Nixon calls for $131 million in new disability spending

By Adam Aton, Associated Press | Posted - Jan. 15, 2016 at 3:41 p.m.



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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon will propose $131 million in new spending for developmental disabilities research and care in next year's budget.

Nixon announced his spending proposals for development disability services Friday as part of a preview of his 2017 budget plan, which will be presented Wednesday along with his State of the State address.

Most of the additional money for development disabilities would be directed toward increasing pay for service providers. Nixon is proposing $73 million in federal and state spending to boost pay for providers serving people with disabilities, including a general 3 percent increase and an additional increase for some of the lowest-paid providers.

"They deserve it, and it's the right thing to do," Nixon said. "We've got some very uncompensated (providers) relative to what the market is."

His budget plan includes about $14 million to avert a waiting list for in-home Medicaid services.

Other parts of his budget plan would expand the University of Missouri's Thompson Center for Autism, which treats people with autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, cerebral palsy, developmental delays and other disabilities. It would also expand services at the St. Louis region's Mercy Kids Autism Center and launch a new autism center at Truman State University.

The Columbia expansion would allow the Thompson Center to accommodate 2,000 more visits per year and to train 100 more health care providers over the next five years, university officials said.

Funding for case management would increase $1.8 million.

Nixon's spending proposals will go to legislators, who have until May 6 to pass a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Nixon said he expects the state's annual revenue to increase by 4.1 percent next year, and using some of the money for developmental disabilities would have a big impact.

Efforts to improve Missouri's mental health and disabilities programs have garnered bipartisan support in the past, Nixon said.

"This is not and never has been a Democrat or Republican issue," he said. "These are human issues. It's about the right of all children to lead happy, full lives."

Sen. David Sater, the Cassville Republican who chairs the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families and Children, said he supports the funding increases, but "it doesn't go far enough."

Provider rates had been set to increase 3 percent during this fiscal year, but they only increased 1 percent after Nixon restricted the funds. Nixon withheld more than $46 million in spending after a court ruled that tobacco companies didn't have to pay Missouri a $50 million settlement.

Sater said Nixon shouldn't have withheld that money.

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Adam Aton

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