Help Coming For Hundreds Of North Carolinians With Severe Disabilities

Jul 29, 2019

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services headquarters at Dorothea Dix in Raleigh.
Credit Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Hundreds of families with children with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities will soon receive robust help from the state.

Lawmakers have approved an expansion to the Innovations Waiver program, which pays for services that help families and individuals with IDD.

The program is sometimes quite generous. The average expenditure for an Innovations Waiver slot is $65,000 per year, but annual spending for each slot isn't capped until $135,000.

"For people with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities, the Innovations Waiver slots provide services that profoundly change their lives," said Sen. Dan Bishop, chairman of the Health Care and Appropriations on Health and Human Services senate committees. "Almost no private family could manage to pay for them out of their own budget. But they're life altering for the patients, and for the families and their relationship with their loved one."

However, because Innovations isn't an entitlement program, total spending is capped, and there are more people who qualify for services than there is money to fund those slots. So there are more than 12,000 people on a waitlist.

The proposed state budget would add another 1,000 Innovations slots. Although that would clear less than 10 percent of the backlog, it's one of the biggest additions in any single budget.

Although the state budget is held up in negotiations, the Innovations slots are not considered a bargaining chip.