News and Alerts

July 2017 eNews

In this issue:

  • Join Us for Our Birthday Party!
  • Targets Survey Open for 3 More Weeks
  • The Conservative Case for Saving Medicaid
  • Important Listening Sessions on Services
  • Looking for a Staff Attorney

Important Listening Sessions on Services

The NC Department of Health and Human Services is holding listening sessions on services for behavioral health, developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders. This is your chance to tell officials about your experiences regarding the quality of and access to services.

Check out the flyer here for dates and times of the listening sessions. If you can’t make it to a session, the flyer also tells you how to submit your input by phone, mail, or e-mail.

June 2017 eNews

In this issue:

  • Lawsuit Against North Carolina, DHHS
  • Awards Ceremony and 10th Anniversary Party!
  • National Day of Action to #SaveMedicaid
  • New Policy on Mental Health in Schools
  • Update on Raise the Age

Lawsuit Filed Against the State of North Carolina and the NC Department of Health and Human Services for Their Institutionalization and Segregation of People with Disabilities

May 24, 2017, Raleigh, NC—According to a lawsuit filed today, the State of North Carolina and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) fail North Carolina citizens with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) by forcing thousands of people with I/DD to remain in institutions or segregated from their families and communities because of a fractured and inefficient system of care. The case was filed on behalf of five plaintiffs with I/DD who are subject to improper segregation or are at risk of segregation. Disability Rights NC and Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, a national law firm, represent the plaintiffs. Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP participates in this case as part of its High Impact Litigation Project with the Barbara McDowell Foundation, named for the late Barbara McDowell, a well-known appellate litigator and wife of former Drinker Biddle partner, Jerry Hartman.

“Under North Carolina law, DHHS must provide services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate for their needs,” explained Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights NC. North Carolina’s system of care, which favors institutionalization over community-based services, spends about $150,000 on average per year to keep a person in a facility, while the expense of providing services in a community-based setting is less than $60,000 per year on average. North Carolina ranks 48th in the overall effect of state policies and practices on promoting independence for people with I/DD, according to a 2016 national report published by United Cerebral Palsy.

The lawsuit identifies significant problems with North Carolina’s system of services that rob people with I/DD of their right to live and participate in their communities by:

  • Relying on institutional placements by failing to provide people with I/DD with the services they need to live in their communities.
  • Inadequately planning to transition individuals with I/DD from institutional to community settings by failing to identify those who are ready for more independent living.
  • Identifying an insufficient number of providers to serve the needs of individuals with I/DD in the community.
  • Failing to provide for reliable long-term services and supports stemming from frequent changes and reductions in services, causing instability and making it harder for people with I/DD to remain in their communities.
  • Maintaining a financing system that provides financial incentives to contractors who prioritize lowering costs over providing necessary services.

"The lack of community-based services for people with I/DD is a long-standing problem in North Carolina, and the State’s efforts to address it have been insufficient," Smith said. "There are thousands of people on waiting lists for community-based services, and the number keeps growing. They languish on those waiting lists for years—in some cases, more than a decade. Without services, people with I/DD are vulnerable to dependence and institutionalization."

The lawsuit asserts that the individual experiences of the named plaintiffs demonstrate that DHHS has failed people with I/DD who face continual challenges to maintaining stable engagement in their communities.

The lawsuit aims to change the practices that result in thousands of North Carolinians being denied their right to live in a non-segregated community setting due to the State of North Carolina and DHHS’s failure to meet its required statutory and constitutional obligations to people with I/DD.

Click here to read the complaint filed in Wake County Superior Court today. Click here for a Word version of the complaint.

Disability Rights North Carolina is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Raleigh. Its team of attorneys, advocates, paralegals, and support staff provide advocacy and legal services at no charge for North Carolinians with disabilities to protect their civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal and state laws.

Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP is a national, full-service law firm with 635 lawyers across 12 offices providing litigation, regulatory and business solutions to public and private corporations, multinational Fortune 100 companies and start-ups. Public interest work has always been central to Drinker Biddle’s identity.

