North Carolina May Face Federal Lawsuit Over Disabilities Investigation

A U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation claims that North Carolina is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The claim is that thousands of North Carolinians with disabilities are being needlessly institutionalized. An agreement could be struck between the state and the DOJ which would allow people with disabilities to receive care in their own home or community when possible.

This agreement raises the concern that the state does not have sufficient funds to provide for such an increase in home care for disabled persons. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) officials plan to provide lawmakers with an exact dollar amount in costs which will be necessary in order to make these changes.

Vicki Smith, the director of Disability Rights North Carolina, the organization who filed this complaint with the DOJ in 2010, believes these changes would bring help to at least 6,000 people in adult care programs. “A lot of people who are living [in] adult care homes now would be able to go back to work, pay their own rent, pay taxes and contribute,” said Smith.

If the state does not take any action this year, the looming threat of a lawsuit may become reality.

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Reinhard von Hennigs