Tuesday, April 8, 2008

NC General Assembly: Legislative Update HHS Appropriations

Health and Human Service Appropriations Committee

This committee met today to hear reports from legislative staff and presentations from the Office of Policy and Planning, Fluoride Mouth Rinse Program and Early Intervention Branch.

During opening remarks it was made clear that the appropriation chairs had been meeting over the last few weeks and had very specific hot budget items that they wanted the committee to address prior to the start of session. The goal is to hit these hot budget items and then be ready to go when session starts on May 13th.

The major priorities are budget issues around Health Choice, our state health insurance program. This program is directly affected by the SCHIP battle that rages on in Washington DC. Second topic also affected by SCHIP is NC Kid’s Care. This program is an extension of Health Choice that was passed last session. It would set the eligibility level at 300% FPL and would be a buy in health insurance program. The last of the hot topics will be Mental Health funding. One entire day will be set aside to hear recommendations from the Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Legislative Oversight Committee. There will also probably be recommendations from the Department and possibly the Governor at this meeting.

Legislative staff reviewed the Health and Human Services budget that was passed during the long session. Here is a brief recap of what appropriations the developmental disability community received during the FY 2007-2008 budget.

Special Population Dentistry FY 07-08 200,000 NR

CAP-MR/DD Slots FY 07-08 4,500,000 R FY 08-09 4, 500,000 R
This realignment gave us 300 new CAP Slots.

Supported Employment FY 07-08 2,500,000 R FY 08-09 2,500,000 R
This appropriation was also a realignment.

Early Intervention For Autism FY 07-08 2,000,000 NR
This was a new money.

Housing Trust Fund-Housing for People with Disabilities
FY 07-08 $7,500,000 NR
This was new money. A request has been made from the department to make this recurring. This money funds new projects. The Housing 400 Program is one of the most successful programs to emerge from the Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Reform.

Operating Cost Subsidy-Housing for People with Disabilities
FY 07-08 $3,500,000 R FY 08-09 $4,500,000 R
This was new money. This appropriation is directed toward assisting with rental subsidies so that the units can have deep affordability.

After lunch the committee heard a report on the status of our state’s Early Intervention Program. The Early Intervention Program assists families with children who have a developmental disability or are at risk of developmental delays as well as children who have an established medical need. Dr. Deborah E. Carroll stated that this program is seeing a 15% increase in referrals from pediatricians and a 9.5% increase in enrollment. The Early Intervention Program serves children from birth to age 3. This program assist families in locating physical therapists, speech pathologists and other specialists as needed. Two-thirds of the families currently being served in this program are Medicaid eligible. Early Intervention Programs create positive outcomes later in the lives of children with developmental disabilities. It is also a program that is mandated under IDEA. The Arc of North Carolina supports the continued funding of this program.

There will be two more Health and Human Services Appropriations meetings prior to the start of session. One will be on April 14th and will be focused on Health Choice and NC Kid’s Care. The second meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 29th and will be focused on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse.

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