This past Tuesday, October 8th, Secretary Aldona Wos and the Department’s leadership team sat before the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services and Information Technology in the morning, and the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Human Services in the afternoon to provide information and answers to the questions of senators and representatives.
Provided below is the opening statement made by Secretary Wos to the members at the start of the morning meeting:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committees.
It is an honor to be here today – indeed, it is a privilege as we work together to serve all the citizens of our remarkable state of North Carolina.
As I have said to my colleagues and staff, especially as we have traveled to counties across the State – we are serving every citizen. Not only those who are in desperate need, but also those who are taxpayers, hoping, indeed demanding, for a sustainable and accountable system of care.
And I can tell you from my own personal history as a physician who has served people – and worked with systems of care, here in North Carolina and around the world, I know we are tackling the hardest issues. No system is perfect.
Together we are dealing with the hardest questions that we face as a society. We have an obligation – an obligation we have willingly accepted as a state and as a country – to help those in need. And we must at the same time be good stewards of taxpayer resources.
So where are we now – and where are we going?
Well, we are moving forward.
We are, in the nine months since I arrived – knowing that with an $18 billion dollar budget, we affect the lives of virtually everyone in North Carolina – we are already operating more efficiently and more effectively – opening the lines of communications among departments – and establishing an environment where we ask ourselves every single day, “what is the right thing to do?”
The right thing to do is bring a vision of caring, accountability and sustainability to our department.
We bring a vision of improved mental health services, reform to Medicaid, and a restructured department to increase efficiency.
To help achieve this vision, we will soon announce a Medicaid Advisory Group – a diverse committee of legislators and industry experts that will collaborate with us to continue moving forward on Medicaid reform.
One critical initiative is to improve the mental health system here in our state. We know that people in crisis, those with mental illness or substance abuse issues who are taken to a hospital, can wait days to receive the right treatment. This is not acceptable.
For those in need, I have instructed our director of Mental Health to work to establish a new initiative to improve our crisis and prevention services.
You heard me say that there is no perfect system anywhere. But knowing that does not prevent us from doing our best. You will hear today – and we welcome your questions and your ideas – how we are dealing with the critical technology systems that are so important to making our programs work.
This is our mission — to serve those in need, to serve providers, taxpayers, and each of our employees.
Often when I meet with our employees, I hear …
“Thank you, Madame Secretary, thank you.” For asking the tough questions. For coming to our offices. For trying to do the right thing. Doing the right thing, even though it is tough, and even though the answers are sometimes not perfect.
But we will not stop. We cannot stop. We will not stop working together and we will not stop working with and for the citizens of our state.
Now let’s turn to the issues, the issues related to our technology systems, and engage in a dialog to address your ideas, questions and concerns.
And let me just say, I believe that our life experiences often prepare us for challenges we cannot possibly imagine we’ll have to face. You have my continuing pledge that I and my dedicated staff will continue to work together, with each other, and with each of you, toward the best possible future for the citizens of North Carolina.