Update: Unlock The Waiting List

Issue: Many people remain on the regional Waiting Lists for Home and Community-Based Services. As of December 2002, 249 people with physical disabilities, 3,142 people with developmental disabilities and 9,326 frail /elderly people (based on a five year average) - a total of 12,717 people - are waiting for home and community based services. They need home and community based services, such as assistance with personal hygiene, respite for care givers, adult day care, home delivered meals, support getting and keeping a job, along with natural support, inclusion and participation in community activities. Without these services, many go into crisis.

The Unlock the Waiting Lists Campaign! is a coalition of Georgia disability and aging organizations whose mission is to reduce and eliminate waiting lists for home and community based services for thousands of people with disabilities and their families.

In the wake of mass budget cuts and programs being dismantled, now is an important time for the disability population to speak up about our necessary agenda, declare we think we matter. Any programs affecting us, should assert the opinions and choices we choose in deciding what's best for our lives, not what's best for budget or election campaign. People I've talked to, don't want to live in nursing homes and never did.
Unlock The Waiting List fights for real people with real stories, situations, struggles, and lives. Children who have no experience outside of institutions are being given a chance to know something different. People with varied disability that had no hope of getting away from institutional living are being granted waivers to help live life the way they should have been able to live it, before going through what they had to, to get this far.

Now that budgets are being scanned again with careful eye, choice to implement new programs, and axe old ones are being decided, we must voice loudly to gain further funding and help Unlock save more lives in Georgia. Money budgeted for the various waiver programs, gives hope, choice, and dignity to a population of individuals delegated by policy to spend a lifetime in prison like condition. Environment has a huge impact on health and quality of life. We cannot allow long term care policy to warehouse individuals that cannot function independently of themselves or just have nowhere else to go. It is wrong for corporations or state's to profit from the suffering of people. Long term care if it doesn't affect you directly right now, one day will. This issue owns everyone sooner or later.

It wasn't easy for me, the years prior to having the waiver and assistance. Freshly injured learning disability, I wasn't always comfortable asking for things I needed. Learning to do a lot with a little. I managed to stay out of nursing homes, going to school, and getting help from Vocational Rehabilitation until I got the waiver. Now with the government cutting funding everywhere, trying to gap budget deficits, money for programs like Unlock could be in jeopardy. Common sense says that if you can deliver long term care to people in their own homes at a reduced cost to the state and that's what they want, then do it. The foundation for Unlock had it's precedence set in the United States Supreme Court with the Olmstead vs. LC/EW case, when justices decided that State's do not have the right to dictate nursing homes as 'appropriate settings' for its elderly and disabled populations.

Get involved. Why wait until it affects you directly. We have power through outreach to make opinion noticed. A lot of times advocacy does not involve leaving the house, going to the State capitol, or Washington D.C. With the power of the internet and fax everywhere readily available, it is only the matter of creating a statement that voices concerns about certain issues. With some sort of written notice, those who were elected to represent the population's regard will know, we feel we count, our issues are important, and we know what's going on with them.

Action Needed: Support the following budget actions for Unlocking the Waiting Lists.

Department Of Community Health
" Independent Care Waiver Program- 10 slots- To place individuals about to go into institutions in a community setting.
State Funds: 220,369 Total Funds: 548,180

" Fund additional Medicaid non- waiver costs for 205 CCSP Slots. Supports the DHR proposal to address the waiting list.
State Funds: 659,039 Total Funds: 1,619,500

Department of Human Resources
" Expansion of Services for Existing Medicaid Consumers
MR Waiver Program-funding insufficient for needed services: Provide 172 additional Service slots for consumers on the short term list who need additional services- 26% of additional need identified.
State Funds: 1,651,314 Total Funds: 4,087,412

" Community Services Program-Maintenance of Need
State Funds: 1,203,378 Total Funds: 3,080,438

" Community Care Services Program-304 New Clients
CCSP Medicaid Waiver-primarily elderly-some disabilities
State Funds: 1,391,583 Total Funds: 3,461,648

" Home and Community Based Services-893 New Clients
Non-Medicaid HCBS-Elderly, approximately $2000 per person
State Funds: 1,786,000 Total Funds: 1,786,000

Waiting Lists for Home and Community-Based services must move at a reasonable pace. In several recent Olmstead-related court rulings, a reasonable pace has been defined as 90 days. Many families on the current waiting list have been waiting several years for services. Your support could make a difference.