Monday, January 4, 2010

NC News: CarolinaNewswire Reports on MH DD SAS Cuts

The Coalition Launches Survey on Impact of Cuts to MHDDSAS System

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Betsy MacMichael knows that people with developmental disabilities are losing their services. As an advocate and Chair of the Developmental Disabilities Consortium she hears from parents daily. “People whose services have been reduced or who are on waiting lists call us daily, barely coping and needing our help. By documenting and counting their stories, we will have powerful information to share with policymakers..”. It’s not just those with developmental disabilities; advocates for people with mental illness and for those with addictive disease are hearing similar problems, including the closure of long time programs because they cannot make ends meet. Several months ago Ms. MacMichael and other members of The Coalition came together to figure out how to document the loss of services that would follow 100s of millions of dollars in cuts to the system that serves people with, addictive disease, mental illness and developmental disabilities.

The Coalition, a group of 40 statewide organizations advocating together to meet the needs of North Carolinians living with mental illness, developmental disabilities and the disease of addiction, launched an online survey in December seeking to capture the impact of budget cuts to the mental health, developmental disabilities, and addictive disease system and those it serves and share the information with policymakers. There are separate surveys for those who get services and supports, those employed delivering services, and those who operate organizations providing services. “Our aim is to look at cuts from many perspectives: the parent who has heard their child’s support hours will be cut, the individual who fears they will lose needed treatment, the employee who has been laid off, or the CEO who is cutting wages and closing programs due to lack of funds,” says Jennifer Mahan, The Coalition Chair.

The survey is a short questionnaire that asks if they know someone who has lost services, had services reduce, or is worried this will happen, then asks what kind of services, demographics about the person filling out the survey, and where the services are provided. The surveys for employers and employees are similar, but focus on loss of employment, wages, and the impact for the delivery of services.

Jennifer Mahan, who also works as Director of Policy for the Mental Health Association in North Carolina, has already seen her organization lay off 160 staff that provided direct services to people with mental illness. “Services are being cut across the board and we wanted to show that people are being affected now, and not wait until we have reports a year from now that shows the harm of these cuts. As a coalition that has advocated for increased funding for MHDDSAS since 1991, we must make it clear to lawmakers and budget writers that these cuts are hurting people.” The survey can be filled out again if the status of the person changes from fearing loss of services to actually having hours or services cut. The information is collected monthly and the survey will be available online until June 30th 2010.

In the first month of the survey there have been over 590 individuals who have responded. Of those responding, 22.7% indicated that all of their services were lost. 54.4% reported their services have been reduced, and 22.9% are worried about losing all of their services or having them reduced in the future. 84.8% of these services are In- Home or Other Community based Services, 22.6% are residential services and 21.9% were related to employment or vocational training/support. Almost half of the surveys related to services provided to those under the age of 21 According to Vicki Smith, Executive Director of Disability Rights NC, “The impact of the economic crisis of the lives of individuals is no longer a possibility but a reality for hundreds of people.”

One mother shared, “As a mother, it has been heartbreaking to watch and wait as precious years pass and my son struggles because there are no resources available to help him.” Additional information on The Coalition and upcoming activities can be found on the organization’s web site,

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