LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Families of disabled people in Arkansas are now one step closer to getting help for their loved ones.
On Tuesday, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced a plan to get nearly a third of people off a waitlist for Medicaid. Nearly $30 million will be spent on Medicaid waivers for developmentally disabled people in Arkansas.
For almost a year, Governor Hutchinson has promised to get those on the “DD” waitlist the help they need.
Tuesday, he announced his plan.
Thanks to $8.5 million in unused Tobacco Settlement money, and matched by federal grants, the Governor was able to get the support of DHS and the Department of Health.
"I wanted to make that announcement today to you, but also ask for your support for it, and hope you think this is a wise decision,” Governor Hutchinson said to the Arkansas Tobacco Control Board.
With their under his belt, he will take his request to the legislature.
"It just simply takes the vote of the legislature by 2/3 to amend the initiated act, to allocate this $8.5 million for this purpose.”
"There are families who have been on this waiting list for nearly 10 years. They are families who are working hard, they have jobs, they are trying to raise their special needs child, trying to provide as many opportunities as they possibly can for that child and they are struggling,” explained State Representative Julie Mayberry. She has led the charge for the parents and advocates of those on the waiting list.
She never put her special needs daughter, Katie, on the list because of what she calls, the low chance she'd ever see the benefits.
"Life is more difficult, more challenging. It doesn't mean that you can't overcome it, but certainly, providing these opportunities and a little bit more support is going to help those families have a little more structure and balance to their lives,” Mayberry added.
Parents like Lori Johnson.
"We don't think of them as special needs. We just think of them as our children, who some require more help than others,” said Johnson. Some of her children get the disability waiver, some are on the list, and some don't qualify.
"The biggest thing is that they can have one-on one-care. Zoe is one of those waiver participants and she receives one-on-one care. Which helps her go out in the community when we are busy with the other kids, and helps her with her daily needs, and will continue on as she becomes an adult."
Johnson says the waivers give her piece of mind that her kids will be able to live healthy, active lives after she and her husband are gone.
Five of her children are currently on the DD waiting list.
The funding for the DD waiting list will be put before the legislature during regular session.
If approved, the plan could be in effect by June 30, 2017.