A message from DRNC’s CEO

This season of gratitude has us thinking about the meaning of home. What does home mean for children and adults with disabilities in NC? Do we live up to the promises of the landmark Olmstead decision, which prohibits discrimination and warehousing disabled people in facilities? Do people with disabilities in NC have the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers to go to school, play, work and live in our communities, with the services they need to survive and thrive?

These questions weigh heavily on our minds. At this moment, Gannett/USA Today is in the midst of publishing a damning investigative series called “Locked Away,” that exposes NC’s role in sending kids with disabilities to psychiatric residential treatment facilities (PRTFs) where they are being abused and neglected. The unbearable thread in each article is that PRTFs are used because kids don’t get the help they need to keep them in their home communities.

This national attention comes at a critical time: the State finally released its draft Olmstead Plan, which is supposed to show how NC will increase access to community-based services for disabled people so they can live at home in their communities if they choose. The plan is a long time in coming. More than a year ago, a court found NC out of compliance with Olmstead.

When the state recently put their draft plan out for comment, public response was swift, strong, and unequivocal: You are breaking the promise of Olmstead. You are betraying people with disabilities.

This issue and timing are critical and if we all speak out, we have the power to liberate people with disabilities.  Two things you can do:

  1. Read DRNC’s comments, the comments of other groups and organizations, and send in your own. Even though the state’s deadline for comments has already passed, the investigative report reveals the extent to which our work is not yet done.
  2. Join us in amplifying the issues raised in the #LockedAway reports on social media. The series focuses on children, but the issue of unnecessarily institutionalizing people in NC is not limited to children. People shouldn’t be forced to live in institutions. The more people who speak out against this practice, the more powerful the message.

Join forces with DRNC in holding NC accountable to its responsibilities to the disability community.

The importance of the solemn promise of Olmstead is demonstrated in the two pieces we included in this newsletter.

As always, our team is grateful for your concern and partnership.

Virginia Knowlton Marcus,
Chief Executive Officer, DRNC