April 2017 eNews

In this issue:

  • Disability Advocacy Conference on April 20
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Handbook
  • Progress on "Raise the Age"
  • Dispute Resolution in Special Education
  • The Importance of the P&A System

March 2017 eNews

In this issue:

  • Conference Keynote Address on Trauma-Informed Care
  • "Bottom Dollars" Tonight in Raleigh, Coming Soon to W-S, Asheville and Greenville
  • "Raise the Age" as a Disability Issue
  • Preparing Students with Disabilities for College
  • An Introduction to Our New Board Members

"Raise the Age" Campaign

In North Carolina, 16- and 17-year olds are automatically tried as adults. This disproportionately hurts children with disabilities, as many of them are impressionable and prone to making impulsive decisions. At least two-thirds of the youth in the criminal justice system have a disability. Learn more about the campaign to Raise the Age in North Carolina.

Updated Guide to Medicaid Appeals

This guide provides step-by-step instructions on appealing any denial, reduction, suspension, or termination of behavioral health services by a Managed Care Organization (MCO).

Disability Rights NC Reaches Settlement on Service Animals

The case arose in early 2015, when Disability Rights NC filed suit on behalf of Roger Wiker of Mooresville, an individual with limited vision who uses a guide dog. Mr. Wiker was told that his guide dog would have to stay behind while he received podiatry care. As an individual with a disability, Mr. Wiker has a federally-protected right to be accompanied by his guide dog in most areas of a doctor’s office or hospital. Mr. Wiker’s lawsuit alleged that separating him from his guide dog would violate his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act.

“Piedmont HealthCare is taking the right steps down a path we hope other healthcare practices will follow, and we appreciate Piedmont HealthCare working with us to resolve this matter,” said Vicki Smith, Executive Director of Disability Rights NC. “Service animals provide invaluable assistance to people with disabilities. They allow the individual to maintain independence and generally should not be separated from their handlers.” Read more.

January 2017 eNews

In this issue:

  • Registration for 2017 Disability Advocacy Conference Now Open!
  • New Video and Guide on Innovations Waiver Changes
  • New Fact Sheet on IEP Implementation
  • Coming Up: Screenings of the "Bottom Dollars" Documentary

Changes to the Innovations Waiver

We have received many calls from people who have received letters about their "budget" under the amended Innovations Waiver. Our new guide provides information on what the budget means (Spoiler: It's not a cap!) and what you should do if you're not getting all of the services you need. Check out our video and read our Guide to the Changes in the Innovations Waiver.

Fact Sheet on IEP Implementation

Creating an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that meets the needs of a student with a disability can be a challenging process. That's why it can be so frustrating for parents when, after working hard to get a quality IEP for their student, they discover that the IEP is not being properly implemented. This fact sheet explains some of the ways parents and schools can resolve problems with IEP implementation. It also explains when compensatory education may be required to make up for the special education services the student did not receive.

Happy Holidays!

Check out our Holiday Mannequin Challenge video!

Holiday Mannequin Challenge with DRNC staff - click for video

ENews: December 2016

In this issue:

  • "Significant Gaps and Limitations" in NC's Transition to Community Living Initiative
  • Client Story: Finding the Right Fit for Jordan
  • National Disability Rights Network Weighs in on Special Education Case
  • Schools Often Wrong About Guardianship

 

Statement: This Veterans’ Day, Disability Rights NC Reminds Vets, “We Are Here for You”

November 11, 2016: Disability Rights NC wants to thank the nation’s veterans for their service and remind them that the organization is here to protect the rights of those who began their service with a disability or acquired an injury and now have a disability.

“The disability rights movement began with the injured veterans of World War II,” explained Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights NC. “The United States wanted to make sure that our soldiers who fought and sacrificed had the care they needed and the opportunity to continue to have productive lives. That forced the country to reassess how it treated all people with disabilities.”

As part of the nation’s protection and advocacy system, Disability Rights NC protects the rights of people with all types of disabilities through legal advocacy, education, and monitoring in facilities where people with disabilities live. This includes veterans who have permanent physical injuries, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, or other mental health issues.

“We want veterans in North Carolina to know that we are here to help them,” said Holly Stiles, lead attorney for Disability Rights NC’s community access team. “If a vet faces discrimination in employment or housing because of a disability, we want them to call us. If a vet can’t get the services he or she needs to live and work in the community, we want to help.”

