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Tag Archives: state supported living centers

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.

State agencies in Texas are required to go through a review process (called the Sunset Review) to determine if they are still needed and to look at the agency’s performance. In general this occurs every 12 years. Currently, the Health and Human Services agencies in Texas are undergoing this process. This post deals with the Sunset Review’s report on the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS). This is not meant to be a comprehensive summary of the report, in fact you can access the report below:

DADS provides most of the long-term care and support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This post is going to deal with the following recommendations of the report:
• The state supported living centers
• Transitioning from state supported living centers to the community
• Ensuring adequate care in the community
• Enforcing violations
• Contract management

State Supported Living Centers (SSLCs):
SSLC residents account for less than 1% of the agency’s clients but represent 10% of DADS’ budget and 80% of its workforce. As of September 2013 there were 3649 residents and 13,906 staff being funded by almost $563 million. The report reviewed some of the issues with the SSLCs:
• No SSLC is in compliance with the Department of Justice settlement agreements from 2009. The SSLC range from being in compliance with 18% of the requirements (Richmond) to 40% (Lubbock).
• The number of confirmed allegations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation at SSLCs is shocking and in 2013 represented 15% of the population of the SSLCs.
• In 2002, the SSLC population was a little over 5,000 residents with a funding around $300 million. In 2013 that population was 3649 with appropriations coming close to $700 million.
• All of the SSLCS, except one, require infrastructure repairs that will cost more than the SSLCs are valued at. Only Denton is valued at more than the cost of its infrastructure repairs.
• Almost 10% of SSLC employees are injured annually.
• The average monthly cost for serving a resident of an SSLC is approximately $9500 than a community option.

As a result of the above, the Sunset Review report recommends the following:
• Close Austin SSLC by August 31, 2017
• Establish a closure commission to evaluate the SSLCs and determine five more to close
• Close five more SSLCs by August 31, 2022

Transitioning from SSLCs to the community:
The report notes that many individuals in SSLCs have complex behavioral, mental health, and medical issues. With that in mind, certain supports need to be in place to successfully move them from a SSLC to the community. As a result, the report recommends:
• Requiring DADS to establish crisis intervention teams statewide
• Require DADS (and HHSC) to reimburse services appropriately so that providers will open group homes to people with high medical needs
• Allow SSLCs to provide services to community clients

Ensuring adequate care in day habitat facilities:
This recommendation affects almost 35,000 individuals in community settings. The report finds that DADS doesn’t really monitor day habitat facilities and that the agency’s rules vary across program so there are no quality or safety standards. As a result, the report recommends:
• DADS develop basic safety and service requirements for community based programs. The report suggests things like running fire drills, running background checks on employees, following the client’s plan, etc.
• Require that abuse, neglect, and exploitation be tracked.
• Track data on services offered and deficiencies.

Enforce violations:
In fiscal year 2013, DADS took enforcement actions on only 225 out of 38,000 confirmed violations of state regulations, federal regulations, and Medicaid contracts. Among other issues, DADS has inadequate penalties to deter violations, has difficulty collecting them, and has a serious backlog in cases. The report recommends:
• Develop progressive sanctions for serious or repeated violations
• Repeal the “right to correct” provisions for providers and require DADS to define the criteria for their appropriate use.
• Authorize higher financial penalties to incentivize compliance.

Contract management:
DADS’s approach to managing contracts is fragmented which results in a lack of information, accountability, and inefficiency. This also creates cost over runs and project delays. The report recommends:
• Require DADS to consolidate all contract management
• Have the centralized contract management review and approve contract planning during the early stages of the procurement process
• Develop policies for the risk-based monitoring of contracts

Taken together, the findings and recommendations show you just how bad things are for individuals with IDD in Texas. The SSLCs are bad, the community settings are better but are unregulated and have little incentive to prevent/address deficiencies, and the agency has challenges with oversight and protecting/serving individuals with IDD. This report comes out while we’re transitioning people with IDD to managed care and it is chilling to think how much worse things can get under that system if they are already this bad.

