by Dave Richard, Executive Director - The Arc of North Carolina
Forty two to zero! Sounds like a bad football game doesn’t it? Unfortunately this is no game and the stakes are higher -- much higher. Last week the powerful Legislative Oversight Committee on MHDDSA, upon recommendation from its two co-chairs, approved a report that recommended over 42 million dollars in funding for mental illness and substance abuse services….and zero funding for services for people with developmental disabilities. For families and people with developmental disabilities, being shut out is no game.
At The Arc we believe funding services for people with mental illness and those attempting to recover from addictive disorders is important and that the high profile attention to these issues is warranted. However, for a legislative committee that is intended to provide leadership and oversight of a system that includes developmental disability to act in such a one sided manner in their recommendations is a slap in the face of all North Carolina citizens with developmental disabilities and their families.
Not only does the report exclude funding recommendations for people with developmental disabilities, it all but ignores policy recommendations suggested by The Arc and other advocates. For example, the recommendation for the state to reestablish its policy of collecting standardized waiting list data was not included. Families and people with developmental disabilities are waiting five, six, or seven years for services. What did the committee recommend for these families who are waiting? $1,000,000 dollars to conduct a gap study. These families do not need a study to tell them where the gaps lie! Even a positive recommendation for Tiered Waivers has taken a turn for the worse because legislative leaders chose to insert caps on the tiers based upon personal belief rather than real data. It is entirely possible that the Oversight Committees recommendations for Tiers will result in a less efficient system.
It’s difficult to imagine why the committee chose this path. Maybe it is due to a lack of understanding of how the Developmental Disability system works compared to the Mental Health/Substance Abuse systems, or perhaps the recommendations from The Arc and others were not presented properly. Regardless, it is unacceptable for a public body charged with the responsibility of meeting the needs of a group of individuals favor one over another.
I am not a cynic when it comes to the legislature. I believe these are good men and women who want to do the best for North Carolina citizens. Despite this poorly conceived report we can still help members of the General Assembly do what is best for all citizens who rely upon the public MHDDSA system. The Arc along with others will continue to bring our message forward. We need you to join with us to do so. Sign up for e-alerts, check our website, attend meeting and events in Raleigh. Most importantly tell your Representative and Senators that 42-0 is ok for a football game but it is just plain wrong in the game of Life!