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North Carolina segregates persons with disabilities, court rules

Close-up of male judge's hand striking the gavel at table

North Carolina has been illegally segregating people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in institutions or putting them at risk of institutionalisation, a court ruled.

The News&Observer reports that the lawsuit was filed by Disability Rights North Carolina in 2017 against the state, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Mandy Cohen. It argued that insufficient state funding and inattention to disabled people’s needs are causing many to be placed in an institution or live without the services they require.

“This order is the first step, and we will be actively working toward a remedy that helps more people with I/DD get the support they need in the home they choose, said Virginia Knowlton Marcus, CEO of Disability Rights NC, in a press release. “We hope that the State and DHHS will commit to do the same.”

The nonprofit group filed the lawsuit on behalf of five people, including a woman who the lawsuit said had been forced to live in a state developmental center because her parents could not find community care providers for her. Two others lived outside institutions but had services being cut.

The fourth person lived in a Morganton group home despite his wish to live in Raleigh near his family, and the fifth person was getting inadequate treatment in an adult care home, according to the lawsuit. Disability Rights NC said the judicial order declares the state and DHHS have violated a legal mandate that people with disabilities may not be forced to live in institutional settings in order to get the services they need.