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Advocacy group sues N.C. over group home care

Posted July 26, 2010

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— An advocacy group used Monday's 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act to file suit against North Carolina, alleging improper care of mentally ill adults in group homes.

Disability Rights North Carolina filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging that the state is violating the ADA by "warehousing" people with mental illness in large, segregated facilities.

The group said it investigated four deaths at adult care homes between October 2008 and July 2009 and other reports of violence and injury at the facilities. The group also conducted on-site visits to more than one dozen adult care homes during a 10-day period in May.

“The conditions in some of the homes were deplorable. Our staff noted over-medicated residents, long hallways, bad lighting, crowded rooms, offensive odors, lack of air conditioning, broken windows, insect infestation, reports of violent altercations among the residents, minimal and dilapidated furniture and little privacy,” Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights North Carolina, said in a statement. “Essentially, we found a lack of anything to make it feel like home.”

Adult care homes, which the state licenses as assisted living facilities, are frequently the only alternative many people with mental illness have to homelessness, Smith said. North Carolina had 627 adult care homes, with 36,564 beds total, as of last December, according to state statistics.

“Twenty years after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the state of North Carolina lacks a realistic plan that supports all adults with mental illness living in the community in a truly integrated setting,” Smith said. “North Carolina’s (plan for providing services to mentally ill adults) is less than two pages and does not begin to address the needs of this population. Perhaps the involvement of the Department of Justice will make providing services to this population a higher priority.”

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  • Dollars-and-Sense Jul 27, 2010

    Bill - What agency are you referring to when you say "they"? It would appear that the cost of only medications and health aides would be a lot less than these costs PLUS room & board at a group home.

  • bllpearson50 Jul 27, 2010

    My Son has been in group homes in N.C since the age of 15 He is now 30 years old.He has seen his share of violent attacks and theft of his personal items.He was told by a group home that he could own his own home and they would pick up the tab for his meds and health aids.When they found out it cost them too much,they hired a man to run my son out of his own house by intimadation.Now he's lost everything and lives in a group home again.

  • readerman Jul 26, 2010

    "Every agency in the state can make an argument for more funding, so yours will have to stand out above the others."

    Not all services are constitutionally mandated as these are.

  • ncmedic201 Jul 26, 2010

    Dollars-and-Sense, I do believe the ADA is saying that is already how they are living and they want them living a more integrated life instead of the assisted living facilities. Probably wanting something more along the line of halfway houses.

  • Dollars-and-Sense Jul 26, 2010

    ADA, here's what you do. Determine why these facilities do not feel like home. Perhaps it cost money to feel like home. Look at the facility's financial data or better yet, you determine the cost of an adequate home-like environment. (This would inlcude capital costs for new furniture, shorter hallways, etc.) Finally, help the state locate a source of funding. Every agency in the state can make an argument for more funding, so yours will have to stand out above the others.

  • Dollars-and-Sense Jul 26, 2010

    Ask yourself this, do you want your elderly grandmother living in an assisted living facility knowing there is a mentally ill 30 year man in the room beside her and a schizophrenic woman in the room on the other side of her? Is this what ADA means when they want the mentally ill in a fully integrated society? Grandchild...would you feel comffortable with this arrangment?

  • gvmntcheese Jul 26, 2010

    Hmm, let's see, how bout we cut some of these exorbitant salaries that are being granted across the board to the select few in this state? How bout we start by cutting out the cronyism that has brought this state to its knees fiscally. Those 2 cuts in and of themselves relieves a lot of the funding that is needed to provide BASIC services for all of our mentally challenged citizens.

  • ncala2 Jul 26, 2010

    Where's the money going to come from? There's obviously not enough to go around, so what's going to be cut to fund this? Tough choices ...