Thursday, March 9, 2017

Just because you’re on the Waiting List doesn’t mean you need to wait for services

Other services available for people on the NOW waiver

Author: Mark A. Thomas, Assistant Secretary, Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities

When I began my career, as a direct support professional in the field of disability services more than 20 years ago, one of the biggest challenges facing families and individuals with disabilities who were seeking services was the Request for Services Registry. Most people called this the waiting list for the NOW waiver (New Opportunities Waiver). Today, in my role as the Assistant Secretary for the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, the waiting list, which is approaching 15,000 people, is still an issue. I recognize that change is needed and I'm pleased to share news about the progress we've made. 

Over the last several years, the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities has been working in collaboration with recipients, families, advocates and stakeholders to improve our service delivery system through a system transformation initiative. Our staff has been aggressively pursuing a variety of best practices that will allow us to serve more people in home and community-based settings. Critical to this is addressing the waiting list through our Request for Services Registry Screening Project. Through this project, we'll be able to better understand the needs of those waiting and ensure they are directed to other helpful resources and services. 

A process to get assistance sooner
The Screening Project is where we conduct individualized screenings for those who have applied for home and community-based waiver services and are on the waiting list. These screenings help us to determine the type and urgency of the supports needed by each individual currently on the waiting list in order for that person to live in the community.

These screenings will identify people who would benefit from non-waiver services now, and make referrals to the appropriate service providers. Accepting these services will not change a person’s status on the waiting list.

The screening process is a partnership between the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, regional Human Services Districts and Authorities, support coordination agencies and other entities. Individuals on the waiting list are contacted by a screening project representative, and an appointment is made for the formal screening. This is called the Screening for Urgency of Need. The screening visit takes about two hours and will be updated annually to ensure the most up-to-date information. The screening is not an offer of services, however it is important that individuals complete the screening to remain on any future registry.

How it works
During the screening process, individuals on the waiting list can expect to talk with a screening project representative about their needs and supports, types of existing formal and informal supports and services they may currently receive, types of supports and services they need but do not currently receive, and the urgency of the supports that have been identified. After the screening process, appropriate referrals will be made to the regional Human Services District/Authority or other governmental agency.

Since the project started in October 2016, more than 4,000 individuals on the waiting list have been screened. The project will end this May.

A firm foundation to help more people, more quickly
Words simply cannot begin to express how excited I am about this screening project, and what it will mean to the thousands of citizens with developmental and intellectual disabilities currently on the waiting list. For the first time in the history of the department, this project will help us set a firm foundation for a comprehensive plan to address the needs of individuals and family members who have been waiting for services for a long time.

The screening project was made possible because of funding that was appropriated to the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities during the 2016 legislative session with approval by legislators and Governor John Bel Edwards.

We know that conducting these screenings for those individuals on the waiver waiting list will provide us with valuable information to help us further improve our system. The data will allow the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities and the state to project the dollar amount necessary to meet the needs of these individuals and direct resources to where they are most needed.

While the political, fiscal, programmatic, and service delivery landscape has changed dramatically in Louisiana over the past 20 years, the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities continues to embrace optimism. As we continue to broaden our horizon, the initial data from the screening results gives me hope and allows me to believe that as we transformation our system, we will transform lives.

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