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Perdue vows fix for group home residents

Gov. Bev Perdue said she will work with the legislature to keep up to 2,000 people with mental disabilities from being turned out of their group homes this winter -- including the possibility of a special session.

On Jan. 1, changing Medicaid rules means that most group home residents will no longer qualify for government-paid personal care services. Medicaid reimbursements for personal care pay about one-third of group home costs.

Perdue said on Thursday that she was "distressed" over the prospect of mentally disabled people without places to live.

Blue ribbon panel begins figuring out how to move mentally ill, disabled care

A panel of state legislators, mental health and developmental disability experts and advocates, adult care home representatives, housing officials and others met Wednesday to begin working on plans to move patients out of large facilities and into communities for treatment specially tailored to them.

The 32-member Blue Ribbon Commission on Transitions to Community Living met for the first time and spent the day at the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh getting up to speed on several pressing issues.

Judge puts temporary hold on Medicaid terminations

An administrative law judge on Friday put a temporary stop to the state assigning adult care homes a special status that cuts off their federal Medicaid payments.

A group of adult care homes went to court this week to ask that the state Department of Health and Human Services no longer be allowed to designate certain adult care homes “institutes of mental disease.”

Rest homes side with suit filed by advocates

The state's adult-care home industry says it supports a federal complaint filed against the state by and advocacy group for people with mental illness.

The advocacy group Disability Rights North Carolina filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department on Monday that contends the state is in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act for failing to provide proper housing for more than 6,400 people with mental illness now living in the state's rest homes.

The complaint also included details of four murders and alleged the state is failing to police the sometimes squalid and dangerous conditions in these homes, which are licensed and inspected by the state Department of Health and Human Services. 

"For more than 15 years, we have warned that North Carolina’s adult care homes are in crisis," said Lou Wilson, the executive director of the N.C. Association of Long Term Care Facilities. "We hope that the complaint filed Monday by Disability Rights North Carolina will finally lead to action."

In a statement posed on the Web, Wilson said the industry has struggled to care for the flood of clients with mental illness and that Medicaid reimbursement rates in North Carolina are lower now than they were six years ago.

"The responsibility lies with the State of North Carolina, which has refused for years to provide our homes with adequate funding to deal with aged, disabled and mentally ill residents," Wilson said. "North Carolina has many good adult care homes providing a wide range of excellent services. The DRNC’s own visits confirmed this. The poor conditions cited in DRNC’s complaint are the exception, not the rule. ...

"But the state’s neglect inevitably hurts resident care. It is time for the State of North Carolina to do right by the residents of adult care homes. Perhaps now the federal government will force the state to act."

Adult care advocates take to YouTube

Residents of adult care homes are taking to YouTube to lobby the legislature.

The industry group Friends of Adult Care Homes has filmed a three-minute video featuring residents and their family members speaking about the benefits.

The video notes that state budget proposals would cut $25 million from adult care homes, arguing they are already "consistently underfunded" and some would fail.

"I would live with my family, but they all go to work," says one woman in the video. "I'd be all by myself. I don't know if I could handle myself any more, so I do need somebody."

Friends of Adult Care Homes is e-mailing a link to the video to legislators and other people in Raleigh.

"Since the frail and elderly residents who live in North Carolina's adult care homes can't all come to Raleigh, we're bringing their voices directly to you," says executive director Lou Wilson in the e-mail.

The video had been seen 236 times this morning.

Passed: Health care

Some major bills passed on health care this session.

The bills will:

Create a new state medical form for end of life choices, revises health-care power or attorney language.

Require group health insurance plans to cover treatment for mental illness services at the same level that they cover physical illnesses.

Create a program for residents whose long-term illnesses make buying health insurance too expensive or unavailable because no company is willing to sell it to them.

Set up a system of rating adult-care homes, strengthen health-care personnel registry and set up regular meetings of Penalty Review Commission.

Require state and local public agencies to disclose the total compensation paid to top officials, but gives public hospitals the right to deny such information for the rest of their employees. Also bars the public from learning the details of medical practice purchase contracts struck by public hospitals.

Rating the homes

The state House unanimously approved a bill today aimed at protecting older North Carolinians in adult-care homes and better informing family members about the facilities’ records.

The bill, championed by Rep. Jennifer Weiss, a Cary Democrat, originally restored more regular meetings of the Penalty Review Commission, which advises the state on penalties for violations by adult-care homes, reports Thomas Goldsmith.

On Wednesday, the House Aging committee added language that would establish a rated certificate system for adult-care homes.

That means the public would be able to see more easily whether adult-care homes — assisted living centers and family group homes — are meeting minimum state standards.

“We are not asking anyone to do anything they are not already supposed to be doing,” said Rep. Beverly Earle, a Charlotte Democrat.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which had already approved its original form.

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