CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Access to mental health care has been a problem in North Carolina as the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shows that the state ranks last in the nation for quality behavioral health care access.

UNC initiative, Carolina Across 100 says about two of every five North Carolinians live in an area with no access to mental health professionals.

What You Need To Know

  •  North Carolina ranks last in the nation for quality behavioral health care access

  •  About two of every five North Carolinians live in an area with no access to mental health professionals

  •  The average wait time for a psychiatric bed in N.C. is 12 days 

  • The Katie Blessing Center is a new youth behavioral center in Charlotte set to open in 2024 

Limited access has also affected the time a person waits for a spot in a psychiatric facility, as DHHS reports a 12-day average wait time across the state. Luckily for one Charlotte family, the wait time for a psychiatric hospital bed was three days, but limited access to proper health care ultimately led them to seek care out-of-state as a last resort.

“When I was in the hospital that was one thing I would do a lot, all I had access to were crayons, and still I would be drawing all the time,” said Kayla Flett, a former patient.

At 15, Flett began to struggle with depression and anxiety, turning to watercolors to help ease her mind.

“The freedom of expressing myself and all the different ways I can, it’s limitless, and I like that a lot,” Flett said.

Eventually, watercolors weren’t enough to help Flett’s depression and anxiety as her mental health began to decline into suicidal thoughts.

“I went to school. I was unable to get through the day. It was like a barrier. I couldn’t get to my next class, I got so worked up over little things, my grades weren’t the best,” Flett said.

Flett’s parents took her into the emergency room, expecting her to be streamlined into the care she needed. Instead, they were stuck in the emergency room for three days, awaiting the critical care she needed.

“That first night was long and then it turned into, you know, the second day after the second day, I was like, this is this is ridiculous to find a bed,” said Adam Flett, father of Kayla.

Staff at the emergency room informed the Flett family that there was a shortage of beds across the state, putting them in a race against time to help their daughter.

“To not have any outlets, to not have any control over your daughter’s future, it’s extremely frustrating. It eats away at you,” Adam Flett said.

Finally, Kayla was admitted into a behavioral hospital four hours away in Jacksonville, North Carolina. However, the high demand for a bed placed her with a demographic that did not fit the care she needed. Instead, Kayla was placed with children in the facility, participating in care unrelated to her needs.

After exhausting their resources, the Flett family found hope in a mental health facility more than 2,600 miles from home at a mental health facility in California.

“It made us feel really good for the first time, right after four months of back and forth with two ER visits, partial hospitalization programs, therapists, and psychiatrists, we finally felt like we had made the right decision to further her mental health,” Adam Flett said.

Two years later, Kayla has been able to navigate her depression and anxiety after receiving the necessary tools in California. The Flett family now advocates for better mental health resources within the state before it’s too late.

“Just keep going, keep fighting. You have to want it to get better, which is something really important that I learned throughout all of this,” said Kayla Flett.

A new youth behavioral health facility is looking to help combat the issue the Flett family was faced with by providing more mental health resources for people within the state.

The Katie Blessing Center in Charlotte will provide 72 beds, inpatient, residential, urgent care, and outpatient services to those in need.

The facility is on schedule to begin treating patients in the fall of 2024.