Monday, June 29, 2009

NC Disability Rights legally takes on the NC State Legislature's removal of mental health services

NC Disability Rights is preparing for legal battle re: the removal of mental health services which by law have to be in place pertaining to 'least restrictive' criteria associated w/ disabled citizens.

Here is my letter to Ms. Vicki Smith, the Executive Director of Disability Rights, NC, about specific issues:
June 29, 2009

RE: removal & non-availability of mental health services

Dear Vicki Smith, Executive Director of NC Disability Rights:

Thank you for this announcement indicating that NC Disability Rights is going to 'push back' on the removal of funds as per the NC State Legislature associated w/ mental health services for NC citizens.

I would like to bring up two matters which impact disabled citizens:

1. Family Care Homes provide 'food & board' to disabled citizens in exchange for their disability checks (they are supposed to get a monthly Personal Needs Allowance, or PNA, but this has frequently been abused by the administrations of Family Care Homes). Moreover, these disabled citizens do not have access to mental health care within their homes as indicated by the case of WNC Homes threatening this psychologist with arrest if I continued to see my clients for therapy in their homes. When I spoke to the complaint person last week as associated w/ the Department of Health Service Regulations, the agency within NC DHHS that regulates these homes, I was advised that DHSR has 'nothing to say' about this. I can provide you w/ information pertaining to this matter and perhaps you could include it as re: issues you are going to legally address? The Family Care Homes law simply indicates that the administrations are 'to work' w/ 'case managers' and this, apparently does not cover the rendering of mental health services within the Family Care Home.

2. Community Support Services, or CSS, has been provided to many NC disabled citizens in order to improve their functioning. The recent NC State Legislature budget will severely curtail CSS which is associated w/ expanding the functioning of disabled citizens. Could this be an agenda item which you could take up? I can provide you w/ details pertaining to that matter.


Marsha V. Hammond, PhD: Clinical Psychologist, Asheville, NC
Vicki Smith ">

Executive Director

Disability Rights North Carolina

Phone: (919) 856-2195

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
DRNC Gears Up for Legal Battles
Raleigh, NC-

On June 19, 2009, the Board of Directors of Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC) approved the transfer of all available resources to legally challenge specific cuts to services for people with disabilities. In addition, the Board authorized tapping into the agency’s reserves to bring on additional staff in its efforts to protect the rights of adults and children with disabilities in North Carolina.

“Sadly on the 10th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Olmstead v. L.C., budget cuts now being considered by the N.C. General Assembly will fracture an already fragile system of community care for people with disabilities,” stated Vicki Smith, Executive Director. “The State of North Carolina is moving in the wrong direction. Lawmakers neglected to factor the federal protections provided to people with disabilities when they made decisions which severely reduce services for adults and children with disabilities.”

President Obama noted in a White House press release that “The Olmstead ruling was a critical step forward for our nation, articulating one of the most fundamental rights of Americans with disabilities: Having the choice to live independently.”

Laws and regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Medicaid regulations such as Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) mandate certain protections which may be violated by some of the state’s proposed cuts.

“Children cannot be moved to more restrictive environments or denied appropriate services simply because the state has abolished options or severely cut back on an array of services,” Smith stated. “The State is looking at a number of cuts and eliminations to services for children that, in isolation, are troubling, but when taken together, could prove disastrous to our state’s children with disabilities.”

When the State closes residential facilities for children and youth, it cannot neglect their due process rights, their right to the treatment that is medically necessary for them, or their right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education as delineated in their Individual Education Program. Those needs are not dictated by legislation but by individual assessments and often medical necessity.

“The cuts to services in the community are also very troubling,” Smith said. Many people with significant developmental or other disabilities are able to live in the community when they receive appropriate support and services. The elimination of those supports and services for economic reasons does not eliminate their needs or their rights under federal law. “Many people with disabilities fear that as their services are cut, they will be forced to move into more restrictive settings,” Smith explained. “This backward trend is against the intent of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision. “

Effective immediately, DRNC will focus its resources on the following areas:

Protect the rights of people with disabilities successfully living in community based settings who are at risk of moving to more restrictive settings because their services were significantly reduced or eliminated due to state budget cuts.

Address situations where individuals experience extended stays in an ER (5 days or more) and other 'civil commitment' issues related to waiting for necessary treatment.

Ensure that children with disabilities residing in residential placements receive appropriate discharge planning and placement if their residential facility is eliminated.

Ensure that service needs of people with disabilities who are in the criminal justice system (juvenile justice facilities and prisons) are correctly identified and receive appropriate treatment and services while detained or incarcerated.

DRNC will continue to monitor conditions in facilities licensed by the state’s Division of Health Services Regulation and investigate suspicious deaths in state operated facilities.
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Disability Rights North Carolina is the state’s federally mandated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities. One of the P&A’s primary federal mandates is to protect and advocate against the abuse and neglect of people with disabilities, including mental illness, in the care of state institutions.


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