Monday, September 29, 2008

Lt. Governor Bev Perdue's Address at The Arc of North Carolina Conference

This is the text of the speech that was given on Friday, September 26, 2008 at The Arc of North Carolina annual conference. Lt. Governor Bev Perdue addressed a crowd of over 100 attendees who had gathered for our annual conference.

I’m privileged to be here today as a candidate for governor - of the best state in America - NC.

Over the past several months we’ve all heard the disturbing reports about our mental health system.

I share the outrage of every citizen - stories of gross abuse and neglect, poor services and staffing shortages.
As governor I will hold the system accountable for quality individual outcomes -- ways never before done. NC’s mental health system will focus on customer service, patient care, and respect. Neither abuse nor neglect will be tolerated. I want us to provide the best treatment, support, and care possible.

And you know what -- I believe 99% of NC’s hard working mental health providers wants that same care. They need to trained and tooled to do their jobs.
That’s why I will initiate a simple but paradigm-changing course of personal action and accountability. I will be an unprecedented hands-on, on-Site governor that tolerates no mistreatment or maltreatment in NC’s system or institutions of care.

There will be a new boss in town. This boss has zero tolerance for mistreatment. I will make unannounced visits to agencies and facilities across the state.

I’ll show up and say “Hello, I came to see what you do, and the challenges you face, your successes, what works and what doesn’t work -- on-site accountability.

Accountability for quality individual outcomes is critical, and I will work actively with you toward that goal.

I recognize that there are common challenges, but I also understand that with so much focus on the
reform of services for the mentally ill within our mental health system, developmental disabilities or substance abuse, are often lumped in, left behind, or ignored.

I clearly understand the distinct difference between Mental illness and Developmental Disabilities. These 2 very different sets of challenges obviously require different sorts of treatment options, community and congregate care.

All of us must understand the differences between mental illness and developmental disabilities if we are to make progress in meeting the needs of both.

Many of you were at the DD Summit a few weeks ago when my opponent’s surrogate thought that people with developmental disabilities were the same as Dix Patients.

I want to assure you, I know differences. I’m a leader who gets it.

I’ve lived with this on a very personal level. My husband Bob and I – our first granddaughter Rachel is 12—she’s beautiful, loved, and adored. She was born with cerebral palsy and has a 100% disability.
I see the challenges for my family. The daily struggles of 24/7 care. The impact on that precious family. The complexity of the why? How? What if? And Rachel’s future.

A recent UNC study that reported ‘chilling’ hardship rates among families raising kids with disabilities -- the struggles to keep a roof over their head and food on the table -- while providing them comprehensive care the individual with developmental disability requires.

And talk about costs - it’s impossible to calculate for our Rachel, the costs of inpatient and outpatient care -- the cost of 24 hour care -- the emotional costs -- the physical costs -- no math formula can estimate.

And in NC many families with children who are developmentally disabled are experiencing real financial hardship. It’s especially true here in the Southeast.

NC can do better for the DD community. As governor I will make that happen.
Onsite-accountability is a start. We will be partners to sure up every niche of our DD system and sure up our DD community.

I want to see a complete DD continuum of care from home, to community, to institutional -- with a priority on the least restrictive area.

And I have a goal to expand economic and educational opportunities for the developmentally disabled.

Parents of children with developmental disabilities want their kids to have a quality education. They want their kids to reach their educational ability. And experience the educational environment -- that includes social relationships at school.

As governor I will work to find more special education teachers and improve special education programs in our public schools.

I see first hand, families with developmentally disabled children who aren’t as challenged as Rachel. They need to be able to prepare their kids to live in the world we live.

So, my goal is for ALL public school kids to be self-sufficient, active tax-paying citizens, contributing to their communities.

Real jobs for real wages is the goal for all students, not just some students. It’s good for all of us.
And I will make sure the quality and degree of care is not dictated by zip code.

NC must create a safety net which assures a core set of services in all 100 counties. And obviously we need transportation…because the best system in the world won’t work if you can’t get there.

And finally, I will continue to support funding for the Housing Trust Fund. Many people with developmental disabilities are living on a $670 social security disability insurance check. Now if any of you have looked for an apartment recently you know that’s not going to cut it.

Now I’m a realist and I know improving the system is easier said then done. It’s going to take real leadership. And it will take each of us working together.

Under a Perdue Administration things WILL change. Advocates, agencies, providers, consumers, family members—everyone will have a seat at the table.

I will provide attention, care, and personal, hands-on, and on-site accountability for all our people -- more than any governor in history.

With your support, and I’m asking for your support today
• we can build a strong system of care for individuals with developmental disabilities
• we can provide a system of care for everyone regardless of where you live
• we can create a better public school system that works for all for our kids
• we can expand economic opportunities
• and ensure the accessibility and availability of benefits

Together we will make NC a national leader in developmental disability care.

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