The federal government has enabled the shift with a program that waives the requirement for institutional care. States get federal matching Medicaid funds to provide long-term case management, home health aides, personal care, medical care, therapy, vocational training and other services.
Money also can be used to retrofit homes to accommodate the disabled.
Oklahoma joined the waiver program in 1986, and the number of people granted waivers has climbed from that first year by more than 14,000 percent. Since 2008, however, the number has slipped — and the waiting list has grown — as funding got tighter and more families applied. The waiting list rose from 5,737 in 2010 to 7,109 in March this year.
An extra $1 million from the Legislature brought the waiting list down, but with more coming on, the net drop was only 11 people by April, said Wanda Felty, a parent advocate and a member of the governor’s panel.
“As far as my knowledge, it’s the worst it’s been,” said Ann Dee Lee, public information officer for the Department of Human Services’ developmental disabilities services division.
The division evaluates cases in the order they’re received, although emergency cases may jump to the front of the line, Lee said. The most recent non-emergency applications being evaluated are from October 2004, according to DHS.
“It’s outrageous,” said Bobby Parker of Duncan, who said he has been on the list for around 10 years. Parker, who is seeking the waiver to help with transportation services because he is unable to drive, was one of 700 people who attended a rally at the Capitol building on Wednesday to push the Legislature to better fund the program. “They should make it a priority,” he said.
According to the state DHS, the biggest age group on the waiting list is children between 7 and 18 years old, followed by adults age 22 to 35.