On August 23, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of North Carolina announced the settlement of a lawsuit concerning North Carolina’s inadequate provision of housing for people with mental illness. The settlement is designed to ensure that North Carolina’s mental health service system is in compliance with federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The case arose from a complaint filed by Disability Rights North Carolina in June 2010 alleging that the State was disproportionately placing individuals with mental illness in Adult Care Homes (ACH) rather than in more integrated community settings, as required by federal law. As a result of that complaint, on July 28, 2011, the DOJ issued a finding that North Carolina had “fail[ed] to provide services to individuals with mental illness in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs in violation of the ADA,” and that “[r]eliance on unnecessary institutional settings violates the civil rights of people with disabilities.”
According to a Justice Department fact sheet about the August 2012 settlement,
Under the Agreement, over the next eight years, North Carolina’s system will expand community-based services and supported housing that promote inclusion and independence and enable people with mental illness to participate fully in community life.
The Agreement will transform North Carolina’s mental health system from one that is heavily reliant on large, institutional settings, to one that is focused on providing community-based services and housing that enable individuals to live, work, and participate fully in community life.
The Agreement provides community-based supported housing to 3,000 individuals unnecessarily segregated in, or at risk of entry into, adult care homes.
The Agreement also provides thousands of people with mental illness access to critical community-based mental health services – including Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams, crisis services and supported employment services. The State will also implement a person-centered discharge planning process to help individuals transition to the community and a pre-admission screening process to prevent individuals from becoming unnecessarily institutionalized.