Thursday, September 30, 2010

NC News: Press Release From DRNC-Challenges Construction at New State Hospital.

Thursday, September 30, 2010
Disability Rights NC Challenges Construction of New State Hospital

Raleigh, NC-

One day before the ground breaking ceremony of the new Cherry State Hospital Disability Rights North Carolina calls on Governor Perdue and the N.C. General Assembly to halt construction on the new Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro pending a thorough review of the need for this construction. “The plan developed to build this facility is over 10 years old,” said Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights NC. “Given the devastating cuts across the full continuum of mental health services triggered by the State’s economic crisis, proceeding with new construction of a large institution is fiscally irresponsible. More importantly, even if the state were in better budget times, is this new facility still a wise investment?"

Disability Rights NC believes this construction highlights the state’s institutional bias - that it is willing to spend more money on bricks and mortar than on more appropriate, community-based services for people with mental illness. In light of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision and the fact that the U.S. Department of Justice is already looking into North Carolina’s institutional bias and its continuing failure to provide community services, constructing a new hospital is particularly short-sighted, the agency’s director said. “It is time for North Carolina to act progressively and maximize its resources to benefit the state and all its citizens. Putting our resources into community services rather than institutions will be more cost-effective and humane. North Carolina’s citizens deserve a better vision,” Smith said.

Smith believes that construction of the new hospital may jeopardize the state’s compliance with the American with Disabilities Act by focusing more resources on institutionally-based care than on community-based services. “It is certainly contrary to the spirit and intent of the ADA and the Olmstead decision,” she said. “If people with mental illness receive the community services they need, it may entirely eliminate the need for hospitalization for many individuals.”

Smith warns that if the new Cherry Hospital is built, her agency will be carefully watching the new hospital’s services. “If the hospital cannot find appropriate staff, and if it does not provide appropriate, evidence-based treatment, we will take action,” she said.

Smith said the state should take the time to fully explore and answer the following questions before proceeding with any new construction:
· Would the hospital be necessary if the state had adequate community-based services?
· If additional hospital-based beds are found to be necessary, what type of beds is needed – adult acute care, adult long term care, forensics (for those involved in the criminal justice system), etc.?
· Given the history of problems the state faced when building Central Regional Hospital, including significant needs for retrofitting the building prior to admitting patients to ensure a safe and therapeutic environment, what assurance can the state give the public that there will not be similar problems with the proposed construction at Cherry?
· Will the state be able to staff the new hospital adequately? There is a long-standing history of difficulty in staffing the current Cherry Hospital.
· How will the construction of a new building address the hospital’s long and troubled history of abuse and neglect of patients?
· Should the state consider moving any new construction to a setting more conducive to attracting qualified staff, such as Greenville, which has a medical school?
# # #

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.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NC News: WRAL Reports NC Departments Struggling with Budget Cuts

N.C. departments struggling with budget cuts

Posted: 12:44 p.m. Monday
Updated: 7:10 p.m. Monday
Facing an estimated $3 billion shortfall for the 2011-12 budget year, North Carolina's state's budget director has asked all state department heads to plan for spending reductions of up to 15 percent.

Those suggested cuts are due Oct. 29, but department leaders say they are struggling with where to cut.

Since 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services, for example, has cut $2 billion from its budget. The juvenile justice department has cut $22 million, which is 15 percent of its original budget.

With nine juvenile detention centers and eight youth development centers across the state, it's quite likely at least one may close, says William Lassiter, with the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

"We've already had to lose after-school programming. We've already had to lose mentoring programs," Lassiter said. "This year, if we have to take additional cuts, we have to look at facility cuts."

An additional 15 percent cut would bring the department's budget allocation to the lowest level ever.

"If you cut anymore, you'll be cutting into core services that will affect public safety," Lassiter said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler says facilities are safe. What's in jeopardy are the services.

"There may be some services that we say we can't do anymore," Cansler said. "There may be some services (where) we reduce the scope and do less."

Cansler wouldn't specify what could be eliminated but said everyone would likely be affected in some way. He says a 15 percent reduction for DHHS equates to roughly $600 million.

"We are searching right now on how to do it," Cansler said. "I don't know how we're going to accomplish it. We're reviewing everything."

Read more here: WRAL

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for This Week

North Carolina:

The interim committee meetings this week include the following:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010
2:00 PM Domestic Violence Taskforce Subcommittee 1425 LB

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
1:00 PM Information Technology, Joint Legislative Oversight Committee 1027/1128 LB

Thursday, September 30, 2010
9:30 AM Joint Select Committee on the Pteservation of Biological Evidence 643 LOB

We will be monitoring all of the listed meetings and will report on anything of interest to our community.


