Sunday, September 30, 2007
Here are the facts regarding the federal poverty level. The compromise legislation passed this week states the following:
Places a limitation on the matching rate for states that propose to cover children with effective family income exceeding 300% of the federal poverty line.
The current federal poverty level, for a family of four, is set at approximately $20,000. That would mean 300% of the federal poverty level is approximately $60,000, not $80,000 as the Bush Administration has stated repeatedly. Many states will probably not set the level of coverage at 300%, but it should be up to the state to decide how best to provide insurance for its uninsured children.
Another concern expressed by the Bush Administration is that people with private insurance will move to state sponsored insurance if this legislation takes effect. I have seen no research that substantiates this claim. What I did find is that for children who loose their SCHIP insurance due to a family earning increase, have difficulty finding insurance.
Cover the Uninsured, a project by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has research that demonstrates the following;
Nearly 3 in 10 children are uninsured if their family head is employed by a firm with fewer than 10 workers. This compares with 9.3 percent uninsured among children whose family head is employed by a firm with 1,000 or more workers.
More employers are divesting themselves of insurance coverage for employees. This means it is increasingly becoming the responsibility of the individual to find private insurance for their families. If you have a child with a disability, the cost of insuring that child can be a serious financial burden for the family.
On the issue of raising taxes to cover health insurance for children, the Bush Administration continues to state that this expansion is a new tax on Americans. The reality is that the expansion is being funded by an increase of sixty one cent tax on tobacco products.
Why is this important to North Carolina? Well, while they fight it out in Washington, DC, we have our own expansion program waiting for their decision. NC Kid’s Care, our expansion program passed the state legislature during the long session. This program received a state appropriation in the 2007-2008 fiscal year of $368,000, funding earmarked for the Department of Health and Human Services to create a report that identifies a cost-efficient and cost-effective method to increase coverage for children whose families are between 200% to 300% of the FPL (Federal Poverty Level). An additional appropriation of seven million dollars in the 2008-2009 fiscal year was appropriated to implement the expanded health insurance program. If SCHIP does not survive the veto over ride then our state will not be able to expand coverage to more uninsured children.
How does the current SCHIP program affect children with disabilities in our state? Nationally, 10% of all children insured by SCHIP have a disability. NC Health Choice has two levels of health plans. The first is the core plan which covers durable medical equipment and medical supplies. There are no statistics regarding how many children with disabilities are covered by this plan. We do know that there are 1,397 children currently covered by the Special Needs Plan in our state. That is 1,397 children who require extensive services outside of the core plan. Children with disabilities are among our most vulnerable population and are the most difficult to insure due to their complex medical needs.
If the President is serious about improving the health of children around the world, as he stated during his recent United Nations address, he can start that process at home by signing the SCHIP bill that is headed to his desk this week.
White House Press Briefing:
Federal Poverty Level Information:
North Carolina 2007 Appropriations Act:
Interesting Comparison of FPL in California versus other states:
Friday, September 28, 2007
ACTION ALERT: URGENT - Ask President Bush To Sign the State Children's Health Insurance Program Bill
This week the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass a bill to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The House of Representatives passed the bill, H.R. 976, on Tuesday by a margin of 265 to 159. The Senate followed suit on Thursday, with a bipartisan vote of 67 to 29.
The SCHIP reauthorization bill will provide an additional $35 billion over 5 years to provide health insurance to 4 million more children from low and moderate income families, including hundreds of thousands of eligible children with disabilities.
The Administration said today that President Bush is planning to veto the bill on Monday or Tuesday of next week. The President says he will veto the bill because its goes over the amount he proposed for SCHIP in his FY 2008 budget. The President's budget would result in a drastic cut because states will have insufficient federal funding to sustain their existing SCHIP programs. The House is unlikely to be able to override the President's veto.
A veto of the SCHIP bill would be a terrible loss for children with disabilities. Here is what is at stake:1) Health insurance for children in families with incomes up 250% of the federal poverty level. 2) No exclusion from coverage due to pre-existing conditions.3) Coverage of dental care.4) Parity for mental health services.5) A provision for a 6-month moratorium on proposed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulations on Medicaid's rehabilitation option and school based services for Medicaid-eligible children with disabilities. These regulations would result in billions of dollars in cuts for services for children with disabilities.
Fortunately, support for the SCHIP bill is extremely strong and growing. Supporters include not only broad-based health and welfare organizations, but health insurance and medical industry groups (such as America's Health Insurance Plans and the American Medical Association) as well as a significant number of Republican lawmakers.
If we act now to persuade President Bush to sign the SCHIP bill, we can avoid a veto showdown.
Please send an email to President Bush this weekend. ** Please be sure to tailor the sample message provided. Select from among the choices provided to describe yourself or use your own words (recommended). The more you personalize your message, the more effective it is**
This important legislation adds protection under the current law for people with disabilities. This bill was added as an amendment last evening to a military appropriations bill.