The report provides some opportunities, however. First, realize that just because it is in the report does not mean that the state is going to act on it. This means contacting your legislator and dragging them, kicking and screaming, towards supporting its implementation. Second, the advocacy groups should be aligning some of their legislative foci around these recommendations. This way the Legislature hears the same thing from everyone. Third, SB7 (managed care) is only legislation, it is only a law. This means it can be changed via legislation. Maybe it’s time to get the Legislature to revisit it, slow it down even more, or even kill it in the upcoming session.

The Texas Comptroller has certified that the funds are available for the appropriations bills that came out of the 2013 Legislature. There is mixed news for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
With regards to the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) and Early Childhood Intervention, there is good news and bad news for Early Childhood Intervention (ECI):
 ECI is seeing an almost 18% increase in its funding, from ~$270 million for the current biennium to ~$318 million for the upcoming one. Both respite and the administrative oversight of ECI are being funded at the same amounts as in the current biennium. In addition, the Legislature wants to see the number of hours of services per child per month to increase from an average of 2 hours to an average of 2.9 hours.
 The bad news is that the ECI appropriation has a rider. The rider says that anyone receiving ECI services who has a family income greater than 400% of the federal poverty level must pay 100% of the cost of the services.
It’s great that ECI funding is expanding and that the Legislature wants to see more hours of services per month per child. It will be interesting to hear DARS’ forecasts on how this will impact the number of children served. The rider is concerning and has significant long-term implications for both providers and the people that will be receiving ECI services. This will mean that some families will opt not to receive the services because they cannot afford it and others may be driven to private providers, which means that current ECI providers will have to learn how to be competitive with private providers.
With regards to the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) and their long term services and supports appropriation, there is mixed news that reflects the shift to managed care that is being driven by Senate Bill 7. First, some programs are seeing a reduction in funding:
 Primary home care (~42% reduction): Provides non-skilled personal care services. Reduction is due to STAR+PLUS and this service will eventually be eliminated.
 Day Activity and Health Services (~67% reduction): Another casualty to STAR+PLUS.
 Community-Based Alternatives (~22% reduction): due to STAR+PLUS.
 ID Community Services (~7% reduction): Administrative expenses are being transferred elsewhere and some of the individuals receiving services are being transferred to the Texas Home Living Waiver.
 Promoting Independence Services (~5% reduction): Another casualty due to STAR+PLUS.
 Hospice (~5% reduction)
There are a number of programs seeing an increase in funding, including several waiver programs that are seeing a large increase in funding:
 Community Attendant Services (11% increase): Seems to be balancing out the reduction in primary home care.
 Home Community-Based Services (HCS) (15% increase)
 CLASS (10% increase)
 Deaf Blind Multiple Disabilities (38% increase)
 Medically Dependent Children (6% increase)
 Texas Home Living Waiver (63% increase)
 Nursing Facility Payments (4% increase)
 Medicare Skilled Nursing Facility (6.5% increase)
 Balancing Incentive Program: 14.7 million
 State Supported Living Centers (~2% increase)
It should be noted that none of the bills that sought to establish realignment committees for the State Supported Living Centers (SSLC), closure of the SSLCs, or bills of rights for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities passed. There are no riders directing DADS to close SSLCs, or explore closing SSLCs, only a rider to develop a ten year plan for the SSLCs.
The expansion of the waiver programs is great news. But the reality is that managed care is coming as a result of Senate Bill 7, so we’re going to be in uncharted territory soon. The fact that the Legislature will not move on the SSLCs is interesting.

