W.Va. officials change proposal to rework disabled program



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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Amid public pressure, state health officials said Tuesday that they would scale back some of the proposed changes to the Intellectual Developmental Disabilities Waiver program.

The Department of Health and Human Resources says the tweaks will address some concerns raised in almost 3,800 public comments.

The program has exceeded its budget by tens of millions of dollars over the past three years, the department has said. It provides community-based services to about 4,500 intellectually and developmentally disabled people.

The department says the proposal won't reduce direct medical and therapeutic patient services, only change caregiver benefits to align with other states. West Virginia's program is one of the most generous to caregivers, according to health officials.

"As a result of the comments, modifications were made to the Waiver with the main objectives to help the program operate within its budget and offer services to some of the more than 1,000 West Virginians on the waiting list, many of whom have been waiting for three years," Jeremiah Samples, department deputy secretary of public health and insurance, said in a news release.

The changes announced Tuesday would limit respite care restrictions in the original proposal, allow flexibility in support services, and permit maximum time in a facility-based program, among other adjustments.

The proposal would maintain other changes, including a minimum age of three years old for program eligibility.

Just before the changes were announced Tuesday, Kanawha County Republican Del. Patrick Lane, other lawmakers and the disabled community rallied against changing the waiver.

Lane said he is considering several possible legislative bills, including one to require studying the full fiscal impact of the changes.

The group feared the planned restrictions would hinder ability to get care.

Kevin Smith, a disabled West Virginian who benefits from the program, said Tuesday changing it could have grave consequences.

"My life is in your hands," Smith said. "Please don't cut our waiver."

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Jonathan Mattise

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