Vote for adoption of the amendment:
Read the press release from Senator Ted Kennedy’s office:
Learn more about this legislation:
Here is the vote count:
Not Voting 4
How did Senator Elizabeth Dole and Senator Richard Burr vote? They both voted Nay.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
For the five families with members who have developmental disabilities drove to Raleigh to hear what will happen to improve services for their loved ones, there was little to hear. Dr. Lin told the committee that there is an urgent need to address policy initiatives aimed at persons with developmental disabilities and that maybe DD should be moved out of MH/SAS. If these families stuck around until 3:00 pm, they were told that LMEs need to focus on the needs of persons with developmental disabilities, but of course these families already know this. Then there was a brief discussion around addressing crisis services for people with developmental disabilities that lasted maybe six minutes. That was it.
So have we turned a corner? Not if you are one of the approximately 157,000 citizens with developmental disabilities. For the over 4,000 people still waiting for services, the corner is just a dream. They’re not even on the road yet. We have not turned a corner on supported employment. We have not turned a corner on in home support services or on accessible transportation. We have not turned a corner in improving the transitions for students with developmental disabilities from high schools to colleges and vocational programs. Right now “the corner” is nowhere in sight.
The U.S. Senate will vote on the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill this Friday - September 28!
This vote will be on a House-Senate agreement to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program -SCHIP. By providing $35 billion over 5 years, it will continue coverage for the approximately 6 million children in the program including eligible children with disabilities. The new bill will add an additional 4 million children.
The agreement also includes a 6-month moratorium on proposed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulations on Medicaid's rehabilitation option and school based services for Medicaid eligible children with disabilities. A moratorium was a high priority of the disability community.
The House of Representatives voted on the agreement, H.R. 976, Wednesday evening. It passed by a bipartisan vote of 265-159. The thousands of calls made to Members' offices yesterday were truly effective in increasing the number of Members who voted for the bill.
(Scroll down this blog to see how your House Represenative voted.)
Now it is the Senate's turn to pass this critical bill that President Bush has threatened to veto. A strong bipartisan vote in the Senate will show that the President's veto can be overridden.
Please call your Senators! The Senate vote on the SCHIP agreement is only 2 days away.
Call toll-free: 1-800-828-0498. You will be connected to the Capitol Switchboard - ask for your Senators' offices. (If you need help getting your Senators' names, enter your zip code at http://capwiz.com/thearc/utr/1/JZIOHQRHWC/OFYJHQRIGW/1439282971)
"Please vote for the State Children's Health Insurance Program bill! I'm a constituent who thinks covering 4 million more uninsured children is a very important vote! "
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
This legislation will keep funds flowing to all of the federal agencies at the 2007 funding levels until November 16th. Two things will happen then, either a new budget will have passed the Congress and been signed by the president, or another Continuing Resolution will be needed.
Currently there are negotiations happening on over 12 regular fiscal spending bills for the 2008 budget. These include appropriations for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and most other disability programs.
The Senate will take up the continuing resolution in the next few days. The new fiscal year begins on Monday, so the clock is ticking.
(Special thanks to Kathleen H. McGinley, Ph. D. and the folks at National Disability Rights Network for their timely email updates)
Dr. Alice Lin gave an overview of her report on the state of LMEs and the overall progress of MH/DD/SA system reform. Dr. Lin’s survey of LMEs included The Durham Center Area Authority, OPC Area Program, South Eastern Center, Crossroads Behavioral Healthcare, Sandhills Center, Five-County Mental Health Authority,and Western Highlands Netwrok LME. She stated that everyone is struggling with similar issues. Dr. Lin pointed to the speed at which NC moved through system reform. She stressed that it takes time for reform to take hold. She gave the example of Ohio which launched its reform in 1988; 20 years later reform is stable and productive. Lin spoke to the need to develop provider capacity in implementing the remaining crisis services and in brining SA into the system. During Dr. Lin’s presentation she did briefly address the urgent need to look at developmental disability services and to maybe look at moving them out of MH/SA.
The second part of the committee meeting had a detailed review of the status of state psychiatric hospitals and their closure. This section of the meeting was presented by Jim Osberg the Chief of State Operated Services Division of MH/DD/SAS. Several Wake County Representatives expressed their concerns regarding the closure of Dix without adequate community or structural alternatives to care for the population.
The meeting concluded with staff reviewing legislative actions during the 2007 long session and updates from the Division. Trish Amend from NCHFA and Julia Bick from DHHS presented on the success of the Housing 400 Initiative which created 425 independent and supportive apartments for persons with disabilities. Bonnie Morrell from DMHDDSAS presented on Crisis Services Implementation and she addressed the need to review crisis services for persons with developmental disabilities. These services are different from what are needed for persons managing a mental health or substance abuse crisis. The last speaker addressed the increase in CAP Slots. We have seen a 50% increase in CAP slots since two years ago. There are still many people waiting for CAP slots and services. She also addressed the need for LMEs to focus on how we move people with developmental disabilities from our DD centers into our community. Improvement is needed in this area.
The next Joint Legislative Oversight Committee meeting is scheduled for October 31, 2007. The main focus of this meeting will be Substance Abuse Services.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
The vote report is 265 yeas 159 nays.
North Carolina Representatives voted as follows:
Voting Yes: Representatives Butterfield (D 1st), Price (D 4th), Miller (D 13th), Shuler (D 11th) and Watt (D 12th).
Voting No: Representatives Coble (R 6th), Etheridge (D 2nd), Foxx (R 5th), Hayes (R 8th), Jones (R 3rd), McHenry (R 10th), McIntyre (D 7th), and Myrick (R 9th).
