If I Had a Hammer…
….I’d pretend I was as strong and patient as Judge Allen Baddour who lowered his hammer on North
Carolina’s intransigent legislature and their fickle state agencies in 2020. His message was a ruling for
our elected and appointed officials to listen and respond to court decrees dating back to the Olmstead
decision of 1998, citizen cries from across the state and injustice generally. He demanded to see a plan
for home and community based services for those with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities
seeking relief from institutionalization. “Give them a choice,” he argued.
Two years and voluminous appeals later, he has now laid bare the tragic, systemic neglect of this
inaction. Their violation of state law has continued with no measurable goals or timelines and he is fed
Earlier this month Baddour set benchmarks that the Department of Health and Human Services to
properly provide services for 16,000 North Carolinians with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
They include shifting at least 11,300 individuals from institutional settings to community based settings
by January 1, 2031, via an Innovations (Medicaid) Waiver Slot. They include some home skill building,
intensive recovery support, and transitional support for each individual receiving services.
The state has until July 1, 2032, to reduce the number of recipients on the state’s Registry of Unmet
Needs to zero. That includes over 800 Forsyth County residents. The North Carolina Waiver Action
Team and scores of other advocacy non-profits agree and have hammered in the morning, hammered in
the evening, all across the state for years. It’s been #2Long2Wait!
Disability Rights North Carolina had warned the Department of Health and Human Services prior to their
2017 filing and the judge gave both of them and others ample time to file appeals.
It seems, however, a judge can’t just send an overdue invoice to the state’s money managers and
service providers. The ruling is just the first volley thrown between DHHS and the legislature, not so
much to pay the bill, but come up with a plan to implement the ruling, then the money fun begins.
No hammer in itself can resolve all the burgeoning issues now facing the I/DD community, from the
growing Registry of Unmet Needs, now over 16,000, to the sparsity of service providers and to the
ongoing concerns for Intensive Care Facilities. Baddour speaks to the danger, the warning, and is ringing
If I had his hammer, I’d offer the Department of Instruction a similar warning from k-12 health care
curricula to the danger of no collegiate certification and care-giver career development. I’d hammer the
economic development legislators and Chamber of Commerce heads and remind them of the salary
disparities across multi-generational and multi-disability caregiving models.
But mostly, I’d say to those who want to tweak the ruling – already spreading false narratives and scare
tactics, that a judicial appeal is not the song to be singing. If anything, chanting from the rooftops “Too
Long To Wait” is in order. Sitting collectively together at a table is the cost-effective, efficient course to
find todays solutions, knowing these problems are growing more rapidly than ever.
To the recently re-elected Jeff Zenger, Donny Lambeth and Joyce Krawiec, who understand this financial
challenge, hear the bell, count your six billion in reserves and get ready for your part. All over this state,
we need your harmony.
To NCHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley, Governor Cooper, Attorney General Josh Stein, Talley Wells, Director
of the NC Council on Developmental Disabilities, and finally Dave Richard, Medicaid Director, who has
sought this solution for 30 years, get out your hammers and make this work.
For Ruby and Jamie who waited 22 years, for college grads Matt and Bryan and for the 800 in Forsyth
County in their second decade of service delays, this is the bell of freedom, the hammer of justice – and
indeed, the love between brother and sisters.