Missouri’s good work with disabled citizens

05/24/2014 4:59 PM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

A genuine point of pride for Missouri government is its support for citizens with developmentally disabilities.

That became especially apparent during the just-completed legislative session. The Republican-controlled General Assembly honored a request by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to allocate $23.6 million in state and federal money to next year’s budget to nearly eliminate the lists of people waiting for home-based services.

Even better, lawmakers granted $37.2 million in state and federal funds to help citizens with developmental disabilities who encounter a crisis situation, such as the death of a caregiver.

Missouri is ahead of nearly all other states in serving these vulnerable citizens, thanks largely to a program begun in 2010, Partnership for Hope.

The state, county disability boards and federal government share the cost of services for disabled citizens who aren’t covered under the traditional Medicaid program. Those include making homes more accessible, job training, transportation, respite care for family members and even dental care.

The cost-sharing arrangement has enabled Missouri to serve about 3,000 additional persons over the last three years. The money in the budget for the fiscal year beginning in July will bring 970 more clients into the program.

The only people not served are residents of 14 counties that have opted not to participate in Partnership for Hope. Unfortunately, that includes St. Louis County, the state’s largest. One hundred counties have joined the partnership.

“It seems to be a win-win,” Mike Hanrahan, president of Arc of Missouri, an advocacy group for disabled citizens, said of the partnership. “It really did reduce the waiting lists considerably.”

Given Partnership for Hope’s quick success, one has to wonder why other states aren’t replicating it.

In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback recently said $2.2 million in savings from the KanCare medical program would be used to whittle down waiting lists for citizens with disabilities. But that action brought only 77 persons with developmental disabilities into the program. Inexcusably, more than 3,000 persons are still waiting to receive any services.

Missouri’s willingness to take care of people with disabilities is a credit to Nixon and to legislators of both parties. But several unwise tax credit bills passed at the end of the session could deprive the state of needed revenues and force Nixon to cut services.

That would be a cruel blow to families. The governor and lawmakers should do whatever they can to honor the admirable commitment they made to disabled citizens in the 2015 budget.


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