COMMITTEE CONTEMPLATES DISABILITY FUNDING AND WAITING LISTS
(Austin) — The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony Tuesday about the state of funding for Texas Department of Aging and Disability (DADS) services, especially with respect to the size of waiting lists for these services. According to DADS Commissioner Addie Horn more than 79,000 people are on various waiting lists for these services, and often wait eight years for a slot to open up. Senators at Tuesday's meeting searched for ways to decrease the number of people on these lists and the time eligible individuals have to wait, while maximizing the effect of taxpayer dollars in these programs.
Texas spends more than a billion dollars every year on state facilities to care for mentally and physically disabled individuals. There are two primary types of these facilities: state-run schools and private Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded (ICF/MR), which receive some Medicaid funds. A State Auditors Office report found that state-run schools cost twice as much per patient than ICF/MRs, due to higher administrative costs. Officials from DADS countered that state facilities have a much higher percentage of more-severely disabled individuals, whose care is more expensive.
Finance Committee Chair Senator Steve Ogden charged DADS officials to bring forth recommendations on increasing the efficacy of state dollars at state facilities, and ways to improve client services at these facilities. Committee Vice-Chair Senator Judith Zaffirini asked for suggestions on what level of funding is necessary to reduce or eliminate waiting lists within ten years.
In addition to Chairman Ogden and Vice-Chair Zaffirini, the Finance committee consists of Senators Jane Nelson, Robert Duncan, Troy Fraser, Tommy Williams, Royce West, Eddie Lucio, Kip Averitt, Kevin Eltife, Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, Florence Shapiro, John Whitmire, Bob Deuell and Chris Harris.