November 11, 2016: Disability Rights NC wants to thank the nation’s veterans for their service and remind them that the organization is here to protect the rights of those who began their service with a disability or acquired an injury and now have a disability.
“The disability rights movement began with the injured veterans of World War II,” explained Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights NC. “The United States wanted to make sure that our soldiers who fought and sacrificed had the care they needed and the opportunity to continue to have productive lives. That forced the country to reassess how it treated all people with disabilities.”
As part of the nation’s protection and advocacy system, Disability Rights NC protects the rights of people with all types of disabilities through legal advocacy, education, and monitoring in facilities where people with disabilities live. This includes veterans who have permanent physical injuries, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, or other mental health issues.
“We want veterans in North Carolina to know that we are here to help them,” said Holly Stiles, lead attorney for Disability Rights NC’s community access team. “If a vet faces discrimination in employment or housing because of a disability, we want them to call us. If a vet can’t get the services he or she needs to live and work in the community, we want to help.”
Two weeks ago, the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), of which Disability Rights NC is a member, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service to better enable veterans with service-related disabilities to successfully transition into civilian life. Through this partnership, NDRN member organizations will work to increase awareness of and access to services for veterans, and they will provide educational trainings on disability rights related to employment, education, and housing.
Disability Rights NC also participates in NCServes, a network of agencies providing services to active-duty service members and veterans in North Carolina. NCServes is North Carolina’s first coordinated network of public, private, and non-profit organizations working together to serve veterans and their families.
If you suffered damages or losses because of Hurricane Matthew, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is offering help. You should register as soon as possible. You can register in the following ways:
If you have a problems accessing help or services because of a disability, call Disability Rights NC at 919-856-2195 or toll-free at 877-235-4210.
October 14, 2016—Hundreds of children in North Carolina with complex needs—a developmental or intellectual disability plus a mental illness—will soon have access to better services and supports that will keep them out of institutions and help them live at home.
Disability Rights NC and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services have developed a plan to meet the needs of these children.
“For years, children with dual diagnoses have ended up in emergency rooms, institutions, and even prisons because they could not get the care they needed in their communities,” said Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights NC. “Thankfully, Secretary Rick Brajer is committed to making sure these children have the support they need so they can live at home, go to school and grow into healthy adults.”
N.C. DHHS Secretary Rick Brajer added, “The State of North Carolina is very concerned about the well-being of these children, and the Department of Health and Human Services embraces its obligation to provide them with the help they need.”
The agreement reached by Disability Rights NC and N.C. DHHS will address gaps in services for children with complex needs. North Carolina provides such services through its network of Local Management Entities/Managed Care Organizations (LME/MCOs). “We have found that the care MCOs provide to children with complex needs is inconsistent,” explained Iris Green, senior attorney at Disability Rights NC. “That often leads to these kids being thrown out of school, and many of them end up in institutions or prisons.
Under the agreement, N.C. DHHS commits to the following measures:
N.C. DHHS also will seek funding to expand its community crisis support program for children statewide. NC START—Systemic, Therapeutic Assessment, Respite and Treatment—is an essential service for children with complex needs who are in crisis, but is only available in limited areas in North Carolina.
“We hope the General Assembly will recognize the need for a statewide N.C. START system and will provide the funding in the next budget,” said Smith. “N.C. START can literally be a lifesaver for some of these children with complex needs.”
“North Carolina is committed to providing the right care to the right child, at the right time in the right setting,” Brajer said. “It’s our responsibility under Medicaid and it’s our moral obligation to the children and families of North Carolina.”
On July 25, 2016, Disability Rights NC submitted comments supporting the Food and Drug Administration's proposed ban on electrical stimulation devices to treat self-injurious or aggressive behavior. Read our comments.
June 15, 2016—Disability Rights NC applauds Commissioner David W. Guice's decision to eliminate the solitary confinement of 16- and 17-year olds in NC prisons, effective September 1, 2016.
For years, Disability Rights NC has asked the State of North Carolina to end the practice of solitary confinement because it can cause deterioration in mental health, producing paranoia, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-harm, and thoughts of suicide. The effects of solitary confinement are especially harmful to young people whose brains are still developing and to people with mental illness.
“These are young people who need help, and solitary confinement does the opposite, causing long-lasting psychological harm,” said Vicki Smith, Executive Director of Disability Rights NC. “We are pleased with the new Youthful Offender Policy and think it will lead to more successful reentries for these youth and lessen the likelihood of recidivism. This is forward progress,” Smith said.
"There is much still to be done to protect other young NC inmates and inmates with mental disabilities against the harmful effects of isolated confinement. Today, for example, 20 percent of 18-year olds in NC prisons are in segregation as well as hundreds of adults who have mental illness. Commissioner Guice has identified solutions, but his progress will be stifled without adequate funding from the General Assembly," said Smith.
June 10, 2016—Today, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle approved a Consent Judgment resolving Disability Rights NC’s 2014 lawsuit over discrimination in the North Carolina driver licensing program.
The lawsuit alleged that drivers with disabilities were subject to unnecessary and repeated road tests and medical examinations, and had restrictions on their driver licenses that were based on inaccurate assumptions about their driving ability. The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles has agreed to reform its driver licensing system to ensure that drivers with disabilities are not discriminated against based on disability. These changes will benefit thousands of drivers who are subject to the DMV’s Medical Review Program in addition to the individuals named in the complaint.
The Consent Judgment resolves the complaints of seven individuals with disabilities and Disability Rights NC. It is enforceable by the Court and requires that the DMV:
To implement the changes which require legislative or rule changes, the DMV and Disability Rights NC are jointly pursuing changes to the N.C. General Statutes and Administrative Code.
The Medical Review Program was created as a mechanism for the DMV to identify unsafe drivers. Doctors, family members, and others may suggest that a driver is no longer capable of safely driving, and the DMV may require that individual to undergo medical screening. The Plaintiffs in this case are capable, safe drivers with a physical disability who were nonetheless referred to the Medical Review Program. “The DMV has recognized it was time to close the book on the way things have been done. Going forward, North Carolina drivers with disabilities can expect to be treated with the same dignity and respect as all other drivers. Most importantly, they will have legal recourse if their rights are being violated,” said Vicki Smith, Executive Director of Disability Rights NC.
May 20, 2016—Disability Rights NC has commented on the Proposed CAP Waiver Policy 3K-3. Read our comments.
Disability Rights NC finds HB2, The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, to be harmful to people with disabilities in North Carolina. HB2 contains three major provisions, all of which negatively impact people with disabilities. It is harmful both because people with disabilities are adversely affected based on other facets of their identity and because it specifically limits women and men and gender nonconforming people, people of color, and people of diverse religions and national origins. Many people with disabilities are part of the LGBT community. For all the ways this legislation limits our clients' lives, Disability Rights NC condemns it.
There are also specific disability-related consequences of HB2. It narrows our state law protections against discrimination in the use of public restroom facilities in public agencies and public schools. It eliminates a state law right to take employers to state court for employment discrimination and takes away the authority of local governments to pass laws that contain greater protections against discrimination or that create better working conditions. Though the bill strips North Carolinians of important state rights, other state and federal protections against discrimination based on disability and other protected classes remain.