There are several important bills that have on the state supported living centers (SSLC’s) that have been filed in the Legislature this session.  All of these bills have been filed and referred to committee, but all the bills are just sitting there waiting for a committee hearing.  These bills deal with the following topics:

  • Creating a SSLC realignment commission
  • Evaluating the SSLC system
  • Developing criteria for the closure or consolidation of the SSLCs


Creating a SSLC realignment commission:

In the Senate, SB 729 by Rodriguez seeks to create a SSLC realignment commission. In the house it is HB 3528 by Klick.  These bills would establish a realignment commission to evaluate and make recommendations regarding the operation and management of the SSLCs, would make recommendations on the consolidation or closure of SSLCs based upon criteria established in the bill, and oversee the implementation of its recommendations.  Members would be appointed by the Governor.


Evaluating the SSLC system:

In the Senate, SB 1045 by Rodriguez and in the House HB 3312 by Collier seek to direct the Health and Human Services Commission to contract with an outside entity to evaluate the SSLC system.  This evaluation would include examining the proximity of SSLCs to community service providers, administrative costs of operating SSLCs, availability of employment opportunities for SSLC employees should a SSLC close down, conditions of both the SSLCs and community service providers, capacities of other SSLCs and community service providers should a given SSLC be closed, examining whether specialized services and programs at a given SSLC can be conducted in the community, support needs of residents in a SSLC and whether those are available in the community, etc.  In other words, these bills seek to give decision makers the information that they need to make unemotional decisions about the future of the SSLCs.


Developing SSLC closure criteria:

In the Senate, SB 1766 by Rodriguez and HB 3527 by Klick in the House seek to direct the Health and Human Services Commission to develop a formula-based approach to determining when a SSLC should be closed or consolidated with another SSLC.   These bills also include instructions on how to consolidate the SSLCs provided that seven of the thirteen are closed down.


All three of these bills are important.  The realignment commission develops an independent group to make the decisions.  The evaluation bills provide the information that is needed to make objective decisions about this emotional topic.  The criteria allows the comparison of apples to apples.  None of these bills requires that SSLCs be closed or consolidated, but they do lay the groundwork for this to occur and could perhaps incentivize and improvement in services and supports.

None of these bills are currently scheduled to be heard in their committees.  If this is something that you feel strongly about, contact the members of both committee about this.  To find the members of the committees, click on the following:

Senate Health and Human Services Committee membership:

House Human Services Committee membership:


The filing deadline for legislation in the 83rd Texas Legislature is coming up fast. There are two new bills that have been filed that have implications for the intellectual and developmental disability community. The first is a relatively short bill by state Senator Rodriguez, the second is a very long bill by state Representative Raymond.

Senator Rodriguez has previously filed two important bills on the state supported living centers. One, SB 729, would establish a realignment commission for the centers. Another, SB 1045, would allow for the system to be evaluated. Both bills are important bills. On the 7th, Senator Rodriguez filed SB 1361, which is a bill of rights for people receiving Medicaid long-term services and supports. This bill is important especially in regard to the changes to the system that are in progress via legislation. The bill begins with the statement that: “It is the policy of this state that, to the extent provided by state or federal law or policy, each recipient of Medicaid long-term services and supports under a state benefits program has the right…” It goes on the list things like living independently, control the recipient’s own life, receive the supports necessary for competitive employment, be a participant in designing/implementing/monitoring the outcomes and effectiveness of delivery systems, receive services that are based on their individualized needs, receive services that are monitored for quality, to receive services that are effectively coordinated, and that allow individuals to retain their existing providers. Some of this bill is philosophy, which is fine, but some of it would provide some safeguards especially in light of the possible shift over to managed care.

Representative Raymond, who is the chair of the House’s Human Services committee, filed HB 2721. Essentially this is the House’s version of Senate Bill 7, which would shift the acute and long-term services and supports for the waiver recipients (HCS, CLASS, TxHmL, and DBMD waivers) over to managed care. Like SB7, the bill has great intentions. The goals include provide services to more individuals in a cost-effective manner, improve access to services, promote person-centered planning, integrate service coordination, promote high-quality care, etc. Like SB7, this is a huge bill and will have a major impact on people with IDD and their families.

