Concerns spur more changes to Wyo disability program redesign

2013-08-27T18:20:00Z 2013-08-27T23:55:06Z Concerns spur more changes to Wyo disability program redesignBy JOSHUA WOLFSON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
August 27, 2013 6:20 pm  • 

CASPER, Wyo. — A plan to redesign one of Wyoming’s main programs for funding disability services is getting its own overhaul amid criticism from parents and guardians.

State health officials have spent months reshaping the Home and Community-Based Waivers program, which pays for services for people with developmental disabilities. Family members and providers who serve the disabled raised objections, worried the changes would result in drastic budget cuts.

The public feedback prompted significant changes to the redesign, said Chris Newman, a senior administrator with the Wyoming Department of Health, said Tuesday.

“We really tried to put in a lot of different of tings to address that,” she said. “We are hopeful it will.”

About 2,200 people with disabilities rely on the waivers for services ranging from tutoring to intensive supervision. Nearly 600 more are waiting for a spot in the program.

Lawmakers ordered the redesign to cut the waiting list without spending more money. Officials planned to accomplish that, in part, by creating two separate waivers. Most people would receive a capped waiver for less-expensive support care, while those with more demanding — and expensive — needs would qualify for a comprehensive waiver.

Families worried the change would leave their loved ones with less funding. Nonprofit groups feared major cuts.

As a result, officials now plan to put everyone already in the program onto the comprehensive waiver that supports larger budgets. New people who come off the waiting list will receive a support waiver, which has spending limits. Adults will be capped at $16,500 annually, with additional funding for case management. People ages 21 and under would be limited to $12,500.

The money might not meet all of a person’s needs. But officials believe it’s better to have some money than languish on the waiting list.

“The logic there is we are at least giving funding to people who aren’t getting any right now,” Newman said.

Over time, people with intensive needs could be transferred to the comprehensive program.

Other changes are also planned. Providers won’t have their rates reduced, Newman said. The department also plans to eliminate yearly budget changes for people on waivers. They hope to discourage families from spending their entire budget — regardless of need — to avoid having it cut the following year.

Health officials plan to post the changes for public comment in the next week or so, Newman said.

In the meantime, concerned families are preparing for rallies in Casper, Cheyenne and Jackson to encourage lawmakers to increase spending for the waiver.

Without increased funding, money to remove people from the waiting list will come from those who already rely on the waiver, said Vickie DeVries, who’s helping to organize a Thursday rally at Pioneer Park in Casper.

“We are talking about people who are already low-functioning and need a lot of assistance to have a quality of life,” she said.

DeVries, whose adult son is on the waiver, believes parts of the program should be redesigned. Some people in the system receive outrageous budgets, she said. But the changes shouldn’t come at the expense of people with intensive needs.

“It shouldn’t have to be like that — especially in Wyoming, with the kind of money the state has,” she said.

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