Local News

Advocacy group sues N.C. over group home care

Posted July 26, 2010 3:02 p.m. EDT

— 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.”