On Monday, during the first day of Legislative Assembly Days, representatives from the Developmental Disabilities Administration presented a review of the Individual and Family Service Waiver (IFS) to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
The IFS Waiver program works in partnership with families for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who still live in the family home. The program provides funding for these individuals and their families to be used to purchase a variety of services based on their needs. Services include respite care, assistive technology, community engagement services, physical therapy, and transportation services.
“The services provide a level of stability and assurance to families who are at a high risk for stress. And ultimately, this reduces the risk of family crisis and reduces the number of requests for loved ones to be placed outside the home,” says Ann Whitehall, waiver services unit manager at DDA.
Implementation of the IFS Waiver program began in 2014 with the passing of SB 6387. Prior to 2014, families who needed these services received assistance through a state-only funded program. At capacity, the state-funded program served approximately 2,500 individuals while about 5,000 people who had requested services were on a waiting list. Additionally, there were approximately 14,000 people on the DDA’s “no paid service caseload,” meaning, there were 14,000 people who were clients of the DDA but were not receiving any services.
SB 6387 helped establish a partially federally-funded program to replace the state-only funded program and expand service to eligible individuals. Today, the IFS waiver program serves 6,500 families. The 5,000 person waiting list has been reduced to zero and the 14,000 no paid service caseload is down to 12,000 people.
“But there is still work needed to be done,” says Lonnie Keesee, IFS program manager at the DDA. “We continue to educate clients and families about the services that are available and we continue to work with our own staff and community partners to help people think about services differently than they have in the past. We also continue to help reduce barriers to services as much as possible and think creatively about how services are accessed.”
During the committee meeting, Whitehall also made note that the waiver program is now at its new capacity with 6,500 clients, and opportunities to continue lowering the list of people on the no paid service caseload are limited. Moving forward, Whitehall also says the committee needs to consider that vendor rates are increasing, while IFS waiver money allocations are not. This increasingly limits the services available to participants over time.
“DDA continues to look for innovations in service delivery and ways to enhance the number of qualified service providers in order to maximize family benefit and ensure family needs can be met in a timely manner,” says Whitehall.