Let me begin with the things that I like about this bill. First, there are extensive stakeholder input requirements in the bill:
• Like SB7, it would establish a system redesign advisory committee that would include stakeholders. This committee has an important role all through the process, basically up until 2024.
• Like SB7, the state will roll out pilot programs to test the concept. Stakeholder input is required on the pilot programs.
• HHSC is required to receive and evaluate stakeholder input when transitioning each of the waivers over to managed care.
• Stakeholder input is required for developing a quality-based payment plan to providers.

Second, the bill emphasizes the need to ensure there is continuity of care when transitioning from the old waiver programs to the new managed care approach. Third, when discussing acute services, the bill states that HHSC will use STAR+PLUS “or the most appropriate integrated capitated managed care program delivery model.” So there is some wiggle room on using STAR+PLUS. Fourth, the bill mentions implementing basic attendant and habilitation services. Fifth, and this is needed, the bill will establish specialized training for family members/caregivers/providers of people with IDD that are at risk of institutionalization and behavioral intervention teams to help prevent institutionalization. Finally, the bill provides for a wellness screening program to help prevent diseases.

So there are some things to like about HB 2721. There are also concerns. It’s a huge bill and a sweeping change and the Devil is always in the details. People with IDD have complex, varied needs. No two are the same, it’s more complicated than breaking a leg. It’s also something that cannot be fixed or treated, it requires a life-long, continuous approach to services. It’s unclear how effective any managed care organization is going to be. The current system is incredibly complex to navigate, add transition and having to learn a new system on top of that and family members will be confused and overwhelmed.

Some version of this bill or SB 7 will probably pass and become the future. With that in mind, input is critical at every step of the process. That starts now by contacting your legislators. That continues by having strong advocates on the system redesign committee and by providing input in every way possible about concerns and experiences. It must be kept in mind that the people drafting the legislation and eventually the rules and procedures don’t have first-hand experience with this system and don’t understand how complex the services are for individuals with IDD. As a result it’s very important to educate them about this.

Regarding Senator Rodriguez’s bills, they will have to pass through the Senate Health and Human Services committee. Below is the link to that committee, listing every member of the committee. Contact them about your thoughts on these bills:

Regarding HB 2721, this will pass through the House Human Services committee. The link is below, again contact each member about your thoughts:

Today I spent the day in Austin, largely at the state capitol.  This was an interesting day as there were a number of things happening:

  • Task Force for Children with Special Needs meeting
  • Senate Bill 7 hearing
  • Visits with legislators

Task Force for Children with Special Needs:

The Task Force is established by legislative statute and is a state-agency driven entity.  It’s purpose is to develop a strategic plan to meet the needs of children with special needs and is meant to integrate all the Health and Human Services agencies as well as agencies like the Texas Education Agency.  I was appointed by the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission as a parent member.  As a parent, I don’t get to vote but I do get to offer plenty of input, sometimes more frankly than the agency staffers are used to.

This was a short meeting because of the Senate Bill 7 hearing.  Basically it was to brief us on the Task Force’s two big initiatives.  The first is a comprehensive website, geared towards families, of the services available to children with special needs.  It’s meant to be a parent-friendly umbrella website that is easy to navigate.  More than that, it will have videos, information on developmental milestones as well as programs/services available by age (i.e. help prompt parents for the things they don’t know to think about), location of programs/services, etc.  It is also meant to have a regional component to help direct the parent to resources in their area.  The Task Force implemented a state wide research effort using focus groups, phone calls, and surveys and now the design of the website is in progress (funding for everything has been secured or is in progress with the current Legislature).

The second initiative is a crisis prevention/intervention service that would incorporate multiple agencies.  This is in the beginning stages of planning but it’s very needed and a great idea.