The first deadline on the national budget front will come up this Friday, the start of Fiscal Year 2011. None of the FY 2011 appropriation bills have passed Congress. We are expecting to see the first Continuing Resolution pass Congress this week. This Continuing Resolution will keep all federal programs funded at current levels as the new fiscal year begins.

DPC- is reporting that some Democrats are expected to try to add a few additional provisions to the CR. All Republicans are voicing strong opposition to any add-ons to the CR.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hill Report: BREAKING NEWS US House Passes Rosa's Law

This evening the United States House of Representatives passed Rosa's Law. S. 2781 known as Rosa's Law was sponsored by
U. S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)

The soon to be law, will eliminate the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" from federal laws that govern education, health and labor and will replace these terms with "intellectual disability". The bill will now go to President Obama's desk for his signature.

Advocates with intellectual disabilities have rallied against the use of the "r" word. Their hard work and dedication has yielded the successful passage of this legislation.

Press Release from U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski on this historic vote:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D- Md.) announced that her bill introduced to eliminate the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal education, health and labor laws passed the House on Thursday night by unanimous consent. It passed the Senate last month, and will now go to President Obama for his signature. Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Environment, Labor and Pensions Committee, was one of the original co-sponsors.

“This law is about families fighting for the respect and dignity of their loved ones,” Senator Mikulski said. “This change will have a positive effect on more than 6 million Americans.”

A family in Edgewater, Maryland provided the inspiration for the law. Nina Marcellino is the mother of four children, including Rosa, a child with Down syndrome. Last year, Nina learned that Rosa had been labeled retarded at school. Nina didn’t allow the R-word in her house, and none of her children described their sister that way. Nina teamed up with other parents and her state delegate to introduce a bill to change the terminology in Maryland state law. Before the bill was brought up for consideration in the Maryland General Assembly, they held a hearing on the implications of changing the term.

There were several witnesses at that hearing, but the testimony that had the greatest impact was given by an 11-year-old boy: Rosa’s brother, Nick. “What you call people is how you treat them,” Nick said. “What you call my sister is how you will treat her. If you believe she’s ‘retarded,’ it invites taunting, stigma. It invites bullying and it also invites the slammed doors of being treated with respect and dignity.”

Senator Mikulski met Nina at a roundtable discussion on special education last April. Nina told the Senator about Rosa’s Law and their plans to bring it up for consideration in the state Assembly.Senator Mikulski promised Nina that if the state law passed the Assembly, she’d take it to the Senate floor. Two weeks later, Rosa’s Law was unanimously approved by the General Assembly and then signed into law by Governor O’Malley.

Rosa’s Law changes the phrase “mentally retarded” to “an individual with an intellectual disability” in health, education and labor law. It makes the language in federal law consistent with that used by the Centers for Disease Control, the health arm of the United Nations, and the White House through the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

“I’m pleased that the House has approved Rosa’s Law, and hope the President will sign it quickly. This bill is simple in nature but profound in what it will do when it is enacted. For far too long we have used hurtful words like ‘mental retardation’ or ‘MR’ in our federal statutes to refer to those living with intellectual disabilities. While the way people feel is important, the way people are treated is equally important. Rosa’s Law will make a greatly-needed change that should have been made well before today – and it will encourage us to treat people the way they would like to be treated.”

“The Marcellinos’ story is a perfect example of effective citizen advocacy. They pulled together to pull us all to another way of thinking,” Senator Mikulski said. “The bipartisan support of this bill shows that this is an issue where we can tip our hats to boys and girls with intellectual disabilities by checking our party hats at the door.”

The House bill had 72 cosponsors. The law does not affect any services, rights, responsibilities or educational opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.

NC News: N&O Article on Disabled Inmates

Disabled inmates deserve chance to earn time off, lawsuit says

RALEIGH Disabled inmates in North Carolina's prisons serve longer sentences than other inmates because they are unable to participate in programs used to earn time off for positive behavior, according to a class action lawsuit filed in federal court.

Brought on behalf of six d inmates with disabilities, the lawsuit contends that the system for rewarding "sentence reduction credits" violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and other federal laws. Inmates in North Carolina can shave up to six days a month off their sentences by performing work assignments and earning education credits.

