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Film, discussion to address shortage of services for people with I/DD

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When it comes to serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), North Carolina is facing a double crisis: too many clients on a waiting list for services and not enough of a workforce to provide the help they need. Those dilemmas and how they can be addressed will be the topic of a short film, followed by a panel discussion, at Wingate University on Thursday, March 23.

The Arc of North Carolina and the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities, with support from the University, will present “Unmet: The Current Crisis in North Carolina for People with Disabilities” from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Batte Center’s McGee Theatre.

Provost Jeff Frederick and professor Wendy Sellers, who was hired this year to develop and direct a new master of social work program at Wingate, will showcase the work of The Arc of North Carolina, which has provided advocacy and services to the I/DD community since 1953. Born out of a grassroots movement of families working to create services for children and adults who were being denied daycare, educational opportunities and work programs, The Arc provides support services for people with disabilities across the state.

“We are really excited to partner with The Arc of North Carolina and the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities in hosting this event,” Dr. Sellers said. “As we continue to develop our upcoming MSW Program, we look forward to these opportunities to collaborate with organizations that are providing critical services to individuals, families and communities in the surrounding area.”

The 25-minute “Unmet” documentary, commissioned by the NCCDD, follows the real-life situations of individuals with developmental disabilities and what their needs look like.

According to the NCCDD, some 16,000 people who are living with I/DD and qualify for services in the state are on a list called the Registry of Unmet Needs (RUN) while awaiting funding from the North Carolina General Assembly. Often that wait for essential services is longer than 10 years.

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Additionally, many people with I/DD need daily support, such as help with bathing and cooking, to be able to live in their homes and communities safely. This assistance is provided by direct support professionals, who earn an average of only about $13 an hour in North Carolina. As a result, many families affected by I/DD find it impossible to find staff for necessary services. A 2022 report by the Washington-based advocacy group ANCOR found that 63 percent of providers across the nation are discontinuing programs and services because of insufficient staffing.

“These are two long-simmering crises that we have to meet now,” Talley Wells, executive director of the NCCDD, said in a press release. “The ‘Unmet’ film brings viewers inside the homes of North Carolina families and people with I/DD to see what our neighbors are experiencing due to the waitlist and workforce shortage.”

Winston-Salem native Bryan Dooley, who chairs the NCCDD, says his hope is that state leaders will respond to the crises with bold action while the General Assembly is in session.

“People with I/DD, when receiving adequate supports and services, can be productive, engaged citizens in their communities, and we can contribute to our society,” Dooley says.

Wingate’s event, hosted by the Lyceum Program, is free and open to the public. Reserve your seat.