Two weeks ago, the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), of which Disability Rights NC is a member, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service to better enable veterans with service-related disabilities to successfully transition into civilian life. Through this partnership, NDRN member organizations will work to increase awareness of and access to services for veterans, and they will provide educational trainings on disability rights related to employment, education, and housing.

Disability Rights NC also participates in NCServes, a network of agencies providing services to active-duty service members and veterans in North Carolina. NCServes is North Carolina’s first coordinated network of public, private, and non-profit organizations working together to serve veterans and their families.

 

Alert: Help Available for Victims of Hurricane Matthew

If you suffered damages or losses because of Hurricane Matthew, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is offering help. You should register as soon as possible. You can register in the following ways:

  • Visit DisasterAssistance.gov
  • Download the FEMA Mobile App
  • Call 800-621-3362 -- Multi-lingual operators are available
  • If you use 711 or Video Relay Service, call 800-621-3362
  • If you use TTY, call 800-462-7585

If you have a problems accessing help or services because of a disability, call Disability Rights NC at 919-856-2195 or toll-free at 877-235-4210.

Additional resources:

 

News: Agreement Will Secure Services for NC Children with Complex Behavioral Health Needs

October 14, 2016—Hundreds of children in North Carolina with complex needs—a developmental or intellectual disability plus a mental illness—will soon have access to better services and supports that will keep them out of institutions and help them live at home.

Disability Rights NC and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services have developed a plan to meet the needs of these children.

“For years, children with dual diagnoses have ended up in emergency rooms, institutions, and even prisons because they could not get the care they needed in their communities,” said Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights NC. “Thankfully, Secretary Rick Brajer is committed to making sure these children have the support they need so they can live at home, go to school and grow into healthy adults.”

N.C. DHHS Secretary Rick Brajer added, “The State of North Carolina is very concerned about the well-being of these children, and the Department of Health and Human Services embraces its obligation to provide them with the help they need.”

The agreement reached by Disability Rights NC and N.C. DHHS will address gaps in services for children with complex needs. North Carolina provides such services through its network of Local Management Entities/Managed Care Organizations (LME/MCOs). “We have found that the care MCOs provide to children with complex needs is inconsistent,” explained Iris Green, senior attorney at Disability Rights NC. “That often leads to these kids being thrown out of school, and many of them end up in institutions or prisons.

Under the agreement, N.C. DHHS commits to the following measures:

  • Develop and implement a uniform process for identifying and assessing children with complex needs
  • Ensure these children receive appropriate services
  • Authorize case management services to assist the children’s parents or guardians in identifying and coordinating services
  • Begin operation of one outpatient clinic dedicated to serving children with complex needs, staffed by experienced clinicians, no later than April 1, 2017

N.C. DHHS also will seek funding to expand its community crisis support program for children statewide. NC START—Systemic, Therapeutic Assessment, Respite and Treatment—is an essential service for children with complex needs who are in crisis, but is only available in limited areas in North Carolina.

“We hope the General Assembly will recognize the need for a statewide N.C. START system and will provide the funding in the next budget,” said Smith. “N.C. START can literally be a lifesaver for some of these children with complex needs.”

“North Carolina is committed to providing the right care to the right child, at the right time in the right setting,” Brajer said. “It’s our responsibility under Medicaid and it’s our moral obligation to the children and families of North Carolina.”

 

Statement: Disability Rights NC Supports Ban on Electrical Stimulation Devices

On July 25, 2016, Disability Rights NC submitted comments supporting the Food and Drug Administration's proposed ban on electrical stimulation devices to treat self-injurious or aggressive behavior. Read our comments.

 

Statement: Disability Rights NC Applauds End of Solitary Confinement for 16- and 17-year olds in NC Prisons

June 15, 2016—Disability Rights NC applauds Commissioner David W. Guice's decision to eliminate the solitary confinement of 16- and 17-year olds in NC prisons, effective September 1, 2016.

