New Agreement Will Secure Services for NC Children with Complex Behavioral Health Needs

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Tags: Press Release

Raleigh, NC: 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:

  • Develop and implement a uniform process for identifying and assessing children with complex needs
  • Ensure these children receive appropriate services
  • Authorize case management services to assist the children’s parents or guardians in identifying and coordinating services
  • Begin operation of one outpatient clinic dedicated to serving children with complex needs, staffed by experienced clinicians, no later than April 1, 2017

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.”