The federal government mandates that every state have a protection and advocacy (P&A) system. We are the P&A for North Carolina. As a P&A, our responsibilities include the following:
Visit our About P&As page for more information.
Congress gave P&As extraordinary investigative authority so we can prevent the abuse and neglect of people with disabilities. For example, we have routine access to all individuals with disabilities who are in facilities that provide services. The facility must give us access to all records of individuals with disabilities as well as any records relevant to our investigation. A facility must also give us immediate access (within 24 hours of our request) to all records related to the death of an individual living there, or any records in a case where we have found there is “probably cause to believe that the health or safety of an individual is in serious and immediate jeopardy.”
We can take a variety of actions in response to findings of abuse and neglect. We can file litigation to enforce constitutional and statutory rights of facility residents. We can also issue public reports describing our findings and recommendations for corrective action.
Information, Referral, and Training
Knowing about their rights and how the system works can empower people with disabilities to get the help they need. For this reason—and because we do not have the resources to represent everyone who contacts us—we provide information, advice, and/or written materials to every eligible caller. We also provide trainings on a wide range of topics, including special education, guardianship and rights restoration, resident/patient rights in facility settings, anti-discrimination laws in housing and employment, mental health laws, voting rights, and self-advocacy.
We monitor facilities where people with disabilities live or receive services to prevent, detect, and address instances of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Our primary goals are to ensure that residents’ rights are protected, they are living in a safe environment, and they have opportunities to participate in activities important to them. During our monitoring visits, we also identify individuals who could live in the community if they had the proper supports and services.
We conduct an investigation when we believe serious abuse or neglect may have occurred. The investigation is a systematic and thorough examination of information, records, evidence, and circumstances surrounding the allegation of abuse or neglect. Because of our limited resources, we focus on investigations where the outcomes will be systemic change and will result in better care for large groups of people with disabilities.
Legally-based Advocacy, including Individual and Systems Advocacy
We represent the interests of people with disabilities both individually and systemically in the courts and other legal tribunals. This is the work tied to our Targets.
In addition to our core functions, we pursue system change through policy advocacy, including lobbying. We cannot and do not use federal funds to conduct lobbying activities.
Legislative and regulatory advocacy is a critical piece of our work. Laws and regulations are often the underlying cause of the problems people with disabilities face. For example, a statute or regulation may not be protective enough or may be interpreted incorrectly. We also focus on public benefit programs because they are often the only way people with disabilities can get the services they need.
We use systems advocacy to change policies at every level, but we pay special attention to agencies with enforcement responsibilities. We also monitor non-governmental agencies that are paid with federal or state money. Our advocacy efforts might be directed at the local, state, or federal level.