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Inequities Found Among Recipients Of NC Disability Services

Source: NC Health News

NC Health News recently reported on the challenges and inequities that persist in access to disability services, particularly for North Carolinians who want to remain living at home.

Parents and caregivers of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in NC can add their children to a statewide waiting list for something called the Innovations Waiver. The Waiver offers resources and services for people with disabilities who are in need of regular assistance to continue living independently and is essentially the only option other than having to live in a group home or other institutional setting. 

NC Health News reported that the Innovations Waiver “comes with a list of services for the family and the person with disabilities — everything from a certified in-home aid, to a therapy dog, to respite hours for the parents or primary caregiver. Once on the waiver, the recipient can receive these services for life.”

Needless to say, this program is in high demand; unfortunately, access to it can be limited, particularly for historically marginalized communities.

Waiver slots are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, giving the illusion of equal access. However, a recent study of Innovations Waiver recipients in North Carolina found racial, gender, geographic, and age inequities among those receiving services. 

NC Health News interviewed Michelle Franklin, a researcher at Duke and nurse practitioner at UNC’s Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, who said in regards to getting on the waitlist for the Innovations Waiver, “If you’re white or if you’re a man or you live in a city and if you’re over 21, you are much more likely to receive this waiver.” 

Franklin was also the lead author of the report “Inequalities in Receipt of the North Carolina Medicaid Waiver Among Individuals with Intellectual Disability or Autism Spectrum Disorder”, and told NC Health News, “Our findings demonstrate that people don’t have equal access and there’s unmet need… If we do not do something different, these inequities will get worse because the need is only increasing.”

A big part of the issue is that many people in need of these services aren’t aware they are available. And typically once they do and apply for services, the wait list is so long that oftentimes, the opportunity for early intervention services has passed.

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