On December 16, Governor McDonnell released his proposed state budget for 2014-2016. The state budget includes adjustment in the current Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) budget (the so-called “caboose” budget). It also includes the next biennium budget covering Fiscal Year 2015 (July 2014-June 2015) and Fiscal Year 2016 (July 2015-June 2016). The state budget is very important because it determines the number of Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who will gain access to essential long-term services and supports over the next 30 months. It will also determine the types of services and supports that will be available to people with I/DD, as well as the quality of those services and supports.
While the Governor’s proposed budget provides the additional I/DD waiver slots called for in the Commonwealth’s agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the budget does not provide sufficient funds to address the growing backlog in unmet needs among the I/DD population and achieve the long-range goal of the settlement agreement ie., ensuring that all Virginians with I/DD, regardless of the complexity of their support needs, can receive the services and supports they need in the most integrated settings possible. Under the proposed budget, the waiting list for I/DD services- currently approaching 8,000- will increase by an additional 1,500 people by the end of the next biennium (i.e., by June 30, 2016).
The initial set of recommendations from the waiver redesign study has not been released. While The Arc of Virginia is hopeful that the study will result in a variety of badly needed changes in waiver program and policies, it is important to point out that these changes will not be fully implemented until Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16). In the meantime, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities will continue to face many of the same barriers to community integration as they do at present.
To make matter worse, Virginia has yet to adopt a unified approach to administering I/DD services. Examples of the inadequacies in the current approach include:
- The budget does not include a commitment to reinvesting cost savings associated with the phase down and eventual closure of state-operated training center closures in enhancing statewide capacity to serve individuals with I/DD in home and community-based settings.
- Accountability for overseeing key components of I/DD services continues to be divided between the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) and the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS). Competing interagency priorities leads to inconsistent decision making and delays that thwart progress in implementing the DOJ settlement agreement and related I/DD system reforms.
- The proposed budget language suggests that the Commonwealth intends to press forward with enrolling long-term services and supports for all Medicaid recipients-including all public and private ICF/IDD residents and all participants in I/DD wavier programs- into Medicaid managed care plan operated by private, profit-making companies beginning in FY 2016.
- There has been little budget transparency and minimal stakeholder engagement with the respect to the development of I/DD Waiver programs and policies.
These are big issues and they require immediate attention. In response to the Governor’s proposed budget, The Arc of Virginia is in the process of finalizing its legislative priorities for the upcoming session of the General Assembly. The general aim will be to advance community integration for all Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities and facilitate compliance with the terms of the DOJ settlement agreement. This is an important time for Virginia. If we fail to achieve the types of system reforms called for in the agreement, we may not get another chance in the years ahead.
We are urging the Commonwealth to uphold its commitments to eliminating the waiting list for I/DD services and to helping people with I/DD live in the most integrated settings. To accomplish this goal, however, we will need your help. A series of action alerts will follow in coming weeks, letting you know how you can help improve services and supports for people with I/DD and make the vision of “A Life Like Yours” a reality. The first “Call to Action” is to make sure that we speak out and have a strong presence at the regional budget hearings on January 3rd. More information about this important advocacy event will follow later this week.
For a detailed summary of Governor McDonnell’s Proposed Budget Bill, click here.
As always, thank you for your advocacy.
-The Arc of Virginia