OLYMPIA – More than 15,000 people who qualify for a program to aid the disabled are on a waiting list and receive no services because there’s not enough money, a state audit of the developmental disabilities program says.
The program spends about $900 million a year on assistance to state residents with developmental disabilities, but that’s not enough to cover more than 35,000 who qualify for aid, the state auditor’s office said. Among its recommendations was for the Legislature to significantly increase the amount it spends on the program and develop a plan to reduce the wait list.
The program should also reduce payments to the state’s four large facilities for the developmentally disabled, known as residential habilitation centers, and spend more on programs to help individuals who need some services to live by themselves or with family members.
“We have an underfunded, broken system in our state,” Sue Elliott, executive director of the Arc of Washington, told a joint legislative committee that received a report on the audit.
The waiting list is long, and there’s nothing that separates the people waiting from those receiving services except bad luck and bad timing, said Ed Holen, executive director of the Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council. But the problem is well-known, he added.
“This may be the 39th study of Developmental Disabilities (program). Don’t put it on the shelf,” Holen said.
Julianne Moore of the Yakima Valley School residential habilitation center said the audit was just the latest in a long line of attacks on those facilities. They provide care for the most severely disabled, so comparing their costs to home care of people with lesser disabilities isn’t fair, she said.
“The cost of care would be the same, no matter the setting,” Moore said.
State Rep. Tami Green, D-Lakewood, a member of the committee, said a legislative task force recommended some changes to the Developmental Disabilities program. The bill died for lack of support, she said.