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Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Department of Aging and Disability Services has published its Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) for the 2016/2017 biennium. The full report can be found here: .

The LAR is the important first step in the state’s budgeting process. This represents the agency’s priorities and wish list. The Legislature will factor some of this in when determining the agency’s budget. This is important because these dollars, while large, represent services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The table below shows what was budgeted for the 2014 and 2015 biennium compared to what the agency is asking for in the 2016/2017 biennium. Keep in mind that Texas budgets according to two year cycles, so 2014/2015 represents the combined budget of both years as does 2016/2017. The column at the end shows you the change. A positive number means that the agency is asking for more, a negative number indicates they are asking for less, and a zero means essentially no change.

The breakdown of the LAR can be found here: dadslar

As requested by DADS, there are major changes to the funding of community based alternatives, primary home care, and SSLC capital repairs/renovations. DADS is requesting increases in hospice, guardianship, community attendant services, CLASS, DBMD, regulation, administration, and IT program support.

In addition to the LAR, DADS is also requesting several exceptional items. Frequently the LAR requests by strategy represents no change to services. In other words, this is the cost for the status quo. The exceptional items represents new things the agency would like to do.

The first exception item is funding to maintain the current caseload for many of the waiver programs (HCS, CLASS, DBMD, MDCP, Texas Home Living Waiver, non-Medicaid services, and PACE). This exceptional item is asking for approximately 111 million dollars over the biennium. In their justification, DADs mentions that the current biennium (FY 2014 and 2015) had the funding to expand waiver slots, particularly in HCS, but a failure to continue funding those into the next biennium (i.e. a failure to grant this exception item) will result in people losing care.

The third exception item deals with funding to reduce waiver interest lists. If funded, this exception item would add 15,145 slots for community-based services and cost approximately 724 million dollars over the biennium. It would fully fund the STAR+PLUS community-based alternatives, the deaf-blind multiple disability lists, would serve about 20% of the people on the interest lists for HCS, MDCP, TxHmL, and CLASS. For In Home and Family Support and IDD Community services, it would serve about 10% of the people on those interest lists.

The fourth exceptional item deals with promoting independence for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). This represents a little over 85 million dollars to either move people from facilities or keep people from having to go there. If funded, it would move 500 individuals from large or medium-sized intermediate care facilities, 216 children aging out of foster care, 400 crisis slots for individuals for individuals at imminent risk of entering a large/intermediate care facility, 120 individuals with IDD in the state hospitals, and 25 for children transitioning from a general residence facility.

The fifth exceptional items seeks to enhance community IDD services for individuals with complex medical and/or behavioral needs. This is an exceptional item that is meant to address things that the Sunset Commission noted. DADS is requesting approximately 57 million dollars over the biennium to the fund new crisis respite and behavioral intervention programs, and increase the ICF and HCS rates to encourage treatment.

The seventh exceptional item relates to protecting vulnerable Texans. This item requests approximately 41 million dollars over the biennium to hire new guardianship supervisors, expand the Lifespan Respite Care program, increase the HCS cap on dental expenses to $2000 per individual per year, to provide assistance to small HCS facilities for required fire sprinkler systems, and would increase regulatory tools.

The either exception item deals with the state supported living centers. This one asks for approximately 112 million over the biennium to finance repairs and renovations, to finance a replacement plan for vehicles, and to reclassify some positions.

In my last post ( ), I wrote about the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission’s recommendations for the Department of Aging and Disability Resources (DADS) with regards to the state supported living centers. While important, these are not the only recommendations that the Commission had for DADS. In this post, I’m going to cover some of the other recommendations (and you can see the full report here: ).

The issues covered in this blog are related to the idea of eventually closing down several of the state supported living centers. All of these are issues that should be thought about and addressed if the closure of those facilities is going to work.

People with greater needs need more support
If people are going to be transitioned from the SSLCs to the community, they may require more support. The report notes that two thirds of local authorities do not have crisis intervention teams for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), and those that do will run out of funding in 2016 unless the 1115 demonstration waiver is renewed.

The report notes that it is challenging for individuals to move from the SSLC to the community due to a lack of providers that can meet their needs. One reason for this is that reimbursement levels are so low that it creates “a disincentive to care for the medically fragile population in the community” (Sunset report, page 32).

With the above in mind, the Commission made a number of recommendations (all of which they ultimately passed):
1. Require DADS to expand crisis intervention teams to provide increased supports to people with IDD in the community.
2. Require DADS and the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), in rule, to add a reimbursement level that incentivizes providers to open small and specialized group homes to people with high medical needs.
3. Allow SSLCs to leverage their experience and knowledge and provide services to community clients for a fee

People in day habilitation facilities should be able to expect adequate care
This issue deals with day habilitation facilities, which provide services during weekday work hours. The Commission notes that day habilitation facilities are not licensed by anyone, so the quality of the care and services varies greatly from good to very poor. In addition, DADS does not require any safety or quality measures in contracts with day habilitation facilities.

