Letter to the Editor: Finally, a prospect of justice for persons with I/DD

Published 7:57 am Sunday, November 13, 2022

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To the Editor:

As a child, our 36-year-old daughter was fortunate to be granted a “slot” in North Carolina’s Medicaid Innovations Waiver. As a result, she has been able to participate in an adult day program for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and to receive other home- and community-based supports that enable her to live with us in the community where friends and neighbors know and love her.

In contrast, 16,314 other North Carolinians who have similar disabilities are on a waiting list for services because of the state legislature’s arbitrary restriction on funding for such services. On November 2, NC Superior Court Judge R. Allen Baddour ruled in favor of a lawsuit by Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC) and called for the elimination of the waiting list and for other improvements in supports and services for persons with IDD: https://tinyurl.com/2xa7ucrn

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In addition to identifying inequities in the funding and allocation of services, the decision also directs the state to “effectively address and resolve the serious shortage of direct care workers who provide community-based support.” The lack of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), especially in smaller counties like Dare and our neighbors, makes it very difficult for persons with I/DD to remain in their homes and communities. The result is that many are inappropriately placed in intermediate-care facilities (ICFs) and other residential institutions that are expensive and not located in residents’ home communities.

Even with very large budget surpluses in recent years and potential funding from Medicaid expansion, leaders of the state legislature have refused to make more than token reductions in the waiting list: https://tinyurl.com/9ruuubjs The bottom line is that state legislators are willing to hand out medals at athletic events for persons with I/DD, but will only increase appropriations when ordered to do so by a judge.

Unfortunately, Judge Baddour’s order allows ten years for the elimination of the waiting list. In addition, “The state must assist 3,000 people who want to leave or avoid institutional settings, and cease new admissions to institutions after 6 years.” While the timelines for implementing his orders are generous, the breadth and depth of the problems the legislature has created will take time and careful planning to build a strong and durable system of supports and services for persons with I/DD.

Lynn Usher
Southern Shores