Tillis calls for special session on mental health group homes

From staff reportsNovember 30, 2012 

GOPPOWER04.NE.062012.CCS

N.C. Senate Pro-Tem Phil Berger, left, listens a N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis speaks at a joint budget press conference held at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, NC on June 20, 2012.

CHRIS SEWARD — cseward@newsobserver.com

— House Speaker Thom Tills on Friday asked Gov. Bev Perdue to convene a special session on funding for the state’s mental health group homes.

Tillis, a Republican from Mecklenburg County, sent a letter to the governor outlining his request.

“We have worked diligently to find solutions to the problem of providing funds to group homes for mental health patients under new federal guidelines,” Tillis’ letter reads. “While we continue to work toward long-term solutions, it is time to address the short-term funding issue that could potentially force our most vulnerable citizens out of their homes at the end of this year.

“The House of Representatives stands ready to fix this problem in a special session, and I encourage the governor to call us back to Raleigh to do the right thing for our citizens.”

An estimated 2,000 people currently living in group homes could be without a place to stay as of Jan. 1 because of a funding mix-up. For years, the state’s standards made it harder for people to qualify for such services if they lived at home, but that violated federal rules. To get in compliance, the state changed its system so that those living in licensed facilities had to meet the same qualifications as those living in a private home.

Those new rules, effective Jan. 1, make it harder for people living in group homes to qualify. The changes affect about 10,000 people in adult care homes, too, but the legislature set aside $39.7 million in the budget to spend through June to help adult care homes compensate for the loss of federal money. Group homes were not included in the plan.

Republican lawmakers said they would be willing to consider changing the law to make group homes eligible for the Medicaid replacement money. But the legislature won’t start passing more laws until Jan. 30, leaving a gap of at least a month when most group home residents wouldn’t be eligible for personal care under Medicaid.

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