The Arc of Texas Supports Increasing Timely Access to Services for HCBS

The Arc of Texas submitted written testimony in support of House Bill 3720, with revision, by Representative James Frank. If passed, this bill combined with ongoing funding of the waitlist, can lead to more timely access to community-based services for Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The Arc of Texas CEO Jennifer Martinez submitted the following testimony to the House Human Services Committee on April 6, 2021.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input on HB 3720. I am Jennifer Martinez, Chief Executive Officer at The Arc of Texas. The Arc of Texas promotes, protects, and advocates for the human rights and self- determination of Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). We appreciate Chairman Frank’s leadership on this bill and his willingness to work with stakeholders to increase timely access to services for Texans with IDD.

As the committee is aware, Texas has a rapidly growing waitlist for home and community-based services (HCBS), with more than 170,000 Texans waiting up to 15 years to receive services. It is crucial for the legislature to adequately fund the first-come, first-serve interest list and promoting independence (transition and diversion slots) waivers, this session and beyond. Without adequate funding, needs will only continue to increase and more Texans and their families will face a crisis.

The following provisions combined with the previously discussed revisions to this bill can complement the necessary appropriations for HCBS waivers and help develop a long-term system that can meet the needs of Texans with disabilities. Specifically:

  • We appreciate Sec. 531.0606 with recommended edits, which modifies the eligibility criteria of the Texas Home Living Waiver to be consistent with all other HCBS waivers. This provision will allow more people to access services that meet their needs in a timely manner.
  • We are grateful to see the inclusion of the Intellectual and Developmental Disability System Redesign Advisory Committee (IDD SRAC) in the development of a questionnaire for individuals on the interest list. The IDD SRAC has the historical knowledge, expertise, and membership representation to provide meaningful input on the questionnaire. It is important to have the correct stakeholders at the table to avoid unintended consequences, collect accurate data, and ensure trust from those filling out the questionnaire. If done thoughtfully and correctly, Texas could obtain a clearer data immediate and long- term needs, as well as identify gaps in accessing existing services.
  • We also support the creation of an online portal—and a phone number for those who need that accommodation—where individuals can request placement on the list and update their information, ultimately saving time and resources for individuals, families, and state agency staff.
  • We support and believe that allowing kids in need of supports from the Medically Dependent Children’s Program (MDCP) who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to be assessed immediately will greatly benefit those meeting that eligibility criteria and prevent unnecessary crisis and/or institutionalization.

Lastly, as shared, we have worked with the office on important revisions around individuals considered “inactive” by the commission. Although we understand the intent behind this provision, we also know the reality and experiences of Texans on the interest list, and therefore recommend the following additions to this section:

  • Allow individuals who were deemed inactive at one point and who contact the commission to be returned to active status in the same position that corresponds to their original request date.
  • Although an individual who is considered inactive for four years or more may not be reported in the public interest list data, they must not be permanently removed from the list. In addition, the commission shall report both the active and inactive list at least annually to the IDD SRAC, to ensure stakeholders have the information needed to address barriers to services and improve process for individuals on the interest list.

We again would like to thank Chairman Frank for this legislation and his work with us and others to prevent unintended consequences and overall strengthen the bill. We look forward to our continued work to increase HCBS services for all Texans with disabilities.