Mentally ill could find new housing in coming years - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Mentally ill could find new housing in coming years, new agreement reached

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina and federal officials have reached a deal that mean thousands of people with mental illnesses would have to move from adult care homes to community housing.

Last year, the Justice Department claimed the state was violating federal law because too many mentally ill people were living in adult care homes.

If half of the residents have primary diagnosis of mental illness, it comes what's deemed an institute of mental disease. By law, if too many people who live in these facilities are mentally ill, the facility won't qualify for Medicaid benefits.

The agreement would help them with rent, job training and potential employment.

Starting this year, as many as 300 folks could find new homes and within the next 8 years, the state must be able to house 3,000 mentally ill.

There's about 40 facilities across North Carolina where people could be affected.

Three of those are here in Charlotte.

Amy Hart is the administrator at Hunter Village in Huntersville and Crown Colony in Mooresville. Both assisted living facilities. Between the two, sixty some people live with mental illness.

"Them not having this choice is really going to be upsetting," Hart said. "I think it will be a human tragedy..I think we will see a lot of people getting sick...people being taken advantage of and also that may get unstable and hurt other people."

But advocates for the mentally ill call the new agreement a "terrific" thing - one that moves North Carolina forward.

"For the first time people living with mental illness will have choices about where they can live," Deby Dihoff, Executive Director of NAMI North Carolina said. "People with mental illness really want what these rest of us want. They want to have relationships and productive positions and jobs, meaningful work opportunities."

The plan that includes money for housing, job training and treatment is estimated to cost $287 million over the next 8 years.

But even advocates worry about the initial rollout and if elected officials will continue to budget appropriately to provide for this.

"Now we're doing the right thing but we need to stay the course, we need to sustain the effort," Dihoff said.

Hart worries not only for her residents but staff as well. She says if folks are forced out, she'd have to cut staff.

"Certainly there have been people who've been well served. I think what we're really advocating is the lack of choice. If having lived there, having their needs met, if they choose to stay, that's great. A number of our help line calls are from families who are very satisfied with care they receive," Dihoff said.

Copyright 2012 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.  


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