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Governor to Ask Legislature to Shift Funding to Cover Services for Over 500 on Waiting ListDate: 09/13/2016
LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a proposal on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, designed to reduce the number of people with developmental disabilities on a waiting list for certain Medicaid-funded services.
During his announcement at the Arkansas Tobacco Settlement Commission quarterly meeting, Hutchinson told commission members that a portion of tobacco settlement money that goes to the Department of Human Services (DHS) is earmarked for the ARHealthNetworks program, which no longer exists. He said he’d be asking the State Legislature to allocate the roughly $8.5 million in annual settlement funds to cover home and community-based services that help keep people with developmental disabilities out of institutional settings. If approved by the Legislature during the next regular session, that money would be used as match to receive additional federal funding of over $21 million. Services would be available July 1, 2017.
Hutchinson detailed why he believes this is an ideal way to reduce the number of residents on the waiting list.
“This allows me to push forth a very doable proposal that I hope will be embraced by the Legislature,” he said. “It gives them hope. It gives them a solution. It gives an answer to a problem that’s been nagging our state for decades.”
But why is Hutchinson’s announcement and plea for support such a big deal?
It’s estimated that between 500 and 900 people on the waiting list will be able to get Medicaid-funded services under this proposal. There are more than 3,000 individuals total on the list, and some have been on the list since 2007.
“This is unallocated money from a program that has ended,” Hutchinson said. “Therefore, it’s available, and I think this is a wise use of it.”
“This is progress. This is hope. This shows the seriousness of the state to address the waiting list,” he said. “Once you start whittling down that waiting list, you’re going to move up on it much quicker.”
Melissa Stone, director of the DHS Division of Developmental Disabilities Services, said Tuesday that the Governor’s request will have a significant and meaningful impact on families all across the state.
“I talk with families waiting for these types of services all the time, and I can tell you that this funding could be life-changing for them,” Stone said.
Paula Fontinel said her grandson, Cade, has been on the waiting list since he was 6. He’s now almost 16.
“Oh this gives me chills,” Fontinel said when she learned about the Governor’s proposal. “I’m almost 70 years old, and I think about people like me who don’t have a lot of support. I certainly hope this goes through.”
If the Legislature approves allocating the money for the waiting list next year, eligible families will be notified by DHS and scheduled for an independent assessment to determine the level of services they will receive.