Judge rules NC DHHS is violating rights of people with intellectual, developmental disabilities

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Thursday, December 1, 2022
Judge rules NC DHHS is violating rights of people with disabilities
NC DHHS is violating rights of people with intellectual, developmental disabilities at state institutions; should have choice in care, Judge rules

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service (NCDHHS) is appealing a court order that would bring the state agency in compliance with state, and offer individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities choice in their care.

"There are people in need now," said Disability Rights North Carolina Legal Director Emma Kinyanjui.

The nonprofit filed a lawsuit against DHHS and won.

A court order issued earlier this month states DHHS is in "ongoing violation" of the North Carolina Persons with Disabilities Protection Act and it has been "over-reliant" on institutionalizing people with disabilities.

A superior court judge says there should be adequate community-service alternatives for those who don't want to be at state institution.

"People are in need of services, in need of choice to leave institutions that they don't want to be in," said Kinyanjui.

DHHS' appeal is another legal setback and it's leaving people in limbo.

"Without this order, without accountability, we will be asked to continue to wait," said Kinyanjui.

Right now, there are more than 16,000 people sitting on a waiting list hoping to being waived to an alternative setting.

"We have got to build more options before limiting others," said DHHS Secretary Kody Kinsely.

He argues that more time is needed and that it's working hard on a number of initiatives that will support individuals with disabilities.

"While the department is deeply aligned with many aspects of that decision, I have grave concerns about key pieces of that decision that would limit choice for individuals and potentially push over a thousand, if not more, individuals in small community-based homes and other spaces out of those stable environments that their family members and they rely on every day," said Kinsely.

"To say that there's still time that needed to be given to come up with a plan is disappointing and doesn't hold water," said Kinyanjui.

DHHS is calling on the General Assembly to invest more money to help the thousands of people on that waiting list.

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