Senate Bill 7 Hearing:

DADS conducted a hearing on Senate Bill 7 this morning that ran at the same time as the Task Force meeting.  I decided ultimately not to attend this as I felt I’d be more impactful visiting legislators at the capitol (more on this later).  I’ve written everybody about my thoughts about this bill and I think the decisions have already been made on this one…

Visits with Legislators:

I spent about four hours visiting legislators, staffers, and committees.  I visited with mine, Sen. Paxton (staff) and Rep. Sanford (both the representative and his staff).  In addition I visited with Rep. Carter (staff) from Dallas, Rep. Raymond (staff), Sen. Nelson (staff), and both the Senate Health and Human Services committee staff as well as the House Human Services staff.

Let me begin by stating that I didn’t make any appointments with anyone ahead of time.  While this is courteous, I did not want anyone to have a chance to prepare.  I also, intentionally, came dressed as a parent of a child with special needs as opposed to a lobbyist.  So I showed up in khakis with a tie, but no expensive suits.  In each office, I walked in and announced that I am the parent of a child with Down Syndrome and I’d like to talk to someone about legislation and appropriations.

To start with my legislators, I spent a great deal more time with them and their staff than anyone else.  I focused my discussions with them around the following:

  • Senate Bill 7
  • State Supported Living Centers
  • Balancing Incentive funds

I think SB7 is going to pass.  So I had several talking points on this bill.  It has great intentions – more services to more people at reduced cost to the state.    Having said that, the devil is in the details and the people pushing the bill don’t understand the details, which is critical in this circumstance.  First, there needs to be significant stakeholder support at all stages.  That means as invited testimony (after all, the parents and family members – not the state agencies, are the experts on this topic), voting members of system redesign committees, and at each stage of legislation and rulemaking.  Second, there needs to be an understanding that this is an incredibly complicated population and service delivery driven by assessments is going to miss a lot.  I made the point that this population requires medical care, dental care, many types of therapies, 24/7 care, employment care, housing, etc.  To illustrate the complexity, I used an example from the state supported living centers.  Back when the Department of Justice issued its findings about the old state schools, it used two specific examples as examples of a lack of oversight by the schools.  In one example, a state school resident had been eating latex gloves.  In another, a different resident was eating the stuffing from a chair.  I used these examples and explained that they are examples of how profoundly some individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are affected and how difficult it’s going to be to assess this and come up with services to prevent it.  I made these SB7 point with everyone and every committee that I visited with, with two exceptions that I’ll talk about in a minute.  In each case, the people I talked to had no idea it was like this.

Regarding the state supported living centers, I focused on two things.  First, if we are going to have them we should do it right – which means strong funding and appropriate staffing for fewer of them.  Second, Sen. Rodriguez has filled two bills (one is SB 729) on evaluating the SSLC’s and establishing a realignment commission for them.  I wanted my legislators to know that I support both bills.

The Federal Government is making available ‘Balancing Incentive” (BIP) funds for Medicaid programs.  My understanding is that this is intended to be seed money to kick start efficiencies and better service delivery.  So, for example, the website I spoke about earlier is going to be funded by BIP funding.  The problem is that both the House and Senate appropriations committees are sweeping more programs into this funding (because the state doesn’t have to pay for it).  This is a problem because the funds will go away, so any on-going program will lose funding once that happens.  This happened two sessions ago with Federal stimulus funding and ECI – ECI was ramped up and expanded with that funding, but after it went away it had to be cut back because the state would not make up the difference.  This is a concern with BIP funding.

I visited with Rep. Carter’s staff.  She is on the House’s appropriation’s committee for Article II (health and human services).  I had written each of them about the need to fully fund ECI, which they did.  She wrote me back, so I visited to say thank you.  I also put in my $0.02 about the BIP funding that I mentioned above with her staff.

Rep. Raymond is the chair of the House Human Services committee.  His office will either craft its own version of SB7 or receive the Senate version once the Senate passes it.  I spoke with his staff about the points I described above.  After meeting with me, they asked me to go talk to the Human Services committee staff about this, which I did.  This (the committee meeting) was one of the longer meetings that I was in today.

