Tag Archives: Disability Rights

What housing is available for people with mental health disabilities in NC?

WUNC - North Carolina Public Radio logoThis is the second in a five part series about housing in NC’s mental health system.

Thousands of people with mental health disabilities live in large adult care homes and in smaller family care homes in North Carolina. Advocates argue that many of these facilities are too institutional to truly help their residents integrate into the community. Now the federal government is investigating the state. Justice Department attorneys contend the state’s reliance on such facilities to house people with mental illness could violate federal law and Supreme Court rulings.

In this installment, I explored some of the housing options available for people with mental health disabilities. I visited a family care home, talked to someone who had lived in an adult care home (he lives in a group home now), and talk with someone whose sister lived in adult care homes for 14 years before getting her own apartment.

One question that kept coming up as I interviewed people… what constitutes a place being an ‘institution’? It turns out that the language of the law isn’t completely clear – is an adult care home an institution or not?

For many advocates, the definition of ‘institution’ comes down to this question: Would I want to live there?

People with disabilities they say they want some choice. Some, like Joanne Howell, say she likes living in a family care home. Others, like Josh, say an adult care home wasn’t for him.

You can listen to the story here:

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Story guest-edited by Cheryl Devall, news editor, Southern California Public Radio

What’s happening with housing for people with mental health disabilities in NC?

WUNC - North Carolina Public Radio logoThis story is the first in a five-part series on housing for people with mental health disabilities in the state.

Mental health reformers and state officials have repeated their intention to move people out of large institutions toward treatment options closer to home. But even as people have left hospitals, resources in the community have not kept pace.

That means in North Carolina, many people with mental health disabilities live in adult care homes designed for frail elderly people. Now the U S Justice Department is investigating this situation.

You can listen to today’s story here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Story guest-edited by Cheryl Devall, news editor, Southern California Public Radio

(How) can NC Community Colleges bar ‘dangerous’ students?

On Friday, the NC Board of Community Colleges approved a rule that would allow individual colleges to bar students who pose an “articulable, imminent and significant threat.” This isn’t a done deal yet… the rule still has to go before a  rules committee in March for final approval. But already, advocates for people with disabilities are raising questions.

Story here:

My first call was to Vicky Smith at Disability Rights.  She says they’ve been expressing their doubts and concerns about the rule since it was proposed last fall (the post-Tuscon timing is coincidental – actually the CCBoard started work on this last year in response to the Virginia Tech massacre).  She says the rule quite possibly runs afoul of the ADA (link on the right) and the Rehabilitation Act, in particular Section 504.  In that part of the law, it says

(a) No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 7(20), shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…

What that means is that if during a screening, someone is flagged as being an “articulable, imminent and significant threat” due, perhaps to mental illness, then they can be denied admission to the school.  But it’s something of a Catch-22… the community college system is an all-comers system.  There’s no screening process other than confirming residency and that you have a high school diploma or GED.   So, Smith had a question… how would this ‘threat’ be screened for if there’s no screening process done?  She feared the criteria would be arbitrary, and ultimately discriminatory. They detail their concerns in this letter (PDF).

That’s the fear being expressed by advocates for people with mental illness.

I asked that question of board spokeswoman Megan Hoenk several times…  what she did say is that the rule is not a blanket requirement… each of the system’s 58 colleges can choose whether or not to implement it.  However, Hoenk didn’t really answer the question about how the determination of an imminent threat would be made – either how the screening would be done, or what criteria would be used.

Each school has a code of conduct for current students… why aren’t the current codes adequate to deal with potentially violent students?