Local Politics

Group files suit against head of DHHS

Posted February 11, 2010

N.C. health, mental health, Medicaid generic
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— A disability rights advocacy group filed suit Thursday against the leaders of the state Department of Health and Human Services and a local health service provider alleging that planned cuts in funding for mental health services violate the rights of patients and inhibit their ability to live independently.

The two men, identified in the lawsuit as Clinton L., 46, and Timothy B., 44, are both developmentally disabled and mentally ill. They have been living independently with the help of federal and state support, according to the suit filed by Disability Rights North Carolina.

DRNC filed the suit to ask for a temporary restraining order against Piedmont Behavioral Healthcare and DHHS in implementing the cuts. Lanier Cansler, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Dan Coughlin, CEO and director of Piedmont Behavorial Healthcare are named as defendants.

The plaintiffs are representative of a class of individuals who receive services from Piedmont Behavioral Healthcare, a local management entity. A DRNC search of public records found 35 members of the class, spokeswoman Vicki Smith said.

PBH, which is funded by the state, plans to cut the rate it pays for those services as a result of state budget cuts.

According to the suit, PBH's planned cuts would prompt service providers to cease offering the support the plaintiffs need to live on their own. The suit alleges the cuts planned by DHHS and PBH violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Piedmont’s plan to cut the reimbursement rate for supervised living services from $162 to $116, scheduled to take effect on Monday, would constructively abolish that service for PBH’s clients, as providers would no longer offer the service at that rate, DRNC said in a statement released Thursday.

Both parties have agreed to keep the current reimbursement rate in place until a hearing on the suit Wednesday.

This is the second such suit filed against the state, but the first class-action. DRNC brought suit in December on behalf of two patients served by the Beacon Center, the local management entity serving Edgecombe, Greene, Nash and Wilson counties.

A judge granted a preliminary injunction against service cuts by Beacon, pending a  full hearing on the matter. A date for that hearing has not been set.

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  • billybob72 Feb 12, 2010

    I am as Conservative as it gets, but firmly believe that a society's greatness is judged by how it treats its weakest members. These types of facilities must make a payroll, and its based mostly or all on gov't funding. If these cuts are justified, then so be it. But if they were abitrary, these facilities will likely be shut down. Where will these people go? Ignoring the problem won't make it disappear.

  • gvmntcheese Feb 12, 2010

    Kool, so how about we just send them to your house to be cared for then? There is no room or funding for them to placed in assisted living or a hospital. What happens when it is one of your own who suffers a disability? Does it not matter that people with disabilities have just as much right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness? You complain about your tax dollars, but lets count the list of things you purchase on a daily basis that is deemed wasteful... Now count the type of taxes you pay that is deemed wasteful... Is caring for another disabled human being wasteful? The complaint for funding is so that they can continue to be productive in society not just so they can get a check...

  • wbearp Feb 11, 2010

    I truly have sympathy for the plight of the mentally ill...however, since when is it a RIGHT that the government take care of people if they are mentally or physically disabled?

  • whatusay Feb 11, 2010

    This has to be a joke. Almost as insane as ACORN sueing the federal government for cutting off their funds. How can the DHHS sue for something that is not theirs? Since when does the tax payers owe the DHHS anything? The funds they receive are voluntarily given to them, they are not mandated.

  • archmaker Feb 11, 2010

    i didn't see any explaination here of what 'right' was violated. if they have a right to my tax money, then they only have a right to the tax money we have. if we don't have it, they don't get it.

    the lawyers are mentally ill in this case.