Dozens gathered in front of the legislature Wednesday to ask lawmakers to maintain funding for group homes for people wtih mental health disabilities.
Last November, dozens gathered in front of the legislature to ask lawmakers to maintain funding for group homes for people with mental health disabilities. Credit: Rose Hoban

By Rose Hoban

Last summer when legislators passed their budget for the present year, one item that was designated for a major cut was funding for people with developmental and mental health disabilities who live in group homes.

Last November, dozens gathered in front of the legislature to ask lawmakers to maintain funding for group homes for people with mental health disabilities. Credit: Rose Hoban

The old budget called for cuts in hours for personal care, services delivered to those residents to help them with activities such as feeding, bathing, dressing, toileting and getting around. The cuts were due to go into effect in January. If they had, many group homes would have found themselves out of business, with their residents on the street.

Meanwhile, group home operators were instructed to file appeals to the Office of Administrative Hearings that would allow them to continue being paid at their old levels of service as the appeals played out.

In addition, a series of 11th-hour fixes freed up money to keep group home operators whole. First, former-Gov. Bev Perdue found an unspent $1 million to tide the homes over until the legislative session could begin in late January.

Then when the current legislative session started, legislators quickly passed a bill that allowed the homes to tap into a $39.7 million pot of money that had been set aside for adult care homes.

Now the appeals are winding to a close, said Karen McLeod, head of Benchmarks, a coalition of care-provision organizations, “and my members want to know what to do.”

She said that if there’s no fix for the group homes before July 1, facilities would start to close.

The only mention of group homes in the Senate budget is a provision to create a pilot program in six counties that would establish tiers of need for people living in the homes, with different reimbursement rates and maximum hours for each tier.

Currently, personal care services are paid at a rate of $15.52 an hour, with a monthly maximum of 80 hours. Operators have said they need a minimum of 130 hours of reimbursement to cover expenses.

“We asked Sen. Hise (R-Spruce Pine) about the group homes,” McLeod said after she learned the Senate budget had no provision for the group homes. “He said they’ve tried every avenue they legally can to come up with an answer, but they keep hitting a brick wall.”

There’s no timeline for the pilot study in the budget, and it would probably be too late for most of her providers. She said it could take six months to pilot the new payment scheme, several months to analyze the results and then even more time to scale the pilot up to the state level.

By then, she said, it could be too late.

“A Hail Mary for us is to see if that $39 million fund still has dollars in it,” McLeod said. “If that doesn’t work, we’ll have to go to the House and see if they can’t find some remedy.”

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Rose Hoban

Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees...

5 replies on “Group Home Funding at Risk … Again”

  1. In mental health group homes, the use of personal care funds didn’t really make sense. It was a way to cobble together more funding to make group homes viable. One solution would be to raise the rate for group homes, and the quality to make them truly therapeutic environments.

  2. Mental health group homes are not long term care facilities. They are regulated and licensed differently. .5600a group homes are only wishing to continue the 35 hour monthly maintance for personal care services. These facilities needing more hours are special care units with Alzheimer’s patients and such. Please before you print an article that misleads people understand the difference between group homes and adult care homes.

    1. Thanks for your comment, but these are *not* group homes for patients with Alzheimers, but group homes for people with mental and developmental disabilities who frequently need more than 35 hours of assistance with activities of daily living. The General Assembly has actually moved to fix the problem for Alzheimers units, but did nothing for the MH/ ID/ DD group homes.

      If you look back at our previous coverage of this topic you’ll see that one of the issues is that people in MH/ ID/ DD group homes often don’t need “hands on” care, but require more assistance in the form of cueing and prompting to perform their own ADLs. The way the personal care service definition was written last year often excluded *any* residents from receiving personal care, and that income stream was a vital part of the funding mix in those group homes that’s now gone.

  3. . . .from NAMI-Wake County: “The NC House is expected to release its budget this week, and no one seems to know what is included for group homes. . .We believe the time is right for another press conference and rally at the NC Legislature to focus attention on the plight of individuals who live in group homes AFTER current funding ends on June 30, 2013. The rally will be held at 1:30 pm on Wednesday, May 29 in front of the NC Legislature on Jones Street in Raleigh. . . . We need all of you (group home residents, group home owners, program managers, consumers, and advocates) from every disability group to join with us as we continue to fight to save the homes for disabled people needing supervised living.” Thank you. . .

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