As the author of SB 7, I dropped by Sen. Nelson’s office.  Her office made it clear that they are not the ones listening to feedback about this bill and that I should go speak with the Senate Health and Human Services committee staff (which is located in another building).  I did this, and they let me know that the only person qualified to listen to feedback isn’t available – but I’m welcome to email (which I will).  I think it’s evident that the good senator is no longer desiring to hear feedback about what she set in motion from normal people.

I appreciate the time that everyone (with one exception) gave me.  I think I was able to make the points about the need for significant stakeholder involvement combined with an appreciation for how complex these matters are, while everyone has great intentions there’s a real lack of understanding about the things they are trying to change.  I’m also very happy because I have lots of contacts, who will be receiving my thoughts on these matters as the session progresses!

We’re about two weeks away from one of the filing deadlines for the 83rd Texas Legislature, so it’s a good time to review what’s going on.  We’ll spend the bulk of this blog covering legislation and trends.  Keep in mind that at this point some bills are being heard in committee, but none have been passed.  Just because legislation has been filed does not mean that it will amount to anything. 



Unlike the 82nd Legislature, both the House and Senate bills provide for an increase in funding to DADS and DARS.  Now, the funding isn’t enough to reverse the cuts from the last session and are never enough, but at least this is going in the right direction.  DADS, DARS, and HHSC all have exceptional items to help improve long term services and supports and those are being heard and considered (some positively) by both the House and Senate. 


Regarding legislation, we’ll focus on several areas:

  • Education
  • Medicaid
  • State supported living centers (SSLC’s)
  • Miscellaneous



There are a number of bills that would lower the age where transition services begin to 14 and that would require schools to have a point person for answering transition-related questions.  This type of legislation has been filed in previous sessions.  In addition, there is legislation attempting to establish a school choice program for children in special education, one bill by Sen. Lucio that would require professional development with regards to working with children with special needs, and one concerning one by Rep. Ratliff that would allow for the establishment of disabled charter schools (this would seem to eliminate a child’s ability to receive an education with his/her non-disabled peers).



If half of this legislation passes, this session will see a major change in Medicaid programs and long-term services and supports.  First, I’ve already blogged about Senate Bill 7 which would eventually transfer all the waiver programs over to managed care.  This looks like it is going to happen and the advocacy groups are torn between opposing it and recognizing its inevitability and seeking to get the best worst bill that they can.  Other bills address Medicaid fraud, requiring STAR+PLUS and managed care organizations to be subject to differing levels of review, some address long term services and supports, and others would tinker with the coverage that people receive.  As the parent of a child with a disability, I’m really concerned about this entire section and everyone else should be as well.


State Supported Living Centers:

By and large there are no major changes based upon legislation.  The Legislature has historically been reluctant to even address closing or consolidating the centers, as a result there is frequently legislation to provide band aid fixes.  Now, there’s one exception that really stands out.  Sen. Rodriguez filed SB729, which would seek to establish a SSLC closure and realignment commission (think about what happened to military bases in the 90’s).



There are sunset review bills for health and human services agencies, bills that would seek to outsource the functions of those agencies, a lot of bills that deal with long-term service and support allowances, therapies, prescription drug benefits, licenses for facilities, and personal needs allowances.


I think a good summary of this session to date is that there is an intent to really change the waiver programs and shift them over to managed care.  The intent is to reduce/eliminate interest lists and strive for efficiency.



The Department of Aging and Disability Services issued its report on the state supported living centers (SSLCs) for the fiscal years 2010-2012.  This is timely given the budget discussions that are currently ongoing.  The report can be accessed here:

First I’ll present some of the more interesting (to me) information in the report.  Second I’ll discuss some of the challenges that DADS foresees.  Finally, I’ll discuss some of the implications and ramifications.