For complete voting record click here:
Julia's Musings: A Message of Health Care at the United Nations, A Message of Veto in Washington, DC
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights;
"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food and clothing and housing and medical care."
Interesting choice of topics, given the House of Representatives today was taking up the issue of expanding health insurance to cover an additional 4 million children in our nation. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, is a low cost insurance program that currently covers 6 million children. The compromise legislation moving through Congress this evening would raise that coverage to 10 million children. This expansion would cost 35 billion dollars, and it would be paid for by raising the cigarette tax by sixty-one cents. The Bush Administration has threatened to veto this expansion. So while President Bush was offering US support to developing nations to help with health care and the prevention of AIDS and malaria, his administration in Washington DC was trying to whip votes against the expansion of SCHIP. Hopefully the leadership in both parties will realize the importance of providing health care to all children and do the right thing by passing SCHIP.
Need more information:
President Bush's Address to the United Nations:
More Facts About SCHIP from Easter Seals:
(Edit: Correct typo)
The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the State Children's Health Insurance Program bill this afternoon – Tuesday, September 25!
This vote will be on a House-Senate agreement to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). By providing $35 billion over 5 years, it will continue coverage for the approximately 6 million children in the program (which include eligible children with disabilities) and add an additional 4 million children.
The agreement also includes a 6 month moratorium on proposed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulations on Medicaid’s rehabilitation option and school based services for Medicaid eligible children with disabilities. A moratorium was a high priority of the disability community.
President Bush has threatened to veto the SCHIP bill. A strong vote in the House will show that the President's veto can be overridden.
Please call your Representative now! The vote on the SCHIP agreement is only hours away.
Call toll-free: 1-800-828-0498. You will be connected to the Capitol Switchboard - ask for your Representative's office (for help getting your Representative's name: enter your zip code at http://www.house.gov/ (you'll find the spot at the top left).
Tell your Representative:
"Please vote for the State Children's Health Insurance Program bill! I'm a constituent who thinks covering 4 million more uninsured children is a very important vote! "
The compromise legislation will include a six month moratorium on proposed CMS regulations addressing Medicaid's rehabilitation option and school based services for Medicaid eligible children with disabilities.
*Special thanks to DPC for the information.
Monday, September 24, 2007
As I started reading the eighty-six page report, I kept a sharp eye on how issues facing persons with developmental disability would be addressed or, more importantly, if they would be addressed. Developmental disability issues have been having a difficult time rising to the attention of the media, let alone the legislative agenda. Thankfully, this was not the case in Dr. Lin’s work. The first mention of problems faced by people with developmental disabilities was on page five of the report. Lin states that there is an urgent need to address developmental disability issues. She acknowledges in her report the difficulties of trying to cover MH/DD/SA System Reform in one a single sweeping legislation, and she recognizes the differences between DD policy and MH policy.
A significant problem for the DD population is that most policy is written with a “recovery/rehabilitation” focus specifically aimed at the needs of persons trying to manage mental health issues. Persons with developmental disabilities require person centered, best practices, which look at the overall life development of the individual. People who have developmental or cognitive disabilities are not going to recover from them. Policy initiatives must address both the needs of the person with the disability and their family members. Legislators need to look at investing in supported employment, respite services, accessible transportation and transitional services. There needs to be a strong focus on creating community based services that permit a person with a developmental disability to live an independent, full life. MH/DD/SA service reform took the difficult step of trying to reform three different groups at the same time. We not only set out to close our state mental hospitals but we also set out to close our developmental disability centers. The transition to community based services has caused many to fall through the gaps. We need to look at a more effective ways for LME’s to handle the diverse population that they manage through provider networks. All of these issues were discussed in the Lin report. What policy will be created from this report remains to be seen.
The Arc of North Carolina, in the coming weeks, will be releasing its recommendations for positive policy initiatives that address the real needs of people with cognitive and developmental disabilities in our state.
Want more information on Lin’s recommendations for DD policy continue reading:
Here are some of the recommendations put forth by this study to address developmental disabilities issues:
-Status of Targeted Case Management
“The DD system has to comply with behavior health system in terms of units of service, and short time span for authorization and reauthorization all contribute to provider cost and paper work burden, not to mention a lack of “goodness of fit” with the tenets of DD system”.
-Status of DD Waiver
“North Carolina is under a CAP/DD waiver that probably can benefit from a reexamination. There was serious consideration for an Independence Plus waiver a few years ago, but not enough attention has been dedicated to this”.
-Interaction between state DD Centers and Community Services
“The same fragmentation experienced n the MH and SA side is also being felt on the DD side. There has not been an equal attention given to this unresolved concern”.
Edited: Changed Ms. Lin to Dr. Lin to reflect her professional title.
*Information provided by the Capitol Insider.
We will be posting a report following this meeting.
