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SHERIDAN — Nearly 50 Sheridan residents attended a legislative listening session Monday night at the Sheridan Senior Center to express concerns about the redesign of developmental disability waivers being conducted by the Wyoming Department of Health.
The redesign is required by Senate Enrolled Act 82, which was passed by the Wyoming Legislature in 2013. It will affect the Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver Programs that serve people with developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries.
In the redesign, the department of health has said it will create two separate waiver programs, including one for supportive services and one for comprehensive services, that will optimize services for current clients and extend services to people currently on a waiting list, according to a short summary about the redesign published by the Wyoming Department of Health.
However, many service providers, case managers and guardians who care for people with developmental disabilities at home have expressed outrage at the redesign, saying it will greatly disrupt the lives of clients who receive services at places like Eagle Ridge, Easter Seals and Rehabilitation Enterprises of North East Wyoming, as well as home-based clients.
“We are accused as politicians of always talking and never listening. That’s not true, especially here in Sheridan County,” Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, said to introduce the listening session.
The session was attended by Patton, Rep. Kathy Coleman, R-Sheridan, who serves on the Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee, Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, and Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee.
“This is a non-Easter Seals issue. It’s a non-RENEW issue. It’s a kid issue, and it’s a personal issue,” Craig Fisgus said.
Fisgus is a caretaker for a person with a developmental disability and said he is concerned that the Department of Health is asking people to do more with less.
The revision will make cuts to current waiver services, possibly eliminating long-time case managers and providers and replacing them with regional case managers, in order to find funds to eliminate the waiting list.
While many at the session said they agree the waiting list needs to be shorter or eliminated, they don’t think this revision is doing an adequate job of providing continued care to current clients who face major changes if they must switch case managers or providers or receive less care time.
“Having a stranger pick who is best to care for your kids after case workers have done so well at getting to know these kids just doesn’t make sense,” said a parent of a child with a developmental disability.
Coleman said the Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee directed the Department of Health to leave respite care services alone in the revision, but several at the listening session said that respite care was going to be limited to eight hours at a time, meaning a weekend or even a night away for rejuvenation won’t be possible.
The revision also seeks to eliminate the possibility of people holding dual roles as case managers and service providers to eliminate issues with conflicts of interest. However, in a rural state like Wyoming, making people who fill that dual role choose one or the other may lead to lack of services or job loss, Independent Case Manager Linda Garrison said.
Several public forums and listening sessions have been held around the state as people express concern about the waiver redesign.
“I feel as if our committee should be doing something to stop this, and we’re not. I can see that this is a complete and total disaster. I don’t understand why other legislators, especially the chairman of our committee, doesn’t see this,” Coleman said following the listening session. “Something has to stop. I just don’t see how it’s possible that this could even move forward. I’m looking at a train wreck and I can’t believe nobody else sees that it’s a train wreck.”
Coleman said in order for the issue to be revisited by the Legislature, a bill to stop the revision or change its implementation would have to be proposed. The bill would have to receive a 2/3 vote to be heard on the floor, which may be difficult since many legislators were in favor of the bill last session. Also, in a budget session, bills have the best chance of being heard if they are proposed by a committee.
Coleman said she will do everything she can to talk to the Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee about the issue and see if it can be addressed in the 2014 legislative session. The Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee will meet Nov. 4 and 5. A discussion and update on the Developmental Disability waiver redesign is on the agenda.