Wednesday, April 01, 2009

COMMUNITY CHOICE ACT: Giving disabled people w/ mental health challenges a way to live on their own: HELLO REP HEATH SHULER:1st to sign for NC?

Please feel free to use any part of my letter in order to write a letter to your local US Congress person so that we can get NC on track re: this very pressing, important issue. THERE ARE NO NC SPONSORS YET. Continue reading.....


"...The Community Choice Act establishes a national program of community-based attendant services and supports for people with disabilities, regardless of age or disability. This bill would allow the dollars to follow the person, and allow eligible individuals, or their representatives, to choose where they would receive services and supports. Any individual who is entitled to nursing home or other institutional services will now be able to choose where and how these services are provided.

The Community Choice Act Senate Bill 683 and House Bill 1670The Community Choice Act gives people real choice in long term care options by reforming Title XIX of the Social Security Act (Medicaid) by ending the institutional bias. The Community Choice Act allows individuals eligible for Nursing Facility Services or Intermediate Care Facility Services for the Mentally Retarded (ICF-MR) the opportunity to choose instead a new alternative, "Community-based Attendant Services and Supports". The money follows the individual! In addition, by providing an enhanced match and grants for the transition to Real Choice before October 2011 when the benefit becomes permanent, the Community Choice Act offers states financial assistance to reform their long term service and support system to provide services in the most integrated setting.

It would fit very nicely w/ Community Support Services
No one is sponsoring in NC (yet):;&sort=D

supported by at least one Republican: "This creative proposal addresses a glaring gap in Federal health cover-age. The time has come for concerted action in this arena."
- Senator Arlen Specter Republican, Pennsylvania
You can sign up to help here:
_____Please list our organization as a Community Support Act Supporter.
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Choice Act.
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_____ We can provide financial support for Community Choice Act.
_____ Please add us to the Community Choice Act Email* list for
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ADAPT of Texas1640 E. 2nd ST. Ste. 100Austin, TX 78702512/442-0252512/442-0522 (fax)EMail to ADAPT
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The Community Choice ActSenate Bill 683 and House Bill 1670

April 2, 2009

Marsha V. Hammond, PhD: Clinical Licensed Psychologist
356 Biltmore Avenue, suite 313, Asheville, NC 28801

Dear Representative Shuler:

Thank you for supporting the interests of disabled people in western NC. I am speaking, in particular, of disabled people with mental health challenges---as I am a psychologist.

The purpose of this letter is to ask you to be the first US NC Congressional representative to support House Bill 1670, specifically, The Community Support Act : A COMMUNITY-BASED ALTERNATIVE TO NURSING HOMES AND INSTITUTIONS FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES (see:

As a licensed psychologist, I have been working w/ residents of Family Care Homes over the past year or so. I have seen people at facilities managed by various owners.

While having a roof over one's head is probably better than being homeless or living at the Mission on Patton Avenue in Asheville, something some of my Family Care Home clients have talked seriously about doing----in order to have some spending money other than the $46 of pocket change they are given once/ month----so they could get their teeth fixed rather than pulled------I would like to suggest that its not much better and it is a form of imprisonment which quickly moved into place subsequent to Wyatt v Stickney (1972 court case wherein people w/ mental health issues, who were in state psychiatric hospitals, were turned out into the community re: they could not be interned w/o appropriate treatment).

Here is how (Adult) Family Care Home funding takes place. All of the disabled person's disability check---be it $900 or $670---except for $46 (don't forget to take out the copay for the medications from the pharmacy)-----goes to paying for their room and board. Most of the Family Care Homes have bedroom accommodations that house 2-3 people. The rest of the funding comes from a local Department of Social Services fund called Special Assistance (as associated w/ Medicaid) to make up the cost of approximately $1300/ month/ resident/ room and board.

They have no spending money and therefore they cannot interface w/ the world. Therefore, their mental health worsens as does their physical health.

So, you might ask: why is living in Family Care Homes mostly the only option that many people w/ mental health issue have? Their families cannot house them or will not house them and without the Family Care Homes or the mostly unavailable Section 8 Housing, they would be homeless and living at the Mission on Patton Avenue.

The Family Care Homes is quite a big business as you will see if you look at their associated lobbying website associated w/ long term care in NC. You will see two full time lobbyists and a 20 member board which is composed of people who run Family Care Homes. Here is their website:

And so, what are the arguments that you might hear from this lobby? They might advise you that they render 'compassionate' care, as per a recent Raleigh News & Observer 'Opinion' piece. They might advise you that as per Governor Perdue's recent reductions as per the state budget, that the Special Assistance funds----which is the other stream of funding besides the 98% of the disabled person's SSDI or SSI check----is being reduced. This is yet another reason to create alternative housing for people who have disabilities. Already strapped for money, the Family Care Homes are going to have to cut back on what are already very meager services.