JOINT LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE ON
MENTAL HEALTH, DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE SERVICES
September 25, 2007, 10:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Room 643, LOB
Senator Martin Nesbitt, Co-Chair, Presiding
Greetings and Introductions / New Members 10:00 – 10:30
Senator Martin Nesbitt, Co-Chair
Representative Verla Insko, Co-Chair
Introduction of and Comments by Secretary of DHHS 10:30 – 11:00
Secretary Dempsey Benton, DHHS
Update on Division’s LME Implementation Study 11:00 – 12:00
Dempsey Benton, Secretary
Department of HHS
Alice Lin, PhD
Health and Human Services Consultant
Lunch Noon – 1:00
DHHS Report on the Plan for Closure of Dorothea Dix and John 1:00 – 2:00 Umstead Hospitals and Comments by Interested Legislators
Jim Osberg, Chief of State Operated Services
Division of MH/DD/SAS
Update on 2007 Legislative Actions 2:00 – 2:30
Updates on On-Going Projects 2:30 – 3:30
Housing 400 Initiative (Trisch Amend, NCHFA & Julia Bick, DHHS)
Hospital Utilization Pilot (Jim Osberg, DMHDDSAS)
Data Collection (Phillip Hoffman, DMHDDSAS)
Crisis Services Implementation (Bonnie Morrell, DMHDDSAS)
Performance Indicators (Flo Stein, DMHDDSAS)
Friday, September 21, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
A recent story on ABC 11 news shows us school overcrowding at its worse. (http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=triangle&id=5652457)
Davis Drive Elementary School in Cary is so overcrowded that they converted an accessible bathroom into a classroom for special needs children. Yes, the toilet was still in the classroom, hidden by a blue screen.
Children with special needs are often placed in segregated, self-contained classrooms, where they receive all of their instruction. Due to overcrowding in this school, that environment became an accessible bathroom. Children with special needs are among our most vulnerable population. To think that the best solution available for our schools is to use handicap accessible bathrooms as classrooms speaks to the seriousness of our current situation. The Arc of Wake County spoke with Davis Drive's principal, Pat Andrews, who stated that the special needs class has since been moved to a PE area for instruction. However, a PE area is still not a classroom. Principal Andrews also explained that her school's overcrowding has affected other classes: an art class has taken up residence in another accessible bathroom and a gifted class is being taught in a closet. Although, we are happy to hear that the special needs class is no longer in a bathroom, the reality is that no students should be using a bathroom or a closet as a classroom.
Davis Drive Elementary school was built to hold 630 pupils. Trailers, or “learning cottages”, recently added to the campus brought the maximum head count to 930 students. Currently there are 1037 children attending Davis Drive. That is 107 above maximum capacity. This is not an isolated situation. Throughout Wake county, schools are dealing with overcrowding.
Here are some statistics: (WCPSS http://www.wcpss.net/growth/ )
-WCPSS student population has doubled since 1985 and another 130,000 students are projected by the year 2025.
-WCPSS is the second largest school system in North Carolina and the 23rd largest district in the United States.
-Next year, the student population is expected to increase by 7,000 students.
-The school system is currently using more than 1,000 mobile/modular classrooms; this number will increase by at least 100 for the 2006 school year.
-One of every four elementary school students is in a temporary mobile/modular classroom.
-Relative to goals established by the school board, WCPSS is short 15,000 classroom seats today, and will need 58,000 seats by 2010 and 91,000 seats by 2015.
-Since 2000, more than 57,000 single-family housing permits have been issued in Wake County.
-At $0.604, Wake County has the lowest property tax rate of the largest school districts in the state.
-It takes property taxes from two new homeowners to cover the cost of one new student.
-It takes only six to nine months to build the average house in Wake County. However, it takes 14 months to build an elementary school, 19 months for a middle school and 26 months for a high school.
A quick check of this year’s state budget shows no appropriations for school construction. As always, this will be the responsibility of counties. Legislators did act this year to remove the county share of Medicaid so that money normally spent on county health care could be redirected to support school construction. Let’s hope that plan works. A child being taught in an accessible bathroom or a closet is simply inexcusable. We have to do better.
The Arc of Wake County
Raleigh, NC - Carolina Legal Assistance, a disability rights center (CLA), asked the Anson County District Attorney Michael Parker to dismiss the charges against Floyd Brown, the man with mental retardation who has been held at Dorothea Dix Hospital for 14 years without a trial. Brown has an IQ of 50. Within a month of his arrest he was found by state doctors to lack the mental capacity to participate in his trial.
Carolina Legal Assistance, a non –profit disability law project, is North Carolina’s Protection and Advocacy organization (P&A), Under federal law, every state has a P&A, a federally mandated system with the authority under federal law to protect and advocate for the human and legal rights of individuals with mental illness and developmental or other disabilities. On September 7, 2007, Carolina Legal Assistance wrote to Anson County District Attorney Michael Parker, who has so far refused to dismiss the charge against Brown, requesting that he change his position concerning the prosecution of Brown. CLA is also submitting an amicus brief with the Durham County Superior Court in support of Brown’s application for a writ of habeas corpus.
Within a month of his arrest, Brown was found by state doctors to lack the mental capacity to participate in his trial. Brown has an IQ in the low 50’s. Brown’s mental retardation is significant and his special needs have been recognized all his life. While in school, he was placed in a special needs class. In 1981 he was in a Trainable Mentally Handicapped high school class. In this class students worked on self-help skills such as how to read simple words like “boy,” count money, write their name, and tell time. After school, Brown worked in a vocational rehabilitation setting for individuals with retardation. Today he cannot tell time or the day of the week. His cognitive ability is seriously limited and he has little appreciation of the complexities of the world in which he lives. Brown spends his time at Dix working on the grounds and looking forward to visits from his family. His behavior has been described in competency reports as “essentially exemplary,” doing well in his activities at Dix Campus, such as vocational work in the laundry, therapeutic recreation and occupational therapy.