The first point to make about the SSLCs is that their enrollment has been decreasing over time.  Enrollment has declined by 18% since 2004.  DADS projects that from 2005 to 2015 enrollment will decrease by almost 43%.  To reinforce this point, in 2004 there were 89 more admissions to the SSLCs than separations.  In 2011 there were 124 more separations than admissions to the SSLCs.

The second point to make about the SSLCs is that types of admissions to the SSLCs have changed over the years.  The table below summarizes by comparing the percentage of admissions by admissions category for FY2004 and FY2011, there are noticeable differences.  For reference, this is an explanation of the admission categories:

  • Emergency Voluntary: Less than 12-months, urgent need of services.
  • Regular Voluntary: Placement for someone that requires treatment, services, and/or care.
  • Family Code: Minor admitted for less than 90 days, evaluation.  Admit or return to court.
  • Code of Criminal Procedure Evaluation: Adult for less than 120 days, evaluation.  Admit or return to court.
  • Code of Criminal Procedure: Adult is incompetent to stand trial.
  • Regular Admissions: civil commitment
  2004 2011
  Emergency Voluntary 0.059091 0.015267
  Regular Voluntary 0 0
  Admit Family Code 0.195455 0.267176
  Return 2 Court Family Code 0 0.175573
  Court Crim Eval Admit 0.031818 0.091603
  Court Crim Eval R2Court 0 0.022901
  Court Crim Proc 0.095455 0.053435
  Regular Adult 0.618182 0.366412
  Regular Child 0 0.206107

Some significant changes, comparing 2004 to 2011:

  • 0 children were admitted via regular admissions in 2004, in 2011 this population represented 20% of the admissions.
  • 62% of the admissions were regular adult admissions, that was 37% in 2011.
  • Almost 6% of admissions in 2004 were emergency voluntary, this was almost 2% in 2011.
  • There are more admissions being associated with the family code and the code of criminal procedures in 2011 than in 2004.

Additionally, in 2004 the percentage of residents with behavioral health challenge was 50%.  This number was 63% in Fy12.

Finally, it needs to be noted that the SSLCs are still having a staffing problem.  Looking at all facilities, only 94% of positions are filled.  Only one facility, Corpus Christi, is at 100% strength.  This may not sound like much, but it’s actually worse than the percentages make it sound.  For example, the San Antonio center is 94.35% staffed, but they have 822.35 positions and have filled only 775.85 of them – which is a large amount of coverage that is being missed.


DADS identifies several challenges, these include:

  • The admissions trend is to admit individuals with complex behavioral health challenges.  This requires intense and complex services/supports as well as specially trained staff.
  • The life expectancy for the residents is increasing as health care improves.  This means more complicated and expensive services and supports for residents for a longer period of time.
  • The SSLCs require a lot of maintenance, some of these are in facilities that are 100 years old.  DADS projects needing to spend almost $577 million over the next seven years to properly keep up the facilities.  Maintenance doesn’t sound exciting, but this is referring to replacing roofs, heating/air conditioning, plumbing, electrical systems, renovation of bedrooms and living areas, etc.


As I read this report, I pick up on several concerns:

  • The population, due to health care advances, has the potential be reside in the facilities longer and cost more due to advanced age and more complicated health care needs.
  • The changes in admissions (adding behavioral health matters) has the potential to both make services/supports more expensive, but also requires different kinds of staffing (also more expensive) which may be difficult to make happen.
  • The facilities are only getting older, which makes them more expensive to maintain.

Combine the above with the fact that the population of the SSLCs is declining steadily.  The 2011 the Legislative Budget Board reviewed many of the above information and came to the following conclusions:

  • SSLCs represent 35% of the cost of caring the intellectually and developmentally disabled while serving 15% of the clients.
  • While the census of the centers has been in sharp decline over the last 30 years, the SSLCs are not being downsized.
  • Despite significant investment in the SSLCs, DADS has not been able to address the deficiencies noted by the Department of Justice.
  • There just isn’t enough money to maintain this system anymore.

