competent and efficient provider network that meets the needs of our citizens. It is my hope that my years of experience in the management of community services will provide a strong foundation to help achieve these goals."