I know what I'm talking about: unlike many psychologists I go INTO the Family Care Homes to see my clients.

An additional reason to support The Community Choice Act House Bill 1670 is positively associated w/ NC Mental Health Reform. As you probably know, there is a NC DHHS Service Definition which has been the lynchpin piece of mental health reform in this state, entitled, Community Support Services (CSS). Though far from being available at the level that was first envisioned by creators of NC Mental Health Reform, it has done a good job of motivating people w/ disabilities to improve themselves and gain or improve skills associated w/ functioning better in the world such that they are more independent. And indeed, independence is a core matter as pertaining to disabled people.

Most recently, I was threatened with arrest by the administrator of WNC Homes that has a facility right around the corner from you and I---as per our mutual office w/ the address of 356 Biltmore Avenue----at Thurland Avenue. WNC Homes has a facility in Leicester, NC, in Buncombe County, which is very rural and very isolated. Related to that event, a few weeks ago, as I was having therapy w/ one of my clients early on a Sunday evening, the administrator of WNC Homes called the Buncombe County Sheriff who told me I had to leave or risk arrest.

Why would WNC Homes go to such an extreme? I had been working w/ the clients to define their civil rights as related to the Family Care Homes law.

I have also been speaking to Disability Rights NC and have been forwarding my clients, as they desire, to their intake as associated w/ what seems to me -----and has been assayed by non-profit legal firms throughout NC----as low hanging fruit---the matter of disabled people being relegated to Family Care Homes and their loss of their civil rights.

In my professional opinion, there are frequent and flagrant civil rights violations of my clients living in this Family Care Home and I have continued to file complaints with the Department of Health Service Regulation in Raleigh. Right now, WNC Homes continue w/ their 'superior' 3 star rating.

As you might recall, Secretary Cansler indicated that rating the Family Care Homes would avail consumers of a way to judge for themselves in terms of placing a family member in such a place. However, this has not so far been evidenced. I will continue to file complaints about civil rights violations such as: no privacy in terms of their mail; I cannot speak to them on the phone in order to set up an appointment.

INdeed, I had to go to the Department of Social Services (DSS) of Buncombe County for a two hour meeting a few weeks ago, as associated with the above matter as I had complained to the regulatory people who oversee Family Care Homes, specifically, the Department of Health Service Regulation.

DSS Buncombe, who oversees at the local/ county level the Family Care Homes, and more specifically Cheryl Simcox, within DSS Buncombe, was present at that meeting along with three representative from WNC Homes. At that meeting, WNC Homes agreed to that Dr. Hammond would be allowed to speak to her clients during regular office hours. This has not happened and I continue to be barred from speaking w/ my clients.

While WNC Homes may be an outlyer in terms of the (Adult) Family Care Homes business, my concern is at the level of there being in place an institutional bias which truncates Family Care Homes residents of their freedom and basic civil rights. As you perhaps know, there is a deficit of Section 8 Housing in Buncombe County. Nevertheless, as much as possible, I continue to work w/ Community Support Services to move my disabled clients into Section 8 housing in Buncombe and Haywood county.

To summarize, these are the reasons why it would be a good idea for you to support House Bill 1670, The Community Support Act:

1. disabled people (and I am working w/ those having mental health issues though the arena is broader as pertaining to this Act) merit being able to be as independent as they can be. This will save money, as per health care and mental health care services, over the long run.

2. The Community Support Act overlaps positively w/ the agenda of NC Mental Health Reform which has at its crux the creation of more skills and therefore more independence for people w/ mental health challenges.

3. there is a lot of sniffing around as per a class action lawsuit as per the perceived civil rights violations of disabled people living in (Adult) Family Care Homes. Contact Disability Rights NC and you will see what I mean. You can talk to Senior Attorney Mr. Rittelmeyer. Or talk to Douglas Sea, senior attorney, at Southern Piedmont Legal Services outside of Charlotte.

4. The Family Care Homes law outlines only matters associated with the 'internal' activity of the Family Care Homes and has little to nothing to say about how disabled individuals can interface w/ the external world. My interest in trying to forward interested clients to Disability Rights NC has been in terms of hoping that the law would be changed such that disabled people w/ mental health challenges would have extended rights in terms of choosing where they want to live.

5. I assure you, that if you went with me to a Family Care Home, and if they did not know that you were Heath Shuler, that you would be shocked at the boredom, non-stop cigarette smoking, completely neutered existence of people who live there. It is a disgraceful dismissal of all that humans can be and achieve. I frankly am driven to find another way to assist my clients in interfacing w/ the world or I just can't live w/ myself.

I am looking forward to speaking to you about this very pressing issue and I hope that you will support House Bill 1670, specifically, The Community Support Act : A COMMUNITY-BASED ALTERNATIVE TO NURSING HOMES AND INSTITUTIONS FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES (see:


Marsha V. Hammond, PhD: Clinical Licensed Psychologist, NC


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