The Arc of Texas continued its legacy of promoting, protecting, and advocating for the human rights and self-determination of Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Together with coalitions of IDD organizations, Texas Advocates, local Arc chapters, and hundreds of volunteers, progress was made and we began laying the foundation to affect positive changes next session.
In the 140 days of the 85th Texas Legislative session, legislators filed 6,631 bills. Just over 1,000 made it through the whole process and became law (the lowest number to pass in recent history). Unfortunately, this session did little to advance priority issues for Texans with IDD. This is particularly reflected in the 2018-2019 budget, which provides no funding to reduce the waitlist for community services; historically low funding for promoting independence waivers; and drastic cuts to attendant rates.
In addition, the House’s failure to act on Senate Bill 602 (a commission to study Texas’ 13 failing state supported living centers) and the Senate’s lack of action on House Bill 2409 (improve employment practices) shows an unwillingness to reform the IDD system in a meaningful way. While this is extremely disappointing, there were some bright spots this session. It is crucial to continue fighting for what is just and right for Texans with IDD!
See below for more details and for ways to get involved.
Strengthens the Governor appointed Special Education Continuing Advisory Committee to ensure individuals with disabilities, parents and advocates have the opportunity to provide input on special education issues to the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
Removes the 8.5% indicator that capped special education enrollment from the TEA monitoring requirements and prevents the State from enacting future harmful indicators like this one.
Will study what meaningful employment training opportunities exist for people with IDD in Texas and make a report to the Legislature.
Updates the transition handbook for school-aged students and incorporates information about supported decision-making agreements and other alternatives to guardianship.
Extends the IDD Managed Care Pilot by one year (2019) and delays the carve-in of Texas Home Living (TxHmL) into managed care until the pilot is completed and the data is analyzed. TxHmL is now slated to be carved into managed care in 2020.
Continues Medicaid medical assistance for some Texans with IDD if they experience a temporary pay increase for a month and ensures people do not get wrongfully denied Medicaid services.
HB 2409 would have initiated a process to phase out the practice of paying individuals with disabilities less than minimum wage in the Purchasing from People with Disabilities Program. This program employs more than 6,000 Texans with disabilities and less than 5% are currently being paid less than minimum wage. By and large, paying employees with disabilities minimum wage or higher is a best practice in the program. The bill received huge bipartisan support with four joint authors and 34 co-authors but ultimately failed to pass both chambers.
This bill was a balanced and reasonable opportunity for Texas to study our 13 state supported living centers and make recommendations to the Legislature on how to better allocate our limited resources to better support more Texans with IDD, regardless of where they chose to live. Sadly, SB 602 failed to move through the process in time for passage. The bill had bipartisan support in the Senate and was referred to the House Committee on Human Services, but was never called for a hearing.
The budget is always one of the most important bills that the Legislature must pass, and it directly impacts the services and supports we provide for Texans with IDD. This budget reflects a departure from decades-long efforts to enhance and expand community-based options, and we fear this will lead to individuals being forced into institutional settings.
For the first time in over a decade, the legislature did not provide ANY funding to reduce the extensive waitlist for home and community based services.
There are more than 130,000 Texans waiting up to 12 years for critical services in their communities. Individuals and families will likely now face a 14 to 15 year wait due to the lack of funding this biennium. You can see from the chart below that Texas is not fulfilling its responsibility to adequately provide services to Texans with IDD and they are being left behind.
Promoting independence waivers prevent individuals from entering more costly, institutional settings and assists individuals transition into the community. Although some HCS services were added to the final budget, the number of services funded is substantially less than the need. The Health and Human Services Commission requested more than 2,500 and the Legislature only funded 735. Most notably missing from the budget are the “diversion waivers” that help individuals remain in the community after they experience crisis situations or go too long without services.
We worry that without funding for these waiver services families and individuals will be forced into crisis situations and it will be difficult for Texas to be compliant with Olmstead, which requires individuals with disabilities to be served in the least restrictive setting appropriate.
Unfortunately, the Legislature moved forward with the 21% rate cut to HCS and TxHmL CFC (personal attendant and habilitation services). It is important to note that individuals in group homes and companion care are not included in these cuts because they do not receive CFC services. In addition, individuals using the Consumer Directed Services (CDS) Option were exempted from this rate cut.
Although we are pleased to see that this cut won’t put services in jeopardy for individuals using CDS, we are extremely concerned about access to care for the 8,000+ individuals who will be directly affected by these drastic rate cuts. The cuts are scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2017.
Governor Abbot has called a special session to begin July 18th. A special session can only be called by the Governor and Legislators can only consider legislation that fits into topics the Governor specifies. In Texas, a special session cannot last more than 30 days.
This special session was called to address a must-pass “sunset” bill that failed to pass during the regular session. In addition to the sunset legislation, Governor Abbott named 19 other topics that can be considered after the sunset legislation passes. Some topics that may affect Texans with disabilities are: school finance reform, Vouchers for students with disabilities, mail-in ballot regulations, and patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders. Go here for a full list of topics: https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-announces-special-session
Remember, affecting positive changed happens in your communities, not just in Austin. Now is the time to start developing and building relationships with your local legislators. Find out who represents you.
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