HARRISBURG, Pa., Feb. 23, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Department of Human Services' Office of Developmental Programs Deputy Secretary Nancy Thaler joined service providers at the Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability (PAR) meeting in Harrisburg to discuss how Governor Tom Wolf's 2017-2018 budget is providing opportunities for thousands of Pennsylvanians with disabilities.
"The Wolf Administration is committed to supporting and investing in individuals with disabilities, and the governor's proposed budget will enable more people to live and thrive in their communities," said DHS Secretary Ted Dallas. "This budget provides the highest levels of support to people with disabilities in years, while saving taxpayers over 2 billion dollars through cuts, savings, and efficiencies."
Today, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities play active roles in their schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods. They have more opportunities in education and employment and more protections in health care, the legal system, and other areas of human rights.
"Governor Wolf's budget proposal is of critical importance to people with intellectual disabilities and people with autism and the direct support professionals that support them. His budget includes funding for a rate increase which is the only way to begin addressing the workforce crisis that afflicts these services since government is the sole payer of these services," said PAR President and CEO Shirley Walker. "Poverty-level wages for years have caused extremely high turnover and vacancy rates meaning that individuals with these disabilities have no stability in their lives because workers can't make a living wage and have to leave for better paying jobs. The Governor's proposed rate increase is the first step taken in ten years to begin addressing this most dire need for people with disabilities and the people that support them."
Governor Wolf's 2017-2018 budget provides $26.2 million to enable individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) and autism to move from the waiting list. This funding:
- Recognizes the increased costs in providing services and paying direct care professionals;
- Reduces the waiting list by 1,000 individuals with ID and autism through the creation of a new community support waiver;
- Provides employment and other community services to an additional 820 special education graduates with ID and autism;
- Expands the Adult Autism Waiver to serve 50 more individuals;
- Funds community services for 80 individuals transitioning from Hamburg Center and an additional 40 individuals at other state centers;
- Adds more than 2,000 individuals with autism and ID to the Targeted Services Management State Plan; and
- Establishes of two bio-behavioral units to support people with complex neurodevelopmental needs.
"The governor's investment in special education graduates will provide the necessary supports to allow more than 800 young people to transition to community living and employment, providing a better chance for success in the community, instead of high-cost services down the road," said Thaler.
Additionally, the creation of the Department of Health and Human Services will streamline services for individuals with disabilities by eliminating the unnecessary duplication of effort and confusion among consumers and their families.
The Wolf Administration is dedicated to continuing to provide the same quality services for individuals with disabilities and will dramatically improve the delivery of services to this community through the creation of this new department.
"A combined state agency has the potential to promote the opportunity for true collaboration around whole person wellness. It also will allow us to strategically address the common ground shared across the various health and human services programs – a dire workforce crisis," said Walker. "We look forward to working with the Department of Human Services to make this consolidation a reality and to ensure that intellectual disability and autism services are prioritized within the new agency."
Currently, Pennsylvanians with a disability may have to work through multiple agencies for the health and human services that they need. The 2017-2018 budget creates a new, unified Department of Health and Human Services that consolidates the Departments of Aging, Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, and Human Services in order to dramatically improve our ability to deliver services that will improve lives.
Individuals with disabilities will now have one point of service with the Department of Health and Human Services. This will result in less confusion and easier access as constituents and their families seek services.
"There are few times in my job when we are able to deliver the services to people that they want, at a lower cost. Community living is one of those times," said Thaler.
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare