Olympia Reporter 8/7/17

Published Aug. 7, 2017

Olympia Reporter 8/7/17

2017 session is finally wrapped up!

After a 105-day regular session plus three 30-day special sessions, the state legislature has finally called an end to their work for 2017. It is becoming a pattern for the legislature to go into three special sessions to complete their required task of creating a state biennial operating budget, keeping us in session for six months. This year was extremely frustrating for advocates because the negotiations on the final compromise budget was all done behind closed doors and not even legislators knew what was in the budget until the day it was voted on.

Fortunately, services for people with developmental disabilities were well-funded, a relief after months of tense waiting. Here are some of the notable budget items (amounts listed are total of state and federal funds):

  • $79.1 million - Increase the hourly benchmark rate for community residential service providers including supported living, group homes, and licensed staffed residential homes - $1.25 per hour effective July 1, 2017, and an additional $1.00 per hour effective July 1, 2018, for a total $2.25 per hour increase. The rate increases will bring the statewide hourly average benchmark rate from approximately $16.80 to $19.05.
  • $9.5 million - Service providers for individuals with developmental disabilities, will receive vendor rate increases of 2% on July 1, 2017, and an additional 2% on July 1, 2018. These increases apply to assisted living facilities; area agencies on aging; service providers specializing in employment support, respite, and other community-based services, but do not apply to the vendor rate for individual providers, agency providers, adult family homes, nursing homes, community residential service providers, or nurse delegators.
  • $7.5 million - Funding is provided for Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) clients who will be leaving high school, but are not currently receiving services authorized under a Medicaid waiver, to participate in employment programs in the 2017-19 biennium. Roughly 600 clients will receive employment services through this funding.
  • $40,000 - Personal Needs Allowance Funding is provided for an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to the Personal Needs Allowance (PNA) of Medicaid clients in community and institutional settings per Senate Bill 5118. The PNA is the amount of a client's own income that he or she may keep to spend on small personal items, rather than contributing it to the cost of care.
  • $52.8 million - Funding is provided to implement the 2017-19 collective bargaining agreement with individual providers (IPs) of in-home personal care services. The agreement includes phased-in wage increases to raise the seniority-based wage scale to a minimum of $15 per hour by January 2019. The agreement also includes increases in contributions to the health care, training and retirement trusts; an increase in paid time off; a health and safety benefit study; and 15 minutes of paid administrative time per IP per two-week pay period.
  • $481,000 - The work week limit on certain individual providers (IPs) is maintained at 65 hours per week rather than 60 hours per week in FY 2018.
  • $6.5 million - Funding is provided for additional state-operated living alternative beds for transitioning clients ready for discharge from the state psychiatric hospitals.
  • $590,000 - Discharge case managers will focus on transitioning clients ready for discharge from the state psychiatric hospitals into state-operated living alternatives.
  • $22.7 million - Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, funding is provided to support an expansion of the state's special education program, increasing maximum state-funded enrollment from 12.7% to 13.5%.
  • $1.9 million - Funding is provided for implementation of House Bill 1115 to create a para-educator board and develop specialty certificates in special education that para-educators can obtain.
  • $1.6 million - Implement training to increase use of less lethal force in law enforcement, create leadership program.
  • $515,000 - Implement House Bill 1402 to prevent guardian isolation.
  • $153,000 - Create First responder training and add disability information to Enhanced 911 per House Bill  1258.
  • $3.2 million - Host the 2018 Special Olympics USA games in July 2018 for approximately 3,500 athletes.

The Capital budget was an even more contentious process. The legislature only came to agreement for a one-year capital budget of re-appropriations, which included:

  • $540,000 for the Housing Trust Fund DD set-aside
  • $4.9 million for the back-up power and electrical feeders at Fircrest
  • $1 million for infrastructure upgrades at Lakeland Village

The normal 2-year capital budget got hung up on a controversy around water rights and well drilling, and the legislature went home without finalizing anything.

What policies got passed?

