This article was contributed by Jennifer Mahan, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at ASNC.
On June 1, the NC Senate released its version of the budget adjustments bill for this year. Despite advocacy directed at the Senate to improve on what the NC House budget offered, the Senate includes no funding for federally required autism behavioral services (EPSDT), child or adult IDD crisis funding, pilot programs for targeted case management, or other autism services. The Senate instead reduces funds to the Medicaid base budget by 8%, rather than investing in needed autism services. The Senate included only $30 million in replacement funds for state-funded services to the Local Management Entities/Managed Care Organizations (LME/MCOs), and that funding is contingent on there being savings elsewhere in the budget to support it. The total loss of funds to LME/MCOs over two years is close to $275 million. In addition, the Senate does not include enough funding to take hundreds of families off of the waiting list for the K-12 students with disabilities scholarship.
Senate and House budget committee members are now starting the conference committee process, in which they will come to agreement on the differences between the two versions of the budget. There is still time to push for conference committee members to take the House budget numbers, which do not include everything we have asked for, but are better for people on the autism spectrum. To view the Senate and previous House budgets go to the General Assembly website.
Why are the Senate budget numbers a problem for children and adults with autism?
- North Carolina has 12,000 people waiting for Innovations waiver services
- While they wait, sometimes going into repeated crises, the only services they may qualify for are state-funded through the LME/MCO or in some cases, Medicaid EPSDT autism services. State-funded services administered by the LME/MCOs fund things such as crisis care, respite services, day services, residential care, and social and recreational programs. These programs build skills, provide safety and support, and give families a needed break.
- During a crisis, they wait in emergency departments for scarce beds in programs that have the capacity to help them.
- And during all this, they no longer have case management to assist them with system navigation, finding resources, and helping families advocate for better care.
- Hundreds of children are waiting for K-12 scholarships even though legislators have said they are committed to offering a variety of educational options for students with disabilities who may not be able to be served in the public school system.
What can you do?
The needs of children and adults with autism are many, but there are solutions. North Carolina has the revenue to start making targeted investments in serving those who need services and educational options. Please call or write the NC senators below and ask them to start doing so now.
1) Autism Services: Contact the NC Senators listed below to ask for funding in the Health and Human Services budget for people with autism including Innovations waiver slots, crisis services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and funding for needed autism services in Medicaid.
The message is simple: Too many people with autism are waiting years for help. NC needs to fund Innovations waiver slots, crisis services, and autism services in Medicaid, and return funding to LME/MCOs for people who have no other access to services.
If you have a family member on the autism spectrum, are waiting for help, and/or have been helped by services in some way, share your story.
- Ralph Hise, Co-Chair Health and Human Services Appropriations, 919-733-3460, Ralph.Hise@ncleg.net
- Louis Pate, Co-Chair Health and Human Services Appropriations, Deputy President Pro Tem, 919-733-562, Loiuis.Pate@ncleg.net
- Tommy Tucker, Co-Chair Health and Human Services Appropriations, 919-733-7659, Tommy.Tucker@ncleg.net
2) K-12 Scholarships for Students with Disabilities: Contact the NC senators listed below to ask for funding to remove the waiting list for K-12 scholarships for students with disabilities in non-public schools.
The message: Ask the senator(s) to support the House’s budget, which puts $5.8 million in the budget for children and families on the waiting list for K-12 students with disabilities scholarships.
If you are on the waiting list or your family has found success in using the scholarship, please share your story.
- Chad Barefoot, Co-Chair Education Appropriations, 919-715-3036, Chad.Barefoot@ncleg.net
- Tom Apodaca, Co-Chair Education Appropriations, 919-733-5745, Tom.Apodaca@ncleg.net
3) Support the House budget for HHS and Education: Call the following NC House “Big” Appropriations Chairs/Members and tell them to support the House budget numbers during the budget conference committee process.
The message is simple: Use the House position on funding for Medicaid services, LME/MCO funding, crisis services, and the scholarship for students with disabilities.
- Nelson Dollar, Senior Chair Appropriations, 919-715-0795, Nelson.Dollar@ncleg.net
- Donny Lambeth, Chair Appropriations, 919-733-5747, Donny.Lambeth@ncleg.net
- Josh Dobson, Vice-Chair Appropriations, 919-733-5862, Josh.Lambeth@ncleg.net
- Brent Jackson, Co-Chair Base Budget, 919-733-5705, Brent.Jackson@ncleg.net
- Kathy Harrington, Co-Chair Base Budget, 919-733-5734, Kathy.Harrington@ncleg.net
- Harry Brown, Co-Chair Base Budget, 919-715-3034, Harry.Brown@ncleg.net
If you have questions about the North Carolina state budget or other policy issues, please contact Jennifer Mahan, ASNC Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-865-5068.Tags: ASNC, Asperger Syndrome, Asperger's Syndrome, autism, autism advocacy, autism health care, autism nc, autism north carolina, autism society north carolina, autism society of NC, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorder, autism support, budget, Developmental disability, legislation, managed care, medicaid, NC state budget, North Carolina General Assembly, public policy