Developmental disability service expansion signed into law

Access to high-quality care for individuals with developmental disabilities has been a longstanding issue in Washington as families face a substantial waiting list for services. Legislation developed by Sen. Andy Hill was signed into law today by the governor and will provide respite care and supported employment to 5,000 people with disabilities without costing the state additional money.

“Prioritizing our most vulnerable citizens provides people and their families with the support to address their needs while remaining in the community,” said Hill, of Redmond, who serves as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “So many families have faced this daunting waiting list for many years. I’ve heard widespread support from parents for whom this measure will make a meaningful difference in the quality of care they can provide.”

The plan would extend assistance to 4,000 families waiting for respite care, which is regularly scheduled relief for those who provide in-home care instead of an institutional setting. Another 1,000 people would receive employment support services, to help people find jobs and remain employed if they are able to work.

“This bill is historic. In my 45 years as a parent advocate, living in four states, I have never seen a proposal that will help so many families and individuals with intellectual disabilities,” said Margaret-Lee Thompson, a parent advocate and board member of The Arc, a national organization of community-based groups who advocate for and serve people with developmental disabilities and their families. “4000 families on the waiting list will receive respite services with no additional funding from our state. Another 1000 people, many in crisis, will receive services in their homes and communities rather than having to move to a nursing home or an institution.”

The plan would adopt the Community First Choice Option that increases the state’s Medicaid matching funds for community care. The cost savings would then be directed to those who qualify, but currently receive no state assistance.

“This Senate Bill will help families rejuvenate and provide better long-term home care,” said Jaren Wicklund, of Renton, who testified in support of the plan before the Senate Health Care Committee. “My seven-year-old son has been on a waiting list for three years without receiving any aid and my applications for a waiver have been denied despite his physical needs. Our family needs help with respite care.”

Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate and by a 93-4 margin in the House of Representatives. Hill was joined by many advocates for people with developmental disabilities at today’s bill signing ceremony.