Thousands of Tar Heels Wait for Services
Posted May 2, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH — More than 7,000 people with developmental disabilities in North Carolina are on waiting lists for services. Some have been waiting for years -- and more families are added to the list every day. But services for people with developmental disabilities haven't kept pace with growth, especially here in the Triangle, where hundreds of families are waiting for help they may never get.
Arthur Warner is pretty independent. Though he has Down Syndrome, he works and lives alone. He does his own laundry, prepares most of his own meals, and keeps his apartment neat. But he needs some help -- about four hours a week would be enough -- and he's been waiting seven years to get it.
"He's just lived independently so long," says his mother Jackie. "We just so fear that he won't be able to continue because he has to have this little bit of support."
Arthur's parents provide that support now. They help him balance his checkbook, shop for groceries, make doctor's appointments, and get where he needs to go. But if anything happened to his mom and dad, Arthur's life could change dramatically.
According to Art Warner, Arthur's father, there is a special fear about emergencies. "We don't want to have an emergency occur because that would be a terrible transition for Arthur, to not have us and also to have to move out of this apartment," he said.
If Arthur's parents weren't here to help him, he'd have to live in a group home or an institution. He's eligible for support services that would help him live alone. His name was added to a waiting list in 1991. His family never dreamed they'd still be waiting today.
His parents keep soldiering on. "You can't give up," says Jackie Warner. "We've learned that. We learned that when Arthur was born. You have to keep hoping and telling people about your needs."
The Warners, and thousands of families across the state, are waiting anxiously for the governor to unveil his budget this week. They're hoping it will include additional funding for programs that help people like Arthur. If it doesn't, the waiting lists will just keep getting longer.