From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
There is good news for Arkansas families of people with developmental disabilities. The Legislative Council has committed to eliminating the waiting list for home-based and community-based services.
It will take three years for the 3,200 people on the waiting list to finally become eligible for the Medicaid waiver that allows them stay at home.
That is a long time, but some families on the list have been waiting as long as 10 years.
That was unacceptable, but at last we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
The problem was that Arkansas was a state that over-emphasized institutional care.
Other states have been moving away from institutions, except in the most severe cases.
In Arkansas we were slow to change, even though it is widely known that institutional care is much more expensive than home-based care.
Legislators approved the policy change for the state Division of Developmental Disabilities Services.
At the same time, we approved new regulations that allow the Division to certify family members and legal guardians as care givers.
This is extremely important for people who have a family member who needs care for disabilities, because it means that they’ll be reimbursed for the long hours of care they already provide.
Medicaid officials will offer training to family and legal guardians before they are certified.
The addition of family members as paid care givers is a critical provision in the state’s plan to eliminate the waiting list.
That’s because the state does not have enough staff to provide services for all the people seeking home-based care.
This is a red letter day for families with a loved one who has disabilities, and I’ll be the first to admit that it has been too long in coming.
Last year, when the governor wanted to call a special session to reduce income taxes, I was joined by legislative colleagues who pressured the executive branch for a commitment to eliminating the waiting list.
Our philosophy was that if Arkansas can afford a tax cut for the wealthy, we can certainly afford to take care of our most vulnerable citizens.
We were successful in getting a commitment of $37.6 million, specifically targeted to eliminating the waiting list.
That funding was approved in the fiscal session earlier this year, and has been allocated to the Division of Developmental Disabilities.
I intend to “follow the money” in order to make sure that the Division makes home care available to every person with disabilities, if that is what they and their families want.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.