There are serious questions about the strength of the evidence against Brown including:
Critical physical evidence is “missing” from the Anson County Sheriff’s Department;
Two of the investigators have since been convicted of federal racketeering charges related to their work in law enforcement;
State forensic experts have determined that Brown could not have given the “confession;” and
The physical evidence that has been tested shows no links to Brown.
In essence, Brown has been confined for 14 years because he is mentally retarded. Brown is not like people who have mental illness who may become competent with treatment. Until Parker dismisses the charges with prejudice, Brown will remain confined in a state psychiatric hospital. Brown’s attorneys report that a group home is ready to accept Brown if the charges are dismissed.
“Mr. Brown has fallen through the cracks. He is not going to become competent to stand trial. He is a person with mental retardation and that is not going to change,” said Greg McGrew, Board Chairman of Carolina Legal Assistance. In his letter, McGrew urged Parker to dismiss the charge and “send a message to the disability advocacy community that you have an understanding of mental retardation and compassion for our most vulnerable citizens.”
Carolina Legal Assistance has a staff of 31, with a central office in Raleigh and an office in Morganton that serves the western part of the state. For further information, contact Carolina Legal Assistance Legal Director John Rittelmeyer at 919 856-2195.
. See Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act (“PAIMI Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 10801 et seq.; Developmental Disabilities Assistance Bill of Rights Act (“DD Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 15001, et seq.; and Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights Program (“PAIR”), 29 U.S.C. § 794e, et seq.; and all of the accompanying regulations.
(Special Thanks to Carolina Legal Assistance for providing us with this Press Release)
Need more information:
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
There have been several updates regarding SCHIP over the past few days. Starting locally, Governor Michael Easley has sent a letter to our Congressional delegation asking them to support reauthorization of SCHIP by September 30th. The Arc of North Carolina has signed on to a similar letter, and an alert will be issued tomorrow for you the reader to take action.
SCHIP currently covers 6 million children, and the Senate and House would like to see that number increased to 10 million. The Bush Administration is not being as generous as that. In fact, the administration would like to see the scope of SCHIP limited and the growth in states severely reduced. Here are the rules that the Bush Administration has proposed;
*States musts demonstrate that they have enrolled at least 95% of children in families with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL) who are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP before expanding eligibility to children in families with income greater than 250% of the federal poverty level
*States seeking to expand SCHIP eligibility must also establish a minimum of a one-year period of uninsurance for individuals in families with incomes greater than 250% of the federal poverty level. This rule is to stop individuals from switching from a private plan to a public program.
*Assure that the number of children insured through a private insurer has not decreased by more than 2% over the last five years. The problem here is that more employers are dropping health insurance.
As this debate continues, North Carolina’s expansion legislation hangs in the balance. During this past legislative session our General Assembly passed NC Kid’s Health Care which would cover children at 300% of the Federal Poverty Level. The proposed rules would mean that our state would not be able to increase coverage above the 250% FPL cap. Children living in poverty and children with disabilities would be unable to afford health insurance, and children currently insured by our state program would find themsevles with no affordable health insurance.Our most vulnerable would still be at risk.
Our state legislators acted in the best interest of our state’s children now our Congressional leaders must do the same.
Letter from Governor Easley to Congress:http://www.governor.state.nc.us/News_FullStory.asp
Need more information:
(Thanks to Adam Searing for the link to Governor Easley's letter)
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
• 1.5 million people or 17.5% of all North Carolinians had a disability – Census 2000.
• As the population ages and people live longer, this number will increase.
• ~20,000 people with developmental disabilities live with aging caregivers (2004 study), 2.8% of all such people in the US (NC is 2.9% of US population).
• North Carolina is 12th in terms of people in institutions.
• North Carolina financial increases in the community have been below the recent national averages.
• North Carolina, in 2005, spent 79% of its budget on “community”, including small ICFMR. National average is 88.8%
• NC Spends 37.4% of DD budget on CAP Waiver. The national average is 58.6%.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Clearly there are many problems with the care of persons with mental illness in our state, from hospitals closing to lack the community based services. However, many of these same problems are being faced by the DD/MR population as developmental disability centers close, and more “sheltered workshops” are mainstreaming their clients. These changes are a positive step for persons with disabilities but the implementation of the “plan” is broken. The gaps are real for persons with developmental and cognitive disabilities. Our state has not stepped up to deal with these gaps from a best practices model of community services to a commitment to invest in supported employment, accessible transportation, inclusive and affordable housing options, and respite care for families.
In this year’s budget, Developmental Disabilities received no “new” money. All the money in the budget was realigned. Realignment is a cut. There was a struggle to get 300 “new” CAP/ MR-DD slots and we have a waiting list of over 4,000 people. Not that we officially keep waiting list information any more. To add to the burdens facing families with children who have cognitive and developmental disabilities a new Special Provision will allow DHHS to study the effectiveness of a co-pay for new CAP/MR-DD recipients. A Special Provision that may turn out to be anything but special. If legislators agree with this study then many families will have the financial burden of paying a co-pay for the CAP/MR-DD services they currently receive. Of course if their child was in an institution there would be no co-pay for the same services. Then there is the financial impact on families, the life span cost for a single child with Autism is close to 3.2 million dollars (Harvard School of Public Health). A difficult calculation when you consider the median income in Raleigh is only $60,000.00 (2000 Census) a year for a family of four.
