It was truly an historic session. Marked by massive demonstrations with the series of Moral Mondays at the General Assembly, (and one Thankful Tuesday!), it was a session characterized by tremendous disagreements across party lines- from health care expansion to education to voter and gun issues as well as disagreements across the legislative bodies- the House and the Senate. They adopted a $20.6 billion state budget for the upcoming biennium (FY 2013-15 S402)We worked hard on advocating for l500 people in group homes, and for keeping access to needed mental health medications open. And we made a difference. Read on:
Final Outcomes in the Budget (SB402):
1. Open Access to Medications (we fought against a prior authorization requirement) - The final includes language that there is no prior authorization for mental health drugs on the PDL (preferred drug list). However, for ADD/ADHD medications for patients under l8 a prior authorization is required. Also, DMA is authorized to implement prior authorization to meet budget goals (cuts)
2. Funding for Group Homes (4-6 bed homes) to replace loss of Personal Care Medicaid Funding - Approved $4.6 M temporary funding, probably not enough for what is needed; long term solution proposed is a tiered special assistance (SA) rate to vary based on intensity of need. We were successful in getting date changes to include those in group homes on or after January l, 2013 which will cover turnover within these homes.
3. Gun Laws - HB 937: Amend Firearms Laws - Allows carrying guns in bars, community colleges, and university campuses. Increases penalties for some gun-related offenses; limits local government's ability to prohibit persons with concealed carry permits from carrying weapons. The final bill passed and did not include a provision that would have eliminated a requirement to get a permit before purchasing a pistol.
4. HB 831: Educational Services for Children in Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities (PRTF) (one step down from inpatient care) Bill provides for the education of children in PRTFs. Requires all facilities to have a school and the state board of Ed could allocate funds. Did not pass both houses; eligible for consideration in short session
5. ADATCs (Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centers), Wright School, Broughton, etc. The Senate had proposed eliminating ADATCs and closing Wright School. Final- ADATCs had a 12% cut, Wright school is saved. Broughton received an expansion of 19 beds (from medicaid contingency fund) and $ll.5 M for equipment, furniture, and Information technology. The NC Child treatment program received money for treatment for children with trauma ($1.8M recurring) , and funding of statewide telepsychiatry phone lines to help with ER overloads.
6. Voting rights of individuals with disabilities - HB 589 This item was pulled from the fire- initially would have limited who could assist an individual who was not their own guardian from the voting process. This was struck, a huge victory. Still of concern: elimination of same day voter registration; prohibits voting on the last Saturday before election after 1 PM, eliminates provisional voting if someone shows up at wrong precinct.
7. Raise the Age - HB 725 The Young Offenders Rehabilitation Act
While this item did not become law; it went further than it has ever gone- successful second reading vote on the House floor (61 to 37). This is the bill that would change 16 and l7 year old minors with misdemeanors from being prosecuted as adults, giving them a chance to lead successful lives. This will go back to the General Assembly in May for the short session.
8. Early Intervention - Child Development Service Agencies (CDSA) - $8M and $l0M recurring cuts; however, removed the mandate to close four CDSAs.
9. Tobacco quitline- Down from $17M to $1.2M Huge cut. Our population will be especially impacted.