As a result, the LBB recommended to the Legislature that DADS be given the authority to close one or more SSLC and to develop a closure process.  There was a lot more to those recommendations, but for this posting those are the highlights.

The timing of this report is interesting with the budget discussions currently going on and the impending Legislative session.

Below is a copy of my written testimony for Texas’ Department of Aging and Disability Services’ Legislative Appropriations Request hearing, which is scheduled for September 11, 2012. The full document of the LAR is located here: and this represents the first round of hearings for what will be the department’s 2014 and 2015 budgets:

I want to thank the Legislative Budget Board and the Legislature for the opportunity to comment on the Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) for the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS). I am the parent of a five year old with Down’s Syndrome who will one day be an adult with Down’s Syndrome, so I am very interested in the services offered by the state of Texas. In addition to being a parent, I also serve as an appointed parent representative on the Children’s Policy Council, the Task Force for Children with Special Needs, and the Early Childhood Intervention Committee. In this letter, I’d like to ask the LBB and the Legislature to consider several items that were in DADS’ LAR as well as several items that were not.

With regards to items that were in the LAR:
• This LAR reflects a shift over to managed care. It is also reflecting the fact that whether we like it or not, costs increase and this must be accounted for via appropriations. If it is not, then the only way to balance things out is to reduce services. DADS is attempting to do this via two of their special items; maintaining caseloads and cost trends. These items represent approximately $101 million in FY14. If these special items are not funded then DADS will have to reduce services to Texans.
• If the state of Texas is committed to maintaining the State Supported Living Center (SSLC) system, then funds must be made available to keep them modern and well-staffed so that they are able to provide the best services possible to the residents. With that in mind, then the special item dealing with this (approximately $112 million in FY14) must be funded.
• It is in the best interests of Texas, and the individuals affected, to have people move from residential facilities to the community. In the community there are fewer risks of abuse, better opportunities for work, and an ability for people to thrive. Two of the special items (promoting independence and community expansion) that total approximately $151 million in FY14 deal with this and should be funded.

There were several items that were not in the LAR that I’d like to ask the LBB and the Legislature to consider:
• Health Management Associates issued a report in October of 2010 recommending establishing a pilot program using a non-capitated enhanced care management model for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The idea being that this can result in cost savings, open up additional waiver slots, and eventually (hopefully) lead Texas down the road to these services becoming entitlements like in other states. DADS should include this in the LAR (and in associated budget presentations) to get this pilot program funded for the biennium and lay the groundwork for possible future expansion of the program.
• Prior to the 2011 Legislative session, the Legislative Budget Board issued their report calling for a number of changes to the state supported living centers. Their recommendations were to include a rider in the general appropriates bill directing DADS to close at least one SSLC; to include a rider requiring DADS to submit a closure plan; to include a rider to authorize DADS to reclassify one FTE position to direct the closure process; and to amend the Health and Safety Code to establish a realignment/closure commission (for SSLCs). These recommendations did not go anywhere in 2011. DADS and the LBB need to provide leadership on this matter and resubmit these recommendations to the Legislature in order to give DADS the flexibility to modernize its services in this area. The fact of the matter is that the SSLCs are not sustainable and the most fundamental issue with them is the fact that there simply is not enough money to hire and retain the caliber of front-line staff, keep the facilities and services modern, and provide the residents the opportunity to thrive.

• It is important that future planning with regards to health care, Medicaid, and the improvement of services for individuals with special needs must be integrated. Often, these planning efforts are disconnected or driven by whim and this ensures that they will fail. Committees can draft reports, they can develop plans, but if they are not integrated and supported by the state agency strategic plan and the Legislative Appropriation Request then they are doomed to failure.

Thank you again for the opportunity to comment on this important matter. Thank you for your service in these difficult times.