Friday, June 2, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Class Fights State Cuts to Mentally Ill

(CN) - North Carolina's plan to cut 30 percent or more from funding to care for mentally ill people with developmental disabilities in their homes is not only illegal, it will cost the state more money in the end by forcing them into institutions, a class action claims in Federal Court. Attorneys for the two named plaintiffs, who live independently with around-the-clock assistance from aides, said the decision funding cuts to providers of supervised residential living services will kill such services in a five-county region of the Piedmont.

The class claims the decision by defendant Dan Coughlin, CEO of the Piedmont Behavioral Healthcare Local Management Entity, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The class seeks declaratory and injunctive relief until alternative funding can be found to keep the plaintiffs at home and their 24-hour supervision in place.

In North Carolina, adults dually diagnosed with mental retardation and mental illness are part of a target population eligible to receive state mental health, development disability and substance abuse services funds.

Both named plaintiffs fall into this category. Clinton L's diagnoses include schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and moderate mental retardation. Timothy B's diagnoses include intermittent explosive disorder, major depressive disorder, epilepsy, and severe mental retardation.

Despite being longtime recipients of state support for their care, neither was notified of the impending funding change, nor given a chance to appeal it, the complaint states.

Compounding the situation is that while some alternative funding for in-home care would still be available to the plaintiffs even after the cuts, it wouldn't be enough to keep them in their homes, and once they're been institutionalized, they'll loss access to those funds.

The attorneys said they wrote to Coughlin and his co-defendant, North Carolina Health Secretary Lanier Cansler, demanding postponement of the funding cuts, but received no response.

The class is represented in Winston-Salem Federal Court by John Rittelmeyer, Jennifer Bills and Andrew Strickland of Disability Rights N.C.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.