The 2014 Legislative Wrap-up

Published May. 13, 2014

Session ended on time!

The 2014 supplemental legislative session ended on March 13, 2014, right on time. This is unusual because the last few years have seen us go from one special session to another. The 2013 session was supposed to last for 105 days, but with one special session after another, the session lasted almost six months! We now know which bills passed on to the Governor and were signed into law. Some of those bills include:

• SB 6387, creates a new Medicaid Individual & Family Services program, add people to Basic Plus waiver and changes respite provider training requirements to intermittent providers working 300 hours per year instead of 20 hours per month, minimizing the training requirements for certain respite providers;
• HB 2746, which refinances the Medicaid Personal Care through the Community First Choice Option, bringing an extra 6% in matching federal funds and allowing people with DD to be taught how to do some of their own personal care tasks, if possible, instead of just receiving the care;
• HB 2616, which requires Children’s Administration to make reasonable efforts to work with the Developmental Disability Administration (DDA) to create a plan to assist parents who have developmental disabilities who are going through dependency hearings;
• SB 5958, which requires accountability for providing opportunities for students receiving special education services to participate in transition services;
• SB 6129, which directs a work group to create training for para-educators;
• HB 2544, which requires that a blood sample for disorders leading to intellectual disabilities be taken within 48 hours of birth;
• HB 2363, which allows dependents of military service members to retain eligibility for DD services in Washington State while transferred out-of-state.

What about the budget?

Some bills did not make it through the bill process, but were included through the budget process instead because a legislator championed for its inclusion in the budget. Other budget items were included without a bill through a process known as a proviso (language in the budget bill that places a condition on the actual use of those particular funds). This often happens because constituents, such as yourself, make the issue important to your legislator and it is why your advocacy is so important.

The amounts indicated below show the two places the funding comes from; General Funds State (GFS) and/or General Funds Federal (GFF). These include:

• $204,000 GFS / $208,000 GFF ~ DSHS is to begin moving Medicaid Personal Care to the new Community First Choice Option to get an additional federal match and use some of the additional funds to add 1,000 openings to the Basic Plus waiver;
• ($451,000) This actually saves state funds by bringing a federal match we did not previously receive for the program.) ~ DSHS will convert Individual & Family Services program to a Medicaid program for a federal match, add 4,000 new people with DD by June 2017;
• $3,000,000 GFS / $2,900,000 GFF ~ After a number of years of some cuts and no increases, the supported living provider rate will increase by 30 cents per hour
• $459,000 GFS ~ OSPI will create a para-educator training work group with the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and Professional Educator Standards Board
• $561,000 GFS / $695,000 GFF ~ The Health care Authority will add reimbursement for developmental and autism screenings to the Medicaid plan (Apple Health)
• $200,000 GFS ~ Reinstates some funding that was taken away last session from the Office of Public Guardianship
• $8,241,000 GFS / $7,221,000 GFF ~ Implements commitments in the Children's Mental Health settlement to settle a lawsuit. Provides intensive wrap-around mental health services for Medicaid-eligible children per SB 6558.
• $738,000 GFS / $1,452,000 GFF ~ Lakeland Village, a Residential Habilitation Center, was found out of compliance and fined by CMS for improperly reclassifying Intermediate Care Facility patients to nursing home patients. This funding is to provide appropriate screening and review for nursing home clients in RHCs and provide the specialized services they have not been receiving. (The state is still out of compliance.)
• $611,000 GFF ~ Directs the Department of Ecology to conduct consumer product testing on children's products and furniture for toxic flame retardants and report back to the legislature.

What’s next?

During the interim (the off time between legislative sessions) much work is going on to prepare for the next session in January 2015. Stakeholder workgroups are forming to look at issues that will be topics of concern next session such as the changes coming for the Individual and Family Services program, which will be moved from a state-only funded program to a Medicaid waiver program. Some other groups will meet to look at employment and day services, training for para-educators in our schools, services and training available for parents who have developmental disabilities who need support raising their child, getting unnecessary toxic flame retardants out of children’s products and more.

In addition to issues mentioned above there are some things that will have a big impact on the next state budget cycle. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) found Lakeland Village out of compliance for reclassifying clients and denying them their appropriate services (see above). This is only one of the nursing facilities in our state that used this illegal strategy to save money, so CMS will likely look at clients in other nursing facilities and give more fines and the state will have to restart those client services they had stopped providing.

On a positive note, our state will be moving our Medicaid Personal Care (MPC) services to the new Community First Choice Option (CFCO). This will provide an extra 6% federal match in the state funds we spend on the program, amounting to about $40 million a year. Some of this funding will be used to add people to the Basic Plus waiver. In addition to the additional funding, the premise of the program will change somewhat. Currently, people assessed to need help with personal care need such as eating, cooking, bathing, dressing, etc. are given an in-home care provider who takes care of those tasks for them. The CFCO program will still have providers doing the care tasks, but will also allow for the clients to be trained, when possible, to learn how to do some of the tasks for themselves. This will encourage much more independence.

To see all the bills and budget items that passed this session go to:
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Was it worth it?

Definitely YES! Overall, the 2014 legislative session was very good as far as funding for services to support people with developmental disabilities. Legislator thinking out-of-the-box found new ways to fund old programs and increase capacity to reduce the huge waiting list in our state. New strategies were brought forward to increase independence for self-advocates and Advocacy Days successfully helped hundreds of people from all around the state connect with their legislators, learn about the issues and share their ideas on needed reforms in policy and budget.

Your efforts made this happen! Whether you attended Advocacy Day, made a phone call, sent an email, responded to an Action Alert or any other form of advocating, your legislators knew what was needed by the input they received from you. Thank you for helping make all this happen!

What can you do now?

Keep in mind that this is an election year. Candidates want your vote. Be sure to attend community forums, talk to candidates and learn what their stand is on disability issues. May 16, 2014 is the last day for candidates to file with the state to run for office. The Arc of Washington State will send a questionnaire to all candidates and post each response on our web site. Encourage candidates running in your district to respond so that you and others are able to make informed decisions when you vote!

 Check out our web site at www.arcwa.org and click on the “Take Action” tab.
 Read the Olympia Reporter for in-depth news happening in Olympia during legislative session.
 Subscribe to the Olympia Insider YouTube channel during session for video updates.
 Sign up for The Arc of Washington State’s Action Alerts.
 Be sure to follow TheArcofWA on Twitter for quick updates texted to your cell phone.
 Become a fan of The Arc - Washington State on Facebook.
 Get the Advocacy Partnership Project “News to Know” email newsletter. Email Diana@arcwa.org.
 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.