BOISE -- Millions of dollars in services have been restored to help Idaho's developmentally delayed adults. But, while those providing the services celebrate, questions remain about where that money will come from.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare provides a Medicaid program where intellectually-disabled adults are given personal budgets to pay for services and programs allowing them to continue living in their communities, rather than in an institution.
Back in 2011, Health and Welfare changed how they figured those individual budgets. They say, some increased, and some decreased.
Van Beechler is with Access Behavioral Health Services, which provides out-patient services to Idaho's developmentally delayed adults. She says those budget decreases hurt.
It was kind of a large step back, said Beechler. A lot of families were forced to put their adult participants back into more 24-hour environments like supported living, that sort of thing.
State officials downplayed the impact of the cuts.
We were very successful maintaining services, with no one having to be institutionalized because of a reduction in their budget, said Tom Shanahan with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Frankly, I don't quite blame the Department of Health and Welfare, Beechler said. They did the best they could, with the money they were given.
But, in 2012, the ACLU launched a lawsuit on behalf of some disabled Idahoans, whose budgets were cut, and couldn't afford the same levels of care. And just yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued an injunction, restoring about $16 million in services to those budgets.
Beechler says this helps her clients stay independent, which helps the whole community,
It's going to help people live independently and be on their own, and work jobs, and interact with their peers.
Meanwhile, Shanahan says it will place a huge administrative burden on the state,
The ruling did not restore the budgets, he said. But instead directs us to restore the services to match those provided in 2011 before any budget adjustments. We will have to conduct an individual review of each case from 2011 to determine if the services provided in 2011 are equal or greater than services being provided today. This could amount to several thousand individual case reviews.
Where will the $16 million come from? Shanahan says Health and Welfare officials will have to talk to the Governor's office about that, once the case reviews are done.
He also added, We are concerned that the costs resulting from the ruling could have the unintentional consequence of creating waiting lists for participants, which has occurred in many states. We sincerely hope that does not occur and will do everything we can to prevent that.
The injunction also allows the ACLU lawsuit to proceed as a class-action suit. That opens the case up to about 3,600 people who lost some of their Medicaid dollars, and aren't getting 24/7 care.