"We don't think anybody in North Carolina should be serving additional time in prison simply because they're living with a disability," said Mary Pollard, the director of N.C. Prisoner Legal Services, which filed the suit.

Keith Acree, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Correction, said Tuesday that he could not comment on a matter that is under litigation.

Among those named in the lawsuit is inmate Chad W. Bumgarner, who is serving an 83- month sentence for burglary. Bumgarner, 40, suffers from a neurodegenerative disorder that requires him to use leg braces to stand or walk. He also has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, according to the lawsuit.

Read more here

After he entered the prison system in 2008, Bumgarner tried to get a job but was told there were no assignments suitable for him because of his physical disability. He tried to take classes to earn sentence reduction credits but could do so only with "extreme difficulty," the suit said.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hill Report: US House of Representatives Set to Vote on Rosa's Law-Reports Disability Scoop

Update: Disability Scoop is reporting a vote that would significantly change terminology in federal law. North Carolina passed "People First" legislation in 2009.

House To Vote On Replacing ‘Mental Retardation’ With ‘Intellectual Disability’

September 21, 2010 Text Size A A
The House of Representatives is expected to vote as early as Wednesday evening on a bill to replace the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in many areas of federal government.
The legislation known as Rosa’s Law was approved by the Senate in August. Under the bill, terminology would be altered in federal health, education and labor policy.
The House is widely expected to pass the measure when it is brought up later this week alongside several other bills that are considered uncontentious under a suspension of the rules. This means that there will be limited debate and a simplified voting procedure.
If Rosa’s Law does gain House approval, it will go to President Barack Obama, who supports the measure. ”He looks forward to signing it into law after the House passes it,” a White House official told Disability Scoop on Monday.
Under the bill, individuals with disabilities would retain the same rights they currently have, but terminology would be swapped as laws and documents come up for revision over the next several years. As a result, Rosa’s Law is not expected to incur any cost.
Nearly all states and some federal agencies already use the term “intellectual disability.”

Want more information on Rosa's Law? Check out The Arc of the United State's Fusion Newsletter.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for This Week

It will be another light week of interim meetings at the General Assembly. Of interest to our community, is the Tuesday, September 21st State Health Plan Blue Ribbon Task Force.

During last month's meeting of this task force, we learned that the state health plan has at least a $572 million deficit going into the next biennial budget cycle. This growing deficit is partially due to the continuing increase of health care costs. Another topic of interest in this committee is how our state health plan should prepare for the regulatory changes of health care reform legislation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
10:00 AM State Health Plan Blue Ribbon Task Force 1228/1327 LB

NC News: Disability Rights Group Fights Cuts to In Home Care

The News and Observer ran this story on Friday. The cuts and the new program to serve people with in-home care occurred during this biennial budget cycle. Advocates across the state have expressed concern regarding the depth of the cuts.

Disability rights group fights cuts to in-home care

The director of Disability Rights North Carolina has sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department asking for an investigation of deep cuts to the state's Medicaid Personal Care Services program, which provides in-home care to those with disabilities.

Vicki Smith, the group's director, says the cuts will "endanger people with disabilities in North Carolina or force them into large, institution-like facilities." That would violate a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires the state to serve people with disabilities within their community when possible, Smith wrote.

More than 37,000 elderly and disabled residents in North Carolina rely upon the assistance of trained home-care aides for such basic activities as bathing, dressing, eating and using the toilet. The state Department of Health and Human Services signed a $24 million contract last year with a vendor tasked with determining which elderly and disabled persons can receive in-home assistance and how many hours of care they will receive.

The Association of Home & Hospice Care of North Carolina, which represents providers of in-home services, also wrote to the feds to ask that they stop the state cuts. Tim Rogers, the association's CEO, said the new state process for assessing who gets services and who doesn't is in violation of federal law.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for This Week

It is going to be a slow week at the General Assembly. All of the meetings of interest in our community are today.

Monday, September 13, 2010
10:00 AM Child Fatality Task Force - Intentional Death Committee 1027/1128 LB

10:00 AM Joint Legislative Committee on Domestic Violence - Alamance Family Justice Center - Burlington N/A LOB

1:30 PM Child Fatality Task Force - Unintentional Death Committee 1027/1128 LB

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday Wrap Up: Note from the LOC

Although the agenda for the Legislative Oversight Committee had not specific DD updates, we did think the following information would be of interest to members of our community.

