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Our view: Meeting the unmet needs
Our view

Our view: Meeting the unmet needs

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A bipartisan state bill filed last week by Forsyth County’s Sen. Joyce Krawiec promises to accomplish some good for some people in North Carolina — if her colleagues see their way clear to supporting it. We think a majority will.

The bill would provide $37.5 million in state funding for North Carolinians with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are currently listed on North Carolina’s Registry of Unmet Needs. The money would provide in-home skill-building services, intensive recovery support and assistance in transitional living. In short, it would provide training so that people with disabilities — like Down syndrome and cerebral palsy — can better support themselves, allowing them to live more independently and providing some relief for their long-term caregivers.

Some would-be recipients are in precarious positions — and would be even worse off if their caregiving parents die before they’re fully able to care for themselves.

Helping them now would be preferable to their winding up in institutions later.

There are more than 15,000 people listed on the Registry of Unmet Needs, including around 810 in Forsyth County. Some have been on the waiting list for almost 20 years.

The bill’s provisions would only reduce the list by around 1,000 recipients — about 6.7% — so great are the needs. It’s a modest change, but life-altering for those who receive the assistance.

Some 266 Forsyth County residents are currently receiving such services, but the county has not gained a slot since at least 2017.

The funding would be distributed through the state’s seven behavioral health managed-care organizations.

The bill also would require the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to work with stakeholders on a 10-year plan to assess and develop new strategies for reducing the waiting list even further.

“If (the Department of Health and Human Services) can move quickly, and the study does not take too long, parent caregivers, some in their 70s or older, can hope for a light at the end of a very long and ever scarier tunnel,” behavioral-health advocate Laurie Coker told the Journal.

Krawiec proposed a similar bill last year, but political wrangling prevented its passage. It was included as part of the 2019-20 state budget that was vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper because it didn’t include funding for Medicaid expansion or substantial-enough pay raises for public school teachers.

So Krawiec is trying again.

Unfortunately, one reason the bill has received support is that some Republicans see it as an alternative to expanding Medicaid, rather than as a supplement. State Sen. Phil Berger continues to oppose Medicaid expansion, framing it as “socialized medicine via Obamacare.”

That frame hasn’t stopped other red states from receiving and benefiting from Medicaid expansion. It’s hard to give Berger’s objection any credence.

But there’s no reason to choose one or the other — or to opt for further tax cuts instead, as Republicans will surely propose. North Carolina’s corporate tax rate of 2.5% is the lowest in the country for states that have a corporate tax rate.

Helping disabled people learn to care for themselves and providing their aged parents with some comfort and security would seem a higher priority.

“Expanding innovation waiver slots has been a priority for me,” Krawiec told the Journal. “I believe it is crucial to provide services to this vulnerable population.

“I do believe that the timing is right. I will not give up until services to this group of citizens have been provided.”

We appreciate Krawiec’s determination and fully support her cause. This bill should pass.

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