11 News Investigates: 3,000 people with disabilities ask for change

3,000 people with disabilities have been sitting on a waiting list for more than a decade to receive state-funded care. THV11.com 12/16/15

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Approximately 3,000 people with disabilities have been sitting on a waiting list for more than a decade to receive state-funded care.

These families are asking for Medicaid funding to provide at-home community services, care and support. Families with disabled children are working with the advocacy group "Disability Rights of Arkansas." This group drafted a letter to law makers Monday asking for a concrete plan before the year is up.

So far though, still no response.

"He can't bathe himself, he cannot prepare his own meals, he can't dress himself independently," said Teresa Dodson, a mother a two boys.

One of her son's, Nathan, is 15 years old and developmentally disabled.

"It wears on me mentally and physically," said Dodson.

Nathan has been on the developmentally disabled waiting list for eight years, forcing Dodson to quit her full-time job to take care of her son.

"It's frustrating, and the older my son gets the more frustrating it becomes," said Dodson.

The Dodson's are waiting for the state to provide them at-home care, giving them more help and more freedom.

"We had to stop attending church. We're not able to go to ball games, or movies," said Dodson.

This wait list has accumulated almost 3,000 people over the past decade.

"Each year, they're being told 'we're working on a plan', and at some point you need to put your foot down and say 'well what is that plan?'," said Julie Mayberry, state representative.

Mayberry said that right now Medicaid funding for disability rights is on the Governor's list, but not at the top.

"What plan do we move forward with, and until you move forward with a plan, it's hard to figure out all the other areas that need to be addressed," said Mayberry.

Tom Masseau with "Disability Rights Arkansas" said it's more expensive for the state to fund developmental centers than at-home care.

"It's cheaper to serve people in the community, and that's what families want," said Masseau.

This advocacy group is pushing for the state to pass the "Community First Choice Option," which provides care under Medicaid funding.

"Bring in federal money under the Affordable Healthcare Act, and then the state would provide a small amount of matching funds," said Masseau.

If these families remain waiting, some may have no choice but to put their child with disabilities in an institution.

"I don't want to be placed to have to make that decision," said Dodson.

Only five states passed the "Community First Choice Option." If Arkansas passes it, it would be the first southern state to do so. Members of "Disability Rights of Arkansas" said they will continue to push until people are taken off the waiting list.


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