For years, Disability Rights NC has asked the State of North Carolina to end the practice of solitary confinement because it can cause deterioration in mental health, producing paranoia, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-harm, and thoughts of suicide. The effects of solitary confinement are especially harmful to young people whose brains are still developing and to people with mental illness.

“These are young people who need help, and solitary confinement does the opposite, causing long-lasting psychological harm,” said Vicki Smith, Executive Director of Disability Rights NC. “We are pleased with the new Youthful Offender Policy and think it will lead to more successful reentries for these youth and lessen the likelihood of recidivism. This is forward progress,” Smith said.

"There is much still to be done to protect other young NC inmates and inmates with mental disabilities against the harmful effects of isolated confinement. Today, for example, 20 percent of 18-year olds in NC prisons are in segregation as well as hundreds of adults who have mental illness. Commissioner Guice has identified solutions, but his progress will be stifled without adequate funding from the General Assembly," said Smith.

 

News: NC DMV Agrees to Reform Its Medical Review Program

June 10, 2016—Today, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle approved a Consent Judgment resolving Disability Rights NC’s 2014 lawsuit over discrimination in the North Carolina driver licensing program.

The lawsuit alleged that drivers with disabilities were subject to unnecessary and repeated road tests and medical examinations, and had restrictions on their driver licenses that were based on inaccurate assumptions about their driving ability. The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles has agreed to reform its driver licensing system to ensure that drivers with disabilities are not discriminated against based on disability. These changes will benefit thousands of drivers who are subject to the DMV’s Medical Review Program in addition to the individuals named in the complaint.

The Consent Judgment resolves the complaints of seven individuals with disabilities and Disability Rights NC. It is enforceable by the Court and requires that the DMV:

  • End repeated medical reviews of individuals with a non‐degenerative condition, such as cerebral palsy, a spinal cord injury, or a missing limb.
  • End the use of assistive technology, such as hand controls or a walker, as an automatic basis for being road tested or undergoing a medical review.
  • Provide avenues to appeal and challenge requests for medical review and driving restrictions.
  • Improve access to information about the basis for the DMV’s actions and give drivers access to copies of their Medical Review Program records.
  • Remove drivers who have a non‐degenerative condition and request removal from the Medical Review Program. The DMV has committed to remove drivers proactively in some cases.
  • Provide information about how to appeal and challenge requests for medical review and driving restrictions, and request removal from the program.

To implement the changes which require legislative or rule changes, the DMV and Disability Rights NC are jointly pursuing changes to the N.C. General Statutes and Administrative Code.

The Medical Review Program was created as a mechanism for the DMV to identify unsafe drivers. Doctors, family members, and others may suggest that a driver is no longer capable of safely driving, and the DMV may require that individual to undergo medical screening. The Plaintiffs in this case are capable, safe drivers with a physical disability who were nonetheless referred to the Medical Review Program. “The DMV has recognized it was time to close the book on the way things have been done. Going forward, North Carolina drivers with disabilities can expect to be treated with the same dignity and respect as all other drivers. Most importantly, they will have legal recourse if their rights are being violated,” said Vicki Smith, Executive Director of Disability Rights NC.

 

Statement: Comments on Changes to Medicaid Services for Children and Adults

May 20, 2016—Disability Rights NC has commented on the Proposed CAP Waiver Policy 3K-3. Read our comments.

 

Statement: HB2 - Bad for People with Disabilities

Disability Rights NC finds HB2, The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, to be harmful to people with disabilities in North Carolina. HB2 contains three major provisions, all of which negatively impact people with disabilities. It is harmful both because people with disabilities are adversely affected based on other facets of their identity and because it specifically limits women and men and gender nonconforming people, people of color, and people of diverse religions and national origins. Many people with disabilities are part of the LGBT community. For all the ways this legislation limits our clients' lives, Disability Rights NC condemns it.

There are also specific disability-related consequences of HB2. It narrows our state law protections against discrimination in the use of public restroom facilities in public agencies and public schools. It eliminates a state law right to take employers to state court for employment discrimination and takes away the authority of local governments to pass laws that contain greater protections against discrimination or that create better working conditions. Though the bill strips North Carolinians of important state rights, other state and federal protections against discrimination based on disability and other protected classes remain.

Read our analysis.

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