The first Mental Health, Developmental Disability, and Substance Abuse Services Joint Legislative Oversight Committee of this legislative interim took place on Wednesday, September 8, 2010.
The meeting opened with the introduction of members and a review of the legislative changes that were made during the 2010 session.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Lanier Cansler addressed the members of the committee with a comprehensive review of the changes occurring inside the Division of MH, DD, SAS.
On the topic of Dorethea Dix, Secretary Cansler explained that there were no appropriations made to operate the Dix facility during this biennial. The proposal to close Dix will need to be presented to the Council of State. If approved by the Council of State a bill will be presented to the members of the legislature during the long session. A bill will need to pass the legislature for Dix to be closed.

When members of the committee questioned the dispersion of the Dix beds and the forensic unit, Secretary Cansler stated that the 26 bed minimum forensic unit will remain at Dix and that there will be no reduction in total state beds. There will be increases in beds at Cherry and Broughton that will reflect the number of beds that will close at Dix.
Secretary Cansler did state that even with the changes at Dix the state will be operative at 14 million over budget.

Deputy Secretary of DHHS Mike Watson gave an update on the implementation of CABHA (Critical Access Behavioral Health Agency). Watson began the presentation with a review of the basic CABHA service requirements and the certification process. Currently there are 67 certified CABHA’s (67%-for profit). In addition there are 30 CABHAs that are completing the Medicaid enrollment process and an additional 14 that are in the enrollment process.
In a review of the distribution of CABHA required services Deputy Secretary Watson stated the following:
5 counties=1 CABHA
50 counties=2-5 CABHAs
36 counties=6-10 CABHAs
2 counties=11-15 CABHAs
3 counties=16+ CABHAs
There are 4 counties that do not currently have consumers receiving CABHA required services. Watson specifically addressed the lack of CABHA services in the ECBH LME catchment area. Currently there are 170 new applications that are beginning the CABHA process.

One of the concerns that was brought up by Representative Earle was how do the providers that have completed the CABHA process merge into the two new 1915 b/c managed care waiver sites. Deputy Watson stated that the division would recommend that the LME accept all of the CABHAs in that catchment area. However, it is clear that there are no specific guidelines on how to make this merger or how to protect the CABHAs during the transition.

The final presentation of the day was on the transition of youth from the Level III and Level IV group homes. The presentation began with a review of the legislation and the state guidance offered on how to transition youth out of Level III and Level IV homes.

Prior to the legislation, there were 2532 youth in Level III homes and now there are 620 remaining. This is a difference of 2608 youth in this placement. For Level IV homes there were 133 youth in these residential services and currently there are 29 youth remaining. There is a concern over where the youth went and did the child succeed in the transition back to the community. To address these concerns DMH is working with UNC Behavior Health Research to follow up and study the status of the youth who were discharged from the Level III and Level IV residential settings.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for This Week

Our legislative week starts today! Here are the Hot Policy topics for the week. There will be two meetings of interest this week for our community. The first one is today when the Health Care oversight committee meets. The second meeting of interest is tomorrow when the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services meets.

Here is the schedule for these meetings:

Today, Tuesday, September 7, 2010
10:00 AM Joint Legislative Health Care Oversight Committee 544 LOB

Wednesday, September 8, 2010
10:00 AM Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse, Joint Legislative Oversight Committee 643 LOB

Thursday, September 2, 2010

NCGA: Joint Legislative Oversight Committee Meeting MH/DD/SAS Agenda

Next Wednesday will be the first Joint Legislative Oversight Committee MH, DD, SAS meeting of the 2010 interim. Here is the agenda for the meeting:

Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on
Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, & Substance Abuse Services
September 8, 2010 10:00 A.M.; Room 643, Legislative Office Building
Representative Verla Insko, Co-Chair, Presiding

Welcome and Opening Comments Senator Martin Nesbitt, Co-Chair
Representative Verla Insko, Co-Chair

Secretary's Remarks Lanier Cansler, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services

Overview of 2010 Legislative Actions Lisa Hollowell, LOC Staff
Joyce Jones, LOC Staff

Expenditures and Utilization Tracking Update Craigan Gray, MD, Medical Director, Division of Medical Assistance, DHHS

Community Supports Information Michael Watson, Deputy Secretary, DHHS

CABHAs Update Michael Watson, DHHS


Status Report on the Changes to Level III and IV Mark O’Donnell, Program Manager Facilities for Children DMHDDSAS, DHHS

Second Mile Project – LME Presentation Roy Wilson, Director, East Carolina
Behavioral Health (ECBH) Lisa Bonnett, Executive Director of the Recovery Education Unit, ECBH

Wrap Up and Discussions