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State lawmakers still want to see $10 million in cuts by shutting down four regional offices of a state health program that aids developmentally delayed babies and toddlers.

DHHSThe N.C. Infant-Toddler Program, an early intervention program managed under the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, faced $18 million in cuts in the two-year budget passed last year — $8 million in the first year and $10 million for the fiscal year beginning in July 2014.

A DHHS attempt this spring to meet mandated cuts by shutting down three Eastern North Carolina children’s developmental services agencies fell apart in April.   East Carolina University’s medicine school turned down a proposal to absorb the work in an existing contract it had to manage another CDSA office. (Click here for background.)

Now, both the Senate and the House budget have tightened the language around the cuts and want to require DHHS to shut down four of the state’s 16 child-developmental services agencies by January.

DHHS “shall close four State-operated CDSA’s, effective January 1, 2015,” both the House and Senate budget say.

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The NC State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA) began accepting applications on October 1 for the Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities program. As of last week, the NCSEAA has received 248 applications submitted by parents wishing to receive $3,000 in taxpayer funds per semester for their special needs children to attend private and home schools in the state.

“We will begin notifying parents of their award status right around November 15,” said Elizabeth McDuffie, Director of Grants, Training and Outreach for the NCSEAA. Those who are awarded the grants will receive reimbursement checks to apply toward tuition, fees and other related expenses incurred for the spring 2014 semester. The program should be able to accommodate roughly 875 students, depending on award amounts.

Private and home schools in North Carolina are largely unregulated, but they do have to comply with minimal state regulations, including providing evidence of fire and safety inspections, immunization records and standardized test results. The Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE) publishes annually a list of private and home schools that are in compliance with state law.

NCSEAA is relying on the list that DNPE posted for the academic year 2012-13, in addition to their lists of recently closed and opened schools, as their list of eligible nonpublic schools to which parents can send their children with special needs and receive disability scholarships.

NC Policy Watch previously reported that DNPE’s list of recognized private schools includes a number that employ just one teacher and a handful of students. The director of DNPE, David Mills, told NC Policy Watch that those schools were just starting out and possibly catering to accelerated students or students with disabilities.

“We are aware of those schools,” said McDuffie, after a long pause when asked whether these schools raise a red flag with NCSEAA. “They do qualify according to the statute.” Read More

Charter schools enroll less disabled children than traditional public schools, though the exact reasons why weren’t explored in the report released this month by the United States Government Accountability Office.

About 11 percent of children in the nation’s traditional public schools have disabilities that require special services, while charter schools have 8 percent of their student population considered disabled.

The lower rates could be because parents of the disabled aren’t seeking out charter schools, or because the schools themselves are discouraging children from attending, according to the report.

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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.