Maybe the complicated issues facing people with cognitive or developmental disabilities is not as “marketable” as those for people with mental illness but the difficulties are just as burdensome for the families and the individuals trying to receive the supports needed to remain independent and engaged in their community. It’s time to take a look at the complete reform package and look at the inadequacies that are facing the multiple populations being affected by the Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Service Reform initiatives. It’s time for the discussion to be inclusive of all people affected by the current Health Reform initiatives.
Harvard School of Public Health - http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/2006-releases/press04252006.html
Saturday, September 15, 2007
We are The Arc of North Carolina and here are our Core Values:
3. Visionary Leadership
6. Integrity and Excellence
Chris Egan, the new board president for the Arc of North Carolina ended the conference with these inspiring words, "We are one Arc and we need to go forth and do all that we need to do".
Steve Eidelman- Robert Edelshohns Chair in Disabilities Studies at The University of Delaware Offers Some Closing Thoughts
Here are some facts that he shared with us that should make us all think:
*17.5% of all North Carolinians have a disability.
*20,000 people with developmental disabilities live with aging caregivers.
Steve challenged us to look at the DD system differently by providing these thoughts;
*We live in the age of Google but some still promote insitutions as a service model.
*We need to market the agenda of community inclusion.
*Community Inclusion is Not a Place!!!!
*A waiting list is not a support or a service.
Steve shared with the group an interesting analogy. The fashion industry has labled brown the "new black" well for the DD community sheltered workshops and segregated schools are the "new" institutions.
Now here is a true lightbulb moment; "People with DD are waiting to have a life!"
These were the messages that three dynamic young leaders from the North Carolina Youth Leadership Network brought to The Arc convention today. These young people are the next generation of disability rights leaders.
Here is just one example of their leadership this year:
NCYLN worked hard this legislative session on thier first legislative agenda. NCYLN wrote and advocated for the passage of a Disability History and Awareness bill. This legislation designates October as Disability History and Awareness Month and incorporates our history, culture, and accomplishments into our K-12 classrooms. This bill was signed into law on July 27, 2007.
This amazing group of leaders shared their vision of a different disability movement, one that is inclusive of all people with disabilities, one that uses advocacy and activism, and one that changes the perception from a medical model to a "cultural model".
I can't wait until the first North Carolina Disability Pride Day!!
Friday, September 14, 2007
Al challenged the crowd to "pull themselves up from the developmental disability arena and to rise up 30,000 feet to see that the barriers we are facing are the same as other marginalized communities. This is not a developmental disabilities issue, this issue is bigger than that."
Here are some facts that Al shared with the group:
Unemployment rate is 4.3% for the general public. The rate of unemployment for people with disabilities is 76%.
76% of people with disabilities are unemployed or under employed.
Jobs are a primary way that we get two needs met in our lives
Jobs give us an identity and access to other people.
Home ownership is the great American dream.
Home ownership establishes a sense of place.
71% of people in America own their own home.
6.2% of people with a significant disability own their own home.
A majority of people with disabilities end up in group homes or instiutional settings
Transportation barriers are a major issue for people with disabilities.
Public transporation is under assault in the Unites States. The transportation budget is being cut in every city in America.
Poor people get hit the hardest.
Think about your friendship network. A typical person in society has about 150 friends. This network is referred to in research as "social capital".
Incredible research in the last 30 years on "social capital". The typical person in society has about 150 friends.
Currently there is little to no research regarding people with disabilities and "social capital".
There was a lot to think about during this amazing opening session and it is time we change the focus of our conversation.
The theme for this years annual convention is "Paving the Way".
At the 2007 conference, The Arc plans to Pave the Way towards inclusive community life, offering speakers and sessions that will propel us all forward in our thinking and in our advocacy.
This year’s conference is designed to help families, individuals with disabilities and staff with the challenges of the North Carolina service system and most importantly, how to affect meaningful change.
In the area of policy advocacy you are reading one of the ways we are "Paving the Way" to affective and meaningful change. This blog will be able to deliver to our disability community updated information on state and federal policy. It will give you an opportunity to express your opinions and to ask questions of The Arc of North Carolina policy desk.
We will also be unveiling our new Legislative Updates and Action Alerts today, but, you will have to come back later for the sneak preview.
Come back often today and keep in touch.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
The legislative session has ended. It was a long session and lots of policy moved through to the Governor’s desk. The Arc of North Carolina with our coalition partners was instrumental in lobbying for important policy issues that effect people with disabilities in our state.
Bills that Made it to the Governor’s Desk:
The following bills passed the state house this session and were signed by the governor. The Arc of North Carolina actively supported these bills.
HB 91: Same Day Voter Registration.
The Arc working with NC Fair Share, Democracy North Carolina, and Alliance of Disability Advocates this legislation will permit people to register to vote and cast their ballots at early voting sites across the state. Early voting sites in our state are HAVA accessible.
