BILLS FILED TO IMPROVE DISABILITY CARE AT STATE SCHOOLS
(AUSTIN) — Two lawmakers announced the filing of legislation to address problems in the state's system of care for developmentally disabled Texans. Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston and State Representative Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs will sponsor bills that direct the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to develop a plan to increase the number of treatment choices and improve efficiency in the care of individuals with developmental disabilities. Ellis' and Rose's bills are aimed at improving the system by giving individuals in state schools choices with regard to where they receive care. "It is about providing current residents and family members of current residents with a choice, and giving them every tool possible to be comfortable with that choice," said Ellis.
A U.S. Department of Justice study of Texas' state schools found in fiscal year 2007 a substandard level of care, reporting 450 cases of abuse and 53 preventable deaths. Rose decried the current system as outdated, inefficient, and not up to the national standard of treatment. He cited a 1999 Supreme Court ruling that found that states must provide choices of care appropriate to an individual's needs, and said that Texas puts more people in institutionalized care than any other state.
The two bills, Senate Bill 1060 and House Bill 1589, would direct the HHSC to develop a 10 year plan by the end of 2010, to improve the state school system. The plan must include strategies to improve choice and reduce waiting lists for community-based facilities, and develop a plan to consolidate or close state schools, and to shift money from institutions to community-based care facilities. "This isnít about closure for closure's sake," said Rose. "This is about right sizing the system so that individuals have legitimate choice - choice that's real and immediate between the state school, and the community setting. "
Texas serves about 22,000 individuals with developmental disabilities, and 4,900 Texans are institutionalized at state schools. According to Ellis and Rose, the waiting list for home and community based-services is 37,000 names long, with a wait time estimated at 8 to 9 years.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, February 24 at 11 a.m.