Families Push to End Waiting List for Disabled Services

- LITTLE ROCK, AR - Family members of more than 2800 Arkansans with disabilities advocated Thursday for the legislature to approve a plan to end the waiting list for therapy services.

The Community First Choice Option, or CFCO, seeks to make therapy services available to people with disabilities outside of an institutional setting.

Teresa Dodson of Garland County says her 14-year-old son Nathan has been on a waiting list for seven years.

"You look at your child and at how comfortable they are in their home and you can't even consider putting a child in an institution," Dodson says.  "But once he gets out of school in the afternoon, or during the summer, there are no services for him."

The Arkansas Department of Human Services says the state can take advantage of an improved cost-sharing arrangement with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services if the state ends the waiting list. 

Right now it's a 70/30 federal/state cost share, which would switch to 76/24 if Arkansas makes the change permanent with the Centers for Medicade & Medicare Services.

DHS director John Selig says the move could save the state budget $365 million a year.

"The sooner we implement, the sooner we think we start accumulating savings in the state budget," Selig says.

Some lawmakers, including state representative David Meeks, R-Conway, expressed reservation Thursday about accepting additional funds made possible by the Affordable Care Act, to expand services.

"I'm looking at an alternative plan that doesn't, you know, put the state in a bind potentially because we're at the mercy of the federal government," Meeks says.

Dodson and other family members on Thursday hope the legislature decides the plan offered by the feds is the best use of taxpayer dollars.

"What about what it costs taxpayers to institutionalize our children if that's what it comes to," Dodson asks. "Change is scary. I don't know that this is the right answer but we have to start somewhere, we have to help these children."

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