Group blasts legislature for budget cuts, failure to care for disabled kids

Disability Rights North Carolina is calling on state officials to provide necessary services to North Carolina’s mentally ill children who also have other disabilities. The advocacy group’s appeal follows an investigation that revealed a lack of available mental health services, leading to long waits in emergency rooms, hospitalizations, and institutionalization out-of-state.

Vicki Smith, Executive Director with Disability Rights N.C., notes that “debilitating” funding cuts by the General Assembly’s have only made matters worse for families trying to find adequate treatment for these children.

Here’s an excerpt from the report released Wednesday:

“These funding cuts and lack of necessary and appropriate community services mean North Carolina’s children increasingly face institutionalization, many in other states. While most children still receive mental health services in a private residence (e.g. their home, a relative’s home), a significant number of children receive services in out-of-home settings, including psychiatric residential treatment facilities, community residential homes, foster homes, youth development centers (e.g. training schools) and state psychiatric hospitals. While the percentage of children treated in out-of-home residential treatment facilities has fallen nationally, statistics suggest that North Carolina’s children are not experiencing the same trend.North Carolina more than quadrupled the number of locked residential placements from 117 in 2005 to 494 in March 2010.

The State recently presented a plan that requires community-based services be tried before a more restrictive out-of-home placement is used. This plan uses a model called the System of Care, which is built on the involvement of children and families, the development of individualized treatment plans that meet the unique needs of each child and family, and the coordination of services among multiple providers of services. Yet each of these provider systems is facing devastating budget cuts. The System of Care may be a great model, but where are the funds to pay for the staff to implement it?

Reduced spending for North Carolina’s children with disabilities will only increase the pressure on an already strained system of care — resulting in more costly outcomes for everyone. Cuts to the system have been counterproductive.”

Click here to read their special report, Kids Caught in a Double Bind: North Carolina’s Failure to Care for Children with Dual Disabilities.

One Comment

  1. Alex

    January 13, 2012 at 10:11 am

    The state, under a Democratic governor and Democratic state legislature, made the decision many years ago to move to community-based services for the disabled after ignoring the advice and opposition of many advocate groups. Don’t try to pin this on the current legislature.