HB 915: Offer Sign Language in Schools and Colleges
The Arc supported this legislation with our coalition partners including Alliance of Disability Advocates, The Autism Society of North Carolina and the North Carolina Association of the Deaf. This bill made American Sign Language a modern foreign language and encourages our high schools, colleges and universities to offer American Sign Language classes.
SB 753: Disability History and Awareness Month
Alliance of Disability Advocates, North Carolina Youth Leadership Network, The Arc of North Carolina, the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities and the MS Society of North Carolina supported this important legislation. October is now Disability History and Awareness Month. Disability history and culture will now be integrated into the standing curriculum of our public schools during the month of October. North Carolina is the third state to pass this ground breaking legislation.
HB 554: Assault Disabled Person/Institutional Setting
This legislation raised the criminal penalty for assaulting a person with a disability in an institution from a misdemeanor to a felony.
SB 1147: Dealer MV Inspections/Records/MV Registration
The Arc worked to insert an amendment in this bill that would make it easier for persons with severe profound disabilities, who do not drive but may purchase a vehicle, to register that vehicle by proxy.
Bills we need to continue to work on that are eligible for the Legislative Short Session:
HB 12: Students Inelligible for Special Education Protection.
This bill protects a narrow group of students with disabilities who are entitled to special education services and protection under the law. This bill prevents school systems from automatically suspending unidentified students with disabilities when school systems failed to identify and serve these children. This bill was approved by the House Select Committee on Education of Students with Disabilities and received a favorable report from the House Education Committee before passing the House this session. This legislation is now awaiting a Senate Education Committee hearing.
HB 1366: School Violence Prevention Act.
This bill made it through the House and a stripped down version made it through the Senate. It returned to the House to be re-referred to Judiciary I. This legislation is also known as the “Bullying Bill”. The bill would standardize the definition of bullying and harassing behavior and it lists the students most vulnerable in our school system. The list includes students with disabilities.
SB 388: Fair Housing Act Amendment.
This bill made it through the Senate committee on Commerce/Entrepreneurship/Small Business only to get derailed at the Senate Appropriations committee. This legislation would remove
The following policy issue was not a bill but was brought to our attention by a member of the disability community.
The Arc of NC also worked with the Insurance Commission on issues regarding the new insurance rates for modified vehicles. The Commissioner of Insurance is working to correct a rule change that made medically modified vehicles fall under the same risk assessment as modified street vehicles. We are keeping up with these changes and will notify when changes happen.
We are currently advocating that this legislation be studied during the session break.
HB 1641: Study Disabled Access to UNC Facilities.
This bill passed the House Committee on Education and was included in both the House and Senate Study Bills. This legislation will study accessibility for students with disabilities on all sixteen UNC campuses. The study will also look at models of accessibility, such as the ones being used at the University of Illinois and how we can make these models a reality in North Carolina.
The Arc lobbied an amendment to increase the number of CAP slots in the Senate budget to 300 CAP slots. In the final budget we were able to hold those 300 CAP slots. The Arc also expressed our concerns regarding the Special Provisions on sliding fee scales and CAP/MR-DD Co-Pays. The outcome on the sliding fees scales was satisfactory with the rates beginning at 300% above poverty level. The CAP/MR-DD Co-Pay will be studied first by the Department of Health and Human Services. There will be public hearings on this issue and we will notify our membership of these meetings. The results of the study will then be presented to the General Assembly before any co-pay schedule is put in place. The Arc will be closely monitoring the progress of this policy.
The budget allocated $5,000,000 for the 07-08 and 08-09 fiscal years to LEAs to support special education and related services for students with identified disabilities. This increases the funding factor by $42.01 per student in funded headcount bringing factor to $3,199.57 per student.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
This legislation will give a major financial grant to two corporations in North Carolina, Bridgestone/Firestone and Goodyear. This bill will appropriate $60 million from the General Fund to the Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund over the next ten years. The first shift of money will appear in the 2008-2009 Fiscal Budget with an appropriation of $5 million dollars. That is $5 million in “new” money for a new grant program.
Yesterday I posed a question: what does this legislation have to do with people with disabilities? Well, here is the answer. DD/MR was faced this session with having to realign money in order to serve our community. Here is what we could have done with $5 million in “new” money.
CAP MR/DD Slots:
$5 million dollars would have provided 330 slots and $10 million dollars in federal matching funds.
Our current budget provided for 300 additional slots using realigned money. We asked for 660 slots. Now here is some interesting math. If we held on to the 300 slots in our realigned budget and received 330 slots in “new” money we would have been able to get 630 CAP slots. This could have fulfilled our request to almost fully fund the 660 waiver slots available for this innovative community program. This would have brought close to $20 million in federal matching funds into our state.
Other Funding Requests:
Our policy agenda requested the following from our State leaders;
· $1.7 million for First in Families to expand statewide. First in Families is a family/consumer management team that creates a best practice support model for families with children who have developmental or intellectual disabilities.
Learn more about First in Families http://www.arcnc.org/services/first_in_families/ or www.fifnc.org
· $2 million in much needed Respite Services
· $1 million in Access to Dental Services (This years budget appropriated $200,000 in non recurring funds for Special Population Dentistry to provide funding for a mobile dental provider to deliver services to the frail elderly and person with disabilities in unserved areas).
