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Wyoming Bill to Assist Brain Injury Survivor

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 28, 2011 12:30

A Wyoming program that helps the disabled has a long waiting list, but a state bill to be introduced next year could help.

The Star-Tribune reports that a bill to be introduced during the upcoming legislative session would provide $28 million in state and federal funding for Wyoming's Home and Community Based Waiver Program (http://goo.gl/7kL60).

The waiver program provides services for people with disabilities. More than 450 people in Wyoming are waiting for adult, child or brain-injury waivers.

The waiting list includes people like 27-year-old Melissa Dixon, who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. She's unable to leave home because she has poor motor skills, but she craves independence.

"It makes her feel like she's still a little kid," said D.J. Dixon, her adoptive mother. "And she'd prefer to be around people who have more in common with her."

If the Dixons could get a waiver, the money could pay for an assistant who helps her with social skills and job training. Melissa's been on the waiting list for a year and a half.

"It's not that we want money or anything like that," D.J. Dixon said. "We just want her to have services so she would be able to feel good about herself."

Wyoming established the waivers to help people with developmental disabilities remain in their communities, rather than be institutionalized. The state's adult and child disabilities programs began in the early 1990s and now provide services for more than 2,000 people. Another 170 adults receive assistance through the acquired brain injury program, which began in 2001.

Wyoming expects to spend about $214 million on the waivers over the next two fiscal years, with about half the cost paid with federal dollars.

The funding isn't enough to meet existing demand for the waivers. As of the end of November, 184 disabled adults, 199 disabled children and 72 people with acquired brain injuries were on waiting lists. Disabled adults spend an average of more than two years on the list; children and people with brain injuries each typically wait more than a year.

"They only have a set amount of money," said Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, who presented the bill to a legislative committee earlier this month. "Until someone goes off the program, they can't let someone else on."

The bill would provide funding to cut assistance gap times to six months for adults and children and one month for people with brain injuries. It would also require the governor to inform lawmakers whenever those times exceed the guidelines.

Gov. Matt Mead has offered his own funding proposal. He has recommended the state spend $12.5 million, rather than $14 million, to shrink the waiver waiting lists. His budget would eliminate brain injury assistance gap times, but would cut adult and child waits to a year, rather than six months, spokesman Renny MacKay said.

The exact funding details can be worked out, Gingery said. But the waiting list issue should be addressed, even amid a time of budget tightening.

"No one with a child should have to wait two or three years to get services," Gingery said. "For these adults who want to be independent, we should be doing everything we can to help them be independent."


Article found at trib.com

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