The following bills passed the 2017 session and have been signed by the Governor:

HB 1115 - Para-educators Setting employment standards for para-educators to get a  para-educator associate of arts degree (Rep Bergquist)
HB 1719 - Early Learning (DEL request) Update early learning advising and contracting, add DD representative to Early Learning Advisory Council (Rep Lovick)
HB 2037 - Higher education obstacles Reconvene workgroup to look at obstacles for people with disabilities in higher education (Rep Frame)
SB 5976 - Overtime hours Exceptions provided for payment of overtime hours up to 65 hours a week extended through 2018 (Sen Rivers)
SB 5867 - Self-directed services Joint Legislative Committee on Aging & Disability to make recommendations on consumer-directed approaches (Sen Braun)
HB 1671 - Activities of Daily Living (ADL) Expands definition of ADLs to include medication assistance (DSHS request) (Rep Cody)
SB 5118 - Personal needs allowance Provide increases to personal needs allowance for Medicaid eligible elderly & people w/disabilities  (Sen Rolfes)
HB 1322 - Respite providers Reduce training hours for respite provider caring for a person with DD & working less than 300 hours a year (Rep Kilduff)
HB 1258 - People w/disabilities at an accident Design statewide training for first responders & 911 personnel, assess 911 system to add disability info (Rep McCabe)
SB 5177 - LTC worker training Require long term care workers to be trained to recognize hearing loss (Sen Bailey)
HB 1262 - Accessible parking Van accessible spaces must have at least 96" access aisle with a sign prohibiting parking there (Rep McBride)
HB 1515 - Special parking privileges Doctor must write authorization on prescription pad, office letterhead or electronically (Rep Graves)
SB 5018 - Wheelchair accessible taxicabs Study of whether wheelchair accessible taxicabs having access to HOV lanes causes excessive traffic in them  (Sen Hasegawa)
HB 2003 - Special parking privileges for taxis Allow special parking privileges for organizations that dispatch taxicabs for persons with disabilities (Rep Kloba)
HB 1153 - Protection of vulnerable people Increase penalties for financial exploitation and financial abuse of vulnerable people (AG request) (Rep Goodman)
HB 1676 - Service dogs in training Includes service dogs in training to the state regarding crimes against service dogs (Rep Sullivan)
HB 1401 - Guardian ad litem Removal for making a false statement under oath, match child with special needs with trained GAL (Rep Ortiz-Self)
HB 1402 - Guardian isolation Guardian cannot restrict contact for an individual from others without good cause and court approval (Rep Jinkins)
SB 5691 - Changing a guardianship Court may modify or terminate guardianship if less restrictive option is better (Sen Bailey)
SB 5646 - Yakima Valley RHC Close Yakima Valley when 8 residents left, offer crisis stabilization/respite as needed in catchment area or emergencies; develop community respite (Sen Honeyford)

You can find the list online at http://arcwa.org/takeaction, just click on Legislative Issue Papers where you can access the Bills of Interest.

2018 Advocacy Days

We are already preparing for the next legislative session in 2018. Each week of Advocacy Day will have a specific topic that we provide information to every legislator about. Our theme this year was “Don’t Le-go of Our Services” with each button having Lego characters and a message about the topic of the week. Next year we are looking to help legislators work “In Harmony” where each of our buttons will have a musical theme. You can find the 2018 Advocacy Days weekly topic and button information on our web site at www.arcwa.org.  Click the “Take Action” tab, then click on Advocacy Days.

What is happening to Medicaid?

We all need to keep informed about Medicaid Services at the Federal level. Congressional Republicans in the House want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports evaluate the effect of proposed legislation on services. The CBO is nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis of proposed legislation. According to the CBO, people who are less healthy (including those with pre-existing conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non-group health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all.

All options presented so far would cut Medicaid significantly. Apple Health, as well as most DDA services in our state, are all paid for with Medicaid dollars. Medicaid covers not just health care services, but also residential services, employment supports, personal care, behavior interventions, therapies, respite care and more.

The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding is set to expire at the Federal level on September 30, 2017. The CHIP program has provided low-cost health coverage for 20 years to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In Washington State, our CHIP program is called Apple Health for Kids. Be sure you are signed up on our Action Network at http://capwiz.com/arcwa/state/main/?state=WA and respond to the calls for action!

We need to remain vigilant! Learn more on our web site by clicking on the “Take Action” tab, then Medicaid - Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!


DON’T FORGET TO KEEP YOUR BLUE SCARF TO WEAR AGAIN NEXT YEAR!

 Read the Olympia Reporter for in-depth news happening in Olympia.
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 Sign up for The Arc of Washington’s Action Network.
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 Write Letters to the Editor of your local newspaper. The Arc makes this easy for you to do. Simply go to http://capwiz.com/arcwa/home and click on the “Media Guide” tab. Choose five newspapers to send to, then write your message and click send.

Questions? Need more information? Email me at Diana@arcwa.org.

Remember, change is being made by those who show up!