Sunday, January 9, 2011

Alabama won't apply for federal money to help people with disabilities live in the community

From The Times Daily:

Alabama is not among more than a dozen states that applied for federal grant money designed to decrease use of institutional care for people with

More than a dozen states applied for the Money Follows the Person grant through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.

“We didn’t apply because of the potential to create program expansion in the state in times when the state is unable to afford that expansion,” said Robin Rawls, communications director for the Alabama Medicaid Agency in Montgomery. “We told them in late October we would be unable to pursue this at that time, and we hope they will offer another round, but we’d still have to resolve the issue of expansion.”

It’s the second round of grants for the program that would allow Medicaid dollars to follow an individual into more independent living rather than to a nursing home bed. Officials with CMS have not said if another application process will open. To date, 29 states have adopted the Money Follows the Person program as part of the first round that took place in 2006. In five years, CMS said it has already relocated about 12,000 Americans from nursing homes to community-type living.

Rawls said the state is working on additional Medicaid waiver programs that would meet the needs of state residents. There are just more than 15,200 waiver slots available for individuals in need statewide.

In the absence of the federal grant money from Money Follows the Person, state Sen. Tammy Irons and Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, have said they would work on legislation that would help change the situation in Alabama, especially for residents such as Haylee Cain.

At 21 and with cerebral palsy, she found herself living in a nursing home. Without family able to care for her, she likely would still be living there had Judson and Donna Emens, a Tuscumbia couple, not come forward and opened their home to her.

Irons has said she hopes to address the plight of physically challenged adults such as Haylee during the upcoming legislative session that will begin in March.

“Haylee’s story is beautiful, and it’s a prime example of someone who doesn’t need to be in a nursing home, and that state Medicaid dollars need to be used to take care of her at home instead of in a nursing home,” Irons said. “There are times and places when we need a nursing home, but it should be a final step. If we’re able to keep more people in their home, they would have a better quality of life and still be taken care of.”