Family says state ruling will help daughter with disabilities get care at home

A historic ruling for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities now requires that North Carolina build community infrastructure that would give them a place to live and associated services.

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Tim and Dana Rhoney have been fighting for years for their daughter Samantha’s rights. Samantha has an intellectual disability, a movement disorder and other needs that require round-the-clock care.

“Samantha is quite capable of doing so much but somebody has to be trained somebody has to know her,” Dana Rhoney said.

Managed care organizations have been cutting some services so when Samantha’s care organization started cutting hers, her parents said they felt like they had no options.

Samantha’s options were to stay at home without the proper services that would ensure her safety or send her to an institution.

“Samantha was unsafe in her own house; that is what it boils down to,” Tim Rhoney said.

The Rhoneys never stopped fighting to get Samantha back to living in the community. Seven years and a lawsuit later. Samanth is doing that with the help of Disability Rights North Carolina. She will help others in the same situation.

“So this case is about really liberating people to live in their communities and deliver lives or they have access to all of the things all of us enjoy,” said Lisa Grafstein, litigation counsel for DRNC. “But I appreciate the fact that we have a choice where we live.”

Grafstein has been working on Samantha’s case and earlier this week, they saw a big win. A judge ruled that not only is the state violating the law by denying care to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but now there are specific goals to ensure that the state addresses the cuts. The cuts include addressing the shortage of direct care workers who provide community-based support.

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The state must also provide assistance to 3,000 people, which would allow them to leave or avoid institutional settings.

“We are really eager and hopeful of the stable implement and people with disabilities have been waiting so long for this, and I’ve been promised so much for so long,” Grafstein said. “It’s really time for the state to act.”

Samantha is the named plaintiff in the case and now she can fight for others, much like her family fought for her rights.

“If you ever saw my daughter smile, you would know why we won’t stop,” the father said.

North Carolina residents with intellectual and development disabilities and their families “have waited far too long for this,” said Virginia Knowlton Marcus, CEO of Disability Rights North Carolina. The nonprofit is a plaintiff in a 2017 lawsuit along with several people with disabilities and their guardians that led to Baddour’s rulings.

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