Boost in state budget will keep disabled at home

$7.2M to eliminate waiting list of 300 needing daily living care

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HARRISBURG — The state will be able to eliminate a waiting list of nearly 300 people with physical disabilities who need care, allowing them to remain in their homes rather than nursing homes, because of an additional $7.2 million that’‍s being steered to the program in this year’‍s recently enacted budget.

The money will aid those on the so-called Act 150 waiting list, people ages 18-59 with physical disabilities who need assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing, but who are mentally alert and able to manage their own financial and legal affairs.

“I have heard time and again that individuals with disabilities want the independent lifestyle that home and community-based services provide,” Gov. Tom Corbett said in a statement announcing the funds.

The state faces a pending federal lawsuit from the Disability Rights Network over the waiting list because, the lawsuit states, forced institutionalization is a form of discrimination against people with disabilities.

Currently, many people on the waiting list have been getting care through a patchwork of aid from family members or others in a struggle to stay out of institutions, said Stephen Gold, an attorney aiding in the disability advocacy group’‍s lawsuit.

Some individuals had been on the waiting list for as long as three years, he said.

Funding for the program and the lengthy waiting list have been an issue for years, the suit alleges.

“Since at least Fiscal Year 2007-08, [Department of Public Welfare] has decreased the number of persons who received attendant care services under the Act 150 Program. In Fiscal Year 2007-08, there were 2,479 budgeted slots available. In Fiscal Year 2011-12, there were budgeted slots for 2,277 individuals. In Fiscal Year 2012-13, there were budgeted slots to serve only 2,016 individuals. As the number of budgeted slots for the Act 150 Program has decreased, the waiting list for the program has grown ... DPW has stated that there is a two-year waiting list for the Act 150 Program.”

The additional funds are great news, Mr. Gold said.

“[These individuals] will be able to live more independent, more happy lives,” he said.

Act 150, the Attendant Care Services Act, is a state-funded program that went into effect in 1987. Participants contribute to the costs based on a sliding scale.

It’‍s not clear if the lawsuit will continue in light of the funds; the DPW declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

It’‍s also not clear if the additional funds will eliminate any waiting list for future participants who aren’‍t currently on the list.

Kate Giammarise: 1-717-787-4254 or or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.

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