Mentally ill advocates rally for group home money

Associated Press Modified: November 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm •  Published: November 14, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Mentally disabled people who live in group homes and their advocates called on the governor and legislators Wednesday to find enough money so that those residents still have a place to live come January.

"We're asking you, please make the decision to not take away our homes. We need your help," Mary A. Crandell, who owns eight group homes in Raleigh, said during a rally outside the Legislature.

For years, North Carolina used different standards for personal care services such as eating and bathing, depending on the individuals' living situation. Standards varied for those who lived at home compared to those in lived in adult-care or group homes.

A federal judge ordered an end to the practice last year and ordered the state use the same standard for everyone to qualify for those services through Medicaid. The state chose the tougher standards used for people living at home.

Lawmakers budgeted $39 million for people living in adult-care facilities so they didn't go out of business. But group homes weren't included, meaning they could close their doors because of the loss of money.

Legislators seem willing to help, but the General Assembly doesn't resume its work until the end of January. These new rules take effect Jan. 1, leaving at least a month where about 1,400 group home residents wouldn't be eligible for Medicaid payments for personal care services.

Robert Bullock, 56, who lives in a group home in Cary, urged legislators to keep the doors open. "In my group home, I find peace, joy, comfort and contentment," he told the scores of people at the rally who chanted "save our homes."

Deby Dihoff, director of NAMI-North Carolina, said the cost to keep the group homes operation is $7 million, "which is chump change at the Legislature. But for us, it's housing for 1,400 people."

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