The Commission made the following recommendations (all of which they ultimately passed):
1. Require DADS to develop contract provisions regarding basic safety and service requirements for day habilitation facilities (things like run background checks, conduct fire drills, etc.).
2. Require DFPS to track data on abuse, neglect, and exploitation in day habilitation facilities.
3. Track and report violations at day habilitation facilities.

In addition, the Commission will require DADS to create an advisory committee on the redesign and potential licensure of all day habilitation facilities.

Long-term care providers should provide safe and quality services

According to the report, DADS oversees over 10,000 providers serving over 1.3 million Texans. The report notes that DADS issues few sanctions for violations. In fact the report found that in 2013, DADS took enforcement actions on 225 out of 38,000 confirmed violations. This is influenced by several things including providers having the right to “correct” their violations without penalty, a lack of teeth in penalties, and an appeal backlog.

The Commission recommended that (all of which they passed):
1. DADS develop progressive sanctions for serious or repeated violations
2. DADS repeal the “right to correct” provision
3. Make the penalties more expensive

DADS needs to do a better job managing contracts
DADS oversees about 4300 contracts worth about 2.3 billion dollars. The Commission’s report notes that DADS has a fragmented and inefficient approach to managing contracts. For example, DADS has 11 agency divisions that oversee contracts. This disorganization leads to delays and cost overruns that could have been prevented. The Commission basically directed DADS to restructure its contract management to centralize it, standardize it, and become more intentional about monitoring contracts (all of which were ultimately passed by the Commission).

All of the above issues relate back to the idea of ultimately closing the SSLCs. If the SSLCs are closed down, or if some are closed, then the people residing there (or the people who may reside there one day) need to go somewhere to have their needs met. These places need to be able to provide the services they need, in a safe environment. All of this is going to require some pretty serious changes on DADS’ part.

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is looking at the Health and Human Services agencies in Texas. In their report for the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), the Commission made several recommendations that have the potential to have implications in the lives of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). The full report can be found here: .

One of their recommendations deals with the state supported living centers (SSLCs). With this blog I’ll discuss the background in the report, the committee’s recommendation, and its final decision and the politics associated with that.

According to the report, the SSLCs consume about 10% of DADS’ budget, account for 80% of its workforce, yet serve less than 1% of its clients. The operation of the SSLCs requires almost 14,000 employees, almost $563 million dollars, and this serves about 3650 individuals. The report notes several things:
• Texas, by operating 13 SSLCs, is out of step with the rest of the country. In 2011, Ohio and New York were both operating 10 institutions, this represented 36% and 43% of the institutions they had operated in 1960. Texas on the other hand is still operating 87% of the institutions it had in 1960.
• Texas, rather than incentivizing the shifting of resources and individuals to community settings, is incentivizing the closing of community settings.
• As of April 2014, the SSLCs were in compliance with 18-40% of the Department of Justice settlement requirements. Recall that in 2009, the DOJ entered into a settlement agreement with the State of Texas over abuse, neglect, and deaths in the SSLCs (see that agreement here: ).
• The number of confirmed abuse, neglect, and exploitation allegations at the SSLCs is equal to approximately 15% of the population of the SSLCs, this compares to 6-10% in group homes.
• As has been mentioned by others (see the Legislative Budget Board report here: the cost to operate the SSLCs is unsustainable. This is due to a combination of aging infrastructure, costs of compliance with the DOJ agreement, and injuries to employees (i.e. workers compensation claims).
• The average monthly cost to support a resident of the SSLC is almost three times the cost in a residential community home.

The report makes the following recommendations:
1. Close the Austin SSLC by August 31, 2017. The rationale is that this is the worst of the SSLCs in terms of abuse/neglect, employee injuries, difficulty meeting DOJ settlement, etc.
2. Establish the SSLC closure commission to determine an additional five centers to close.
3. Require those closures by August 31, 2022.
4. Direct DADS to improve the quality of life for residents in the remaining seven SSLCs.

Final Decisions:
1. Close the Austin SSLC: 105 people testified to close, 190 testified to keep open including Representative Myra Crownover, Represntative Lois Kolhorst, and Senator Robert Nichols.
2. Closure commission: 105 people testified for, 266 against including the above named legislators and Representative Susan King
3. Close five SSLCs: same results as in recommendation 2 above

As a result of the above, the committee’s decisions are:
1. Close the Austin SSLC, all proceeds go to services for people with IDD
2. Establish a SSLC restructuring commission to make recommendations to the Legislature by December 1, 2016
3. Require DADS to close any SSLCs recommended by restructuring commission by 2025
4. DADS must submit a plan to improve the quality of care in all SSLCs by December 2014