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Ask NC Legislators Not to Cut Services

Last week, the House passed its version of the two-year budget bill, Senate Bill 257. Thank you to all the advocates for telling your stories. The House version of the budget includes 500 Innovations waiver slots, restores more of the funds for services for those waiting for help through Local Management Entities, and raises the cap on special education funds in public schools. The Senate budget includes a new program for education savings accounts to help students with disabilities, but it also removes more funding from state-funded services managed by the LME/MCOs. Both budgets require LME/MCOs to use their own fund balances to maintain current levels of services, despite the recurring cuts in funding in both versions of the budget. While ASNC does not support removing *any* funds that help people without services, the House version of the budget retains more of these state funds for LMEs and specifically directs a portion of these to be used to expand waiver slots and crisis services.

Senate and House budget committee members are now starting the conference committee process, during which they will come to agreement on the differences between the two versions of the budget. We still have time to push for conference committee members to take the House budget numbers, which, while they still make some cuts to services funding, are better for people on the autism spectrum. To view the Senate and previous House budgets, go to the General Assembly website. Current budget documents are posted on the left side of the homepage. You can view a side-by-side comparison of House and Senate Health and Human Services budgets at NC Health News.

Here’s why the Senate budget numbers are a problem for children and adults with autism:

  • North Carolina has 11,500 people waiting for Innovations waiver services: 250 helps, but more slots are needed to reduce the wait
  • While individuals wait, sometimes going into repeated crises, the only services they may qualify for are state-funded through the LME/MCOs. State-funded services administered by the LME/MCOs fund things such as crisis care, respite services, day services, and residential care, as well as social and recreational programs. These programs build skills, provide safety and support, and give families a needed break.
  • During a crisis, individuals wait in Emergency Departments for scarce beds in programs that have the capacity to help them.
  • And during all of this, they no longer have case management to assist them with system navigation, finding resources, and helping families advocate for better care.
  • In addition, the 12.5% cap in local education funding for special education has not been increased in decades. More than half of the schools in the state are at the cap, which limits funds available to serve children with disabilities in schools.

 

What can you do?

The needs of children and adults with autism are many, but there are solutions. North Carolina has the revenue to make targeted investments in serving those who need services and special education. Please call or write the NC senators below and ask them to start doing so now.

1) Ask NC senators to support autism services in the budget: Contact the NC senators listed below and ask them to support in the Health and Human Services budget for people with autism including Innovations waiver slots, crisis services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, funding for needed autism services, and raising the cap in special education funding in public schools.

The message is simple: Too many people with autism are waiting years for help. NC must fund Innovations waiver slots, crisis services, and autism services in Medicaid, as well as return funding to LME/MCOs for people who have no other access to services. Please support the House budget numbers.

If you have a family member on the autism spectrum, are waiting for help, and/or if services have helped you in some way, share your story.

 

2) Thank NC representatives and ask them to continue to support the House budget for HHS and special education: Contact the following NC House “Big” Appropriations members and tell them thank you for supporting autism in the budget conference committee process.

The message is simple: Thank you for funding 500 Innovations waiver slots, restoring LME/MCO single-stream funding, supporting crisis services, and increasing the cap on special education funding for students with disabilities.

 

3) Ask representatives to support education savings accounts for students with disabilities: Contact the NC House Appropriations Chairs listed below to ask for support for education savings accounts language that is in the Senate budget. Education savings accounts allow the state to set $9,000 per account-holder aside for educational needs for elementary and secondary education. Funds are accessed by families with a debit card and can be used for tuition, educational materials, and education-related services. Fund use would be monitored by the state agency assigned to manage the program. The NC Senate introduced SB 603, the “Exceptional Education for Exceptional Children” bill, outlining the program, but the education savings accounts language in the Senate version of the budget contains improvements and is supported by ASNC.

The message: Please support the NC Senate budget language and funding, which establishes a new education savings account (ESA) program for K-12 students with disabilities.

If you or your family has found success in using the current students with disabilities scholarship or you think that the ESA would help your student, please share your story.

 

To learn more about how to advocate with your legislators, see our website.

The Autism Society of North Carolina will continue to monitor state and federal policy issues and post updates. Please be on the lookout for our action alerts so that you know when the autism community needs you to advocate with your elected representatives. Sign up for public policy emails on our website.

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