The state is moving forward with a plan to move mentally ill people out of adult care homes and beef up community treatment at a cost of $282 million over eight years.
The plan was forced by a U.S. Department of Justice and the threat of a federal lawsuit over how the state treats people with disabilities. Although theyve agreed on the details, the state and the Justice Department remain at odds over how such a plan would be monitored and enforced, state lawyer Emery Milliken told legislators Tuesday.
The Justice Department wants a legally binding agreement and will sue if it cannot reach an agreement with the state over the plans oversight, she said.
Enforcement is so critical to the United States that they are not willing to let the state go it alone, where they do not have the ability to have a signed agreement or any sort of enforcement with the state, said Milliken, general counsel for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The state developed the plan after a federal investigation found it lacked community-based alternatives for people with mental illnesses and wrongly confined thousands of people to adult care homes and institutions. Disability Rights North Carolina filed a federal complaint over housing for mentally ill people in 2010.
The $282 million plan includes creating housing combined with support services for 3,000 people, providing supportive employment for 2,500 people, and intensive community mental health treatment to 5,000 people by 2019.
The Justice Department wants the state to agree to court oversight and a court monitor, Milliken said. The state has refused and finds the idea repugnant, she said. The state has offered to hire an independent reviewer who would work for the state, but not report to the court.
Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican, said he didnt want the state to enter any binding judicial order.
Were already moving, putting money behind whats in the draft agreement, he said.
Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Union County Republican, asked whether it would be worth holding out for a change in administration in Washington to see if a Republican-run Justice Department took a different approach.
Milliken said shed talk to Tucker about that privately.