$5 million would have covered all of these requests with $300,000.00 remaining to maybe fund the Center for Universal Design in the 2008-2009 fiscal year. This year the Center for Universal Design received $300,000 in non recurring funds for the 2007-2008 fiscal year. Want to know more about the Center for Universal Design? Visit their website at http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/
Or we could have directed the $5 million dollars toward Early Intervention Services. Our policy agenda requested $7 million but $5 million would have gone a long way to help support our community. Early Intervention for children with developmental and intellectual disabilities is critical to families. The earlier we can asses the needs of the child and begin providing developmental services the better the adult outcome.
Then we have housing. In this years budget The Housing Trust Fund requested $50 million dollars to help over 6,000 families. It would have leveraged $200 million more investment in affordable housing each year and would have generated over 3,000 jobs each year. House Bill 4 will hand out up to $60 million over ten years to major corporations and the recipients of these grants are not being asked to generate more jobs. So what would $5 million do for housing people with disabilities in our state? $5 million would equate to at least 50 supported fully inclusive new housing units. 50 more people with disabilities could move into their own homes and become more vested in their communities. (Visit www.nchousing.org for more information on The Campaign for Housing Carolina).
We need to ask our leaders a question this time. Which is the better investment -- creating a $60 million dollar grant program for multinational corporations or investing in people with disabilities that have been waiting a long time for just such a financial commitment?
To get more spin on this issue check out what Chris Fitzsimon of NC Policy Watch had to say about this legislation, http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/cms/?p=10096
House Bill 4-Session Law 2007-552 Extra Session
Read the legislation: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2007E1/Bills/House/HTML/H4v4.html
On Tuesday September 11, 2007 the House and Senate adjourned closing both the Special and Extra Special Session. The following legislation passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Mike Easley.
House Bill 4-Session Law 2007-552 Extra Session is titled: Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund. This legislation will allocate $60 million from the General Fund to the Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund. The Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund will have an allocation of $5 million for the 2008-2009 Fiscal Budget.
Corporations applying for this grant must meet the following conditions in order to be eligible:
The corporation invested or intends to invest at least $2 million of private funds in improvements to its real property or projects to invest that sum over a six-year period.
1. The business needs to employ at least 2,000 full-time employees or equivalent full-time contact employees.
2. The project needs to be located in a tier one county. A tier one county is an low economic/economic distressed/poor county.
3. All newly hired employees must be citizens of the United States or have proper identification and documentation of their authorization to reside and work in the United States.
4. Wage Standard. The business must pay an average weekly wage that is at least equal to 140% of the average wage for all insured private employers in the county.
5. The business must offer health insurance to all full time and contract employees.
A business receiving this grant can have the grant amount reduced if:
1. The business reduces its employment below the number of employees that were stated as employed at the time of the grant. The business will loose the grant amount for a calendar year if they fall below 80% employment threshold.
A business receiving this grant can have the grant taken away based on the 80% employment rule or the termination of health coverage to its employees.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Recently the Governor used his veto authority on House Bill 1761, better known as the "Goodyear Bill" (http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2007/Bills/House/HTML/H1761v4.html).
Our State House sprang back to life yesterday with a Special Session to consider a veto override. The House is required to make the first move during this Special Session, either voting to override the veto, voting to sustain the veto or voting on a compromise bill. The majority of the day went like this: Speaker Joe Hackney enters the chamber, bangs the gavel calling the session to order then announces a recess, bangs the gavel again and exits the chamber. Meanwhile, behind closed doors the key players were knocking out a compromise bill. All this culminated at 7:30pm when the Governor sent over a proclamation for an Extra Special Session. This gives our elected leaders the ability to take action on the soon to be disclosed compromise legislation. Yesterdays Special Session and Extra Special Session ended at 8:14pm with an announcement that they will start again Tuesday, September 11th at 10:00am.
A question you might be asking right now is "What does this have to do with people with developmental or cognitive disabilities?" Well the short answer is all policy has an affect on other policy and this legislation is no different. First question I want answered is, "Are there corporations in North Carolina that target the hiring of people with disabilities that may also benefit from these grants?" If so, then we need to get the information out to them and get them to apply in the future. Second question I want answered is, "How is the funding source for this legislation going to affect future budget discussions?" This year we saw no "new" money appropriated to DD/MR.
So, to make sure our community gets these answers I will be at the General Assembly this morning observing all the happenings.
Can't wait till the end of the day and want to know what is happening in "real time"?
You can follow the events on line by going to http://www.ncleg.net/ and clicking on the Live Audio Symbol at the top of the page. You can also read some live blogs detailing the action by heading over to Under the Dome or Issac Hunter's Tavern. Both links are on the side of this page.
Monday, September 10, 2007
In addition to more in-depth policy coverage, at times there will be commentary on issues facing our state from our own Policy Coordinator, Julia Leggett. These sections are appropriately titled, “Julia’s Musings”.
As you explore this Blog please take note of the links to other policy sites that have their own spin on issues facing our disability community. You do have the option to sign up for automatic email alerts when this Blog is updated. We hope you will use this option.
Thank you for visiting The Arc of North Carolina Policy Blog and for being part of the advocacy efforts in North Carolina.