North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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July 31, 1978 Mental Health; Area Mental Health Authorities; Patients' Rights Entitlement Where Services Are On A Contractual Basis

Subject:

 

Requested By: R. J. Bickel Deputy Director for Administration Division of Mental Health and Mental Retardation Services

 

Question: Do the provisions of G.S. 122-55.1 through G.S. 122-55.14 apply to services provided for an Area Mental Health Authority (by a general hospital, etc.) on a contractual basis?

 

Conclusion: Yes.

 

The statutes referred to in the question posed are part of the "Patients' Rights Bill" enacted by the General Assembly to afford statutory protection for "basic human rights" of mental patients in our treatment facilities. See G.S. 122-55.1 and G.S. 122-55.13. G.S. 122-36(g) contains the following general definition of the term "treatment facility":

"(g) The words "treatment facility" shall mean any hospital or institution operated by the State of North Carolina and designated for the admission of any person in need of care and treatment due to mental illness or mental retardation, any center or facility operated by the State of North Carolina for the care, treatment or rehabilitation of inebriates, and any community mental health clinic or center administered by the State of North Carolina."

A similar definition of the term "treatment facility" as utilized in the voluntary admission provisions is set forth in G.S. 122-56.2.

G.S. 122-35.49 permits an Area Mental Health Authority to contract for services statutorily required of it, subject to the following conditions:

"The area mental health authority may contract with other public or private agencies, institutions, or resources for the provision of services, but it shall be the responsibility of the area mental health authority to insure that such contracted services meet the rules and regulations as set by the Commission for Mental Health and Mental Retardation Services. Terms of the contract shall require the area mental health authority to monitor the contract to assure that minimum standards are met."

From the above, it is clear that patients served by an Area Mental Health Authority must be guaranteed the same rights whether they are served "in-house" or through a contract with a general hospital or other such facility. This is clearly the intent of the statutes. Further, the failure to guarantee these same rights regardless of where services are rendered would probably raise a serious question under the Equal Protection Clauses of the North Carolina Constitution and the Constitution of the United States.

Rufus L. Edmisten Attorney General

William F. O'Connell Special Deputy Attorney General