If you were under the impression that the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) was only focused on COVID-19 right now, you would be mistaken. 

On Thursday, Jan. 13, the department published its “Olmstead Plan” – “designed to assist people with disabilities who receive or are eligible for publicly-funded services to reside in and experience the full benefit of being part of day-to-day life in communities alongside those without disabilities.”

The plan, which was put together with the help of organizations from across the state, has a goal of helping those with disabilities stay out of institutions – and of supporting those now in institutions and wish to leave.

The Olmstead Plan provides ways those with disabilities can get easier access to housing, jobs, home and community-based services in the places where they live.

NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley said in a prepared statement that the plan comes at the issue from a lot of angles.

“The Olmstead Plan captures our Department’s total commitment to build towards the vision in which every North Carolinian can live, work, and thrive in their communities. The plan supports building capacity in our community-based health care services and supports and furthering the infrastructure that enables health such as transportation, employment, and housing.  I look forward to working with all of our stakeholders to implement this plan.”

The plan, which took years to put together, gets its name from the US Supreme Court’s imperative in the case of  Olmstead v. L.C., which found that unjustified segregation of those with disabilities is, in essence, a form of discrimination.

In the first phase, the plan will attempt to:

  • Strengthen alternatives for community inclusion for individuals and families through increased access to home and community-based services and supports.
  • Use various strategies to “recruit, train and retain” staff that provide daily services that allow those with disabilities to “live, work and thrive” in their communities.
  • Move some people away from institutions to more independent living situations and provide needed supports in the community for those who need it.
  • Enhance opportunities for education and pre-employment transition services for younger clients – as well as finding “competitive integrated employment opportunities for adults with disabilities.”
  • Address disparities when it comes to access to services.
  • Get more input into public policymaking from families and individuals who’ve lived with disabilities.

NCDHHS hopes to use the data gained from implementing the first phase to improve services going forward.