Dr. Rebekah Gee

Dr. Rebekah Gee

In Jeff Sadow’s July 21 column, his heart is in the right place — supporting home and community based services — but he’s mistaken on a few points. Our old system under the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities was inflexible, services were distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, people died waiting and the system overhaul started during Jindal’s administration. But this overhaul didn’t receive funding until this Edwards administration. I know; I am part of the System Transformation Stakeholder Workgroup that worked on OCDD’s new system for approximately 5 years.

Jeff Sadow: Louisiana health department has more work to do on disabilities waiver list

We also never had 38,000 on waiting lists for OCDD services. Before eliminating OCDD waiting lists, there were about 16,000 on waitlists for people with developmental disabilities and about 20,000 on a separate waitlist for adult-onset disabilities/elderly through the Office of Aging and Adult Services. Changes announced by Dr. Rebekah Gee affected OCDD waiting lists which, through a new tiered system, have been converted to one registry of requests for services. And, I am proud to say, everyone with emergency or urgent unmet needs has either received a waiver or is receiving a waiver offer — no matter what their needs are. The registry is for people whose needs are currently met but who may need services in the future. If their situation changes, the system will respond with a waiver offer. This is a huge step forward for Louisiana.

He also stated the changes haven’t helped 28,000 people with more complex/intense needs. This just isn’t accurate. There weren’t 28,000 waiting for OCDD services and the new system focuses on any unmet needs (regardless of complexity). And no one with urgent unmet needs will be left without help. This is something our System Transformation Workgroup, a group of families and advocacy group representatives and OCDD staff, were adamant about securing in the new system.

This is an astounding accomplishment, one I am sure will be modeled by other states. And, not one waiver offer was the result of raising taxes! The funding for 600 new waivers came from statutorily dedicated “New Opportunities Waiver Fund.”

Sadow also touts managed care for services to individuals who need waivers, but this would be catastrophic for many with developmental disabilities. There are no actuarially sound bases for moving people with developmental disabilities into managed care. In fact, OCDD’s Resource Allocation system, which has been in place for the NOW waiver for years, has saved more money than any shift to managed care for long term supports in the country.

Prior to the tiered waiver system, Louisiana would have needed $832 million for waivers for 16,000 people on the OCDD waiver waiting lists. That doesn’t include waivers for over 20,000 on the adult/elderly waiting list. Today, there is no one with unmet needs on the OCDD registry, there is no waiting list, and we have a responsive system that will be there for you when or if you need it.

Karen Scallan

member, OCDD System Transformation Workgroup