The Virginia General Assembly passed its 2014-2016 budget bill earlier this summer. Unfortunately, the state budget represented a major step back in state policy affecting Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
Action on the budget bill was delayed due to the heated debate about Medicaid Expansion. Various versions of the budget were presented in negotiations over this 3 month period and ID/DD Waivers were often caught in the crosshairs. Some versions of the budget added 50-500 Waivers, while other versions eliminated all Waivers above the DOJ minimum from the budget. Complicating matters further, a $1.5 billion, unanticipated revenue shortfall was announced in early June. This left legislators with the task of “trimming” $1.5 billion in spending from the final version of the bill.
In the end, only 25 new ID Waivers and 15 new DD Waivers were provided to help the more than 8,500 Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities on waiting lists in FY15 (July 1, 2014-June 30,2015). This action, which funds less than 0.5% of the entire waiting list, is devastating to many Virginians with I/DD. Unfortunately, some members of the General Assembly cited the reason for the historically low funding as being due to Virginia’s “overfunding” the I/DD Waiver waiting list. This is because the number of ID/DD Waivers provided in the previous session (2013) exceeded the minimum number of Waiver slots required by the DOJ settlement agreement.
The DOJ agreement represents “the floor” when it comes to helping people with I/DD, not the ceiling. While it is technically true that the consent decree requires a certain number of ID/DD Waivers to be funded and also allows the Commonwealth to “count” any additional Waivers it provides towards the next fiscal year, the settlement agreement ALSO requires that the Commonwealth PREVENT the unnecessary institutionalization of people with I/DD. Without the additional I/DD Waiver funding, or equivalent community-based support, hundreds of people with I/DD may be unnecessarily placed in institutions. This is completely inconsistent with the ADA as interpreted by the Olmstead decision.
At the same time it provided historically low funding for the I/DD Waiver waiting lists, Virginia’s state legislature proposed a workgroup be established to look at expanding the number of Training Centers that will remain open. This is in spite of the fact that Virginia’s second-largest state I/DD institution, Southside Virginia Training Center (SVTC), successfully closed on June 30 of this year without incident. Keeping these Training Centers open would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, which would come at the expense of the 8,500 Virginians with I/DD and their families who continue to wait for community-based care. The support needs of these Virginians are no different than those in the Training Centers.
It should be noted that the General Assembly did provide 50 ID Waivers and 15 DD Waivers in Fiscal Year 2016 , in addition to providing the ID/DD Waivers required by the agreement, to help individuals/families on waiting lists. Advocates remain deeply concerned, however, about ramifications of state budget in the current fiscal year. Just in the last month alone, The Arc advocates have already fielded several emergency family member calls that illustrate the urgency of the waiting list crisis. What do some of these emergencies look like?
- AB was living his father who is in his nineties. His mother passed away last year. When AB’s father had medical complications, he was placed in a nursing home. This left AB with no support and placed him at immediate risk of institutionalization.
- CD’s mother reached out to us because she and her daughter had recently become homeless. The family was living in a motel and was unsure where they would be next week. Without a Waiver, the family would continue to face enormous challenges.
- Due to an inability to access ID Waiver services, EF was placed in an out of state residential program. EF, who is still in school, wants to be closer to her family and EF’s mother desperately wants to bring her home. Due to EF’s intensive support needs that require 24/7 assistance, this is virtually impossible without the help of an ID/DD Waiver.
- GG and HG are an elderly couple in their eighties. They have provided support to their adult son with ID for more than fifty years and just found out about the ID Waiver this month. After meeting a local chapter representative who told them about the ID Waiver, they quickly signed up for the waiting list. GG and HG both experience significant health issues and are concerned for their son’s future if something is to happen to them.
These stories represent just a few of the hundreds, if not thousands, of crisis situations that can be found on the ID and DD Waiver waiting lists. Vigorous advocacy will be needed to ensure that these families and others get the help they so desperately need. The Arc of Virginia will remain dedicated to strengthening and growing grassroots advocacy moving forward, but we will need your help!
Please stay tuned for important action alerts, budget hearing dates and other ways you can help ensure the voices of Virginians with I/DD are heard. Please take action when you see these requests. Our efforts will culminate in a statewide “Developmental Disability Advocacy Day” at the State Capitol on January 26- the three year anniversary of the US v Virginia settlement agreement announcement.
If you’d like to learn more about the 2014 Budget Bill and how it affects Virginians with I/DD, please click here. This summary is a side-by-side comparison of various versions of the budget bill, including the final version that was signed by Governor McAuliffe on June 23, 2014.