Grim choices

By Barbara Goodmon

[06.22.04] — State lawmakers are kicking North Carolinians who already are down because they are poor, or suffering from HIV/AIDS or mental illness.

Couples working multiple minimum-wage jobs to feed and shelter their children, for example, would face cruel choices because of a vote to reduce the subsidy for day care.

They could opt to quit one or more jobs to care for their children, a choice that would leave them homeless because they could not pay rent.

Or they could leave their children alone or with unlicensed caregivers, putting their children at risk of being hurt or abused, and running the risk themselves of being charged with neglect.

Grim prospects also face North Carolinians diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

Because the legislature set a limit on yearly income of less than $11,637 a year, HIV/AIDS patients do not quality for North Carolina drug assistance.

While patients may earn $14,000 a year, their medicine will cost them $12,000 to $15,000 a year, leaving them with no choices and the prospect of unnecessarily early death.

And the mentally ill fare no better.

Our state mental institutions are sizing down and the state’s mental health reform plan is supposed to follow the patient into the community with money to provide all necessary services.

But state lawmakers have cut the money to provide services.

That leaves unacceptable choices for a mentally ill female adult who has spent most of her life in one of our state institutions and then is released to the community.

She can live on the streets because of a lack of service, or move in with her elderly parents who may be unable to take care of her.

Our state lawmakers need to grow a heart and the backbone to eliminate the disgraceful hurdles they are creating for some of the neediest North Carolinians.

Barbara Goodmon is president of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which publishes the Philanthropy Journal.

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