Budget writer seeks to cut waiting list for disabled

Staff writerJanuary 24, 2014 

A state audit last year found that while Washington has some good services for people with developmental disabilities, thousands of eligible people never receive them.

Fifteen thousand people are on a wait list, waiting an average of three and a half years, according to State Auditor Troy Kelley's performance audit, which said the backlog needs tens of millions of dollars to fix.

Now Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Andy Hill says the waiting list can be eliminated without any cost to the state.

How can that be? Hill argues in a policy paper this week the state can use a different scheme for federal matching funds that would pull down more dough from Washington, D.C.

His bipartisan-backed proposal would secure the funding by putting emphasis on what's called respite services -- giving a break to parents or other family members who are caregivers.

Many families have been unable to get respite care, Hill said, even though it's cheaper to keep the disabled in their homes than in other settings.

"It's killing them. And then if they can't care for them any more, the costs escalate," he told reporters this week.

An extra 4,000 people waiting for that service would get it under his proposal, he said. An additional 1,000 people with disabilities would get help working.

But those fall far short of the 15,000-person waiting list identified by the auditor. 

Many of those people established their eligibility but aren't actually seeking services, or are no longer eligible, Hill said. He said the true wait list of people who have actually requested services is an estimated 5,300.


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