Freedom Friday: Integrated housing mandate for individuals with disabilities
February 27th, 2015
A federal rule changes how subsidized home- and community-based services are funded. The changes are because of new standards by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Among the policies, the agency says all housing should:
- Support a flexible and free system that integrates individuals with disabilities in a community setting, rather than placing them in a segregated living and work environment;
- Emphasizes independence and autonomy; and
- Discourage institutional “warehousing” of those with disabilities.
States have five years to comply with the new rule.
The goal is to have them supported and given the ability to determine where they live and work whenever possible. The federal rule is in the spirit of a 1999 Supreme Court ruling that said people with disabilities must be able to live in the most integrated setting appropriate for their needs.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule January 10, 2014 to ensure that Medicaid’s home and community-based services programs provide full access to the benefits of community living and offer services in the most integrated settings. The rule, as part of the Affordable Care Act, supports the Department of Health and Human Services’ Community Living Initiative. The initiative was launched in 2009 to develop and implement innovative strategies to increase opportunities for Americans with disabilities and older adults to enjoy meaningful community living.
Some argue a more inclusive environment is beneficial for those with significant disabilities and fear that the current programs designed for that purpose will be shut down in the transition. To have a more community-centered experience for those with significant disabilities, it would take more staff members and more money, which has as of late has been extremely tight.
In this final rule, CMS specifies that service planning for participants in Medicaid HCBS programs under section 1915(c) and 1915(i) of the Act must be developed through a person-centered planning process that addresses health and long-term services and support needs in a manner that reflects individual preferences and goals. The rules require that the person-centered planning process is directed by the individual with long-term support needs, and may include a representative whom the individual has freely chosen and others chosen by the individual to contribute to the process. The rule describes the minimum requirements for person-centered plans developed through this process, including that the process results in a person-centered plan with individually identified goals and preferences. This planning process, and the resulting person-centered service plan, will assist the individual in achieving personally defined outcomes in the most integrated community setting, ensure delivery of services in a manner that reflects personal preferences and choices, and contribute to the assurance of health and welfare
Under the final rule, Medicaid programs will support home and community-based settings that serve as an alternative to institutional care and that take into account the quality of individuals’ experiences. The final rule includes a transitional period for states to ensure that their programs meet the home and community-based services settings requirements. Technical assistance will also be available for states.
What’s Wrong Wednesday: Students with disabilities suspended more often
February 25th, 2015
February 24, 2015
The likelihood that a student with a disability will be suspended from school appears to vary greatly depending on where they live, a new analysis finds.
Nationwide, nearly 1 in 5 students with disabilities were given out-of-school suspensions during the 2011-2012 school year. That’s a rate about twice that of their typically-developing peers, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education.
However, a new analysis of the figures — the most recent available — finds the discipline was not handed out uniformly across the country.
High school students with disabilities in Florida were most likely to be suspended, with 37 percent of such kids given an out-of-school suspension. Florida was followed by Nevada, Delaware, South Carolina and Louisiana which also reported high use of the disciplinary measure among kids with disabilities.
By contrast, just 5 percent of high school students with disabilities in North Dakota were suspended, the fewest of any state. Other places with lower suspension rates for this population included Utah and Idaho, according to the review from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.
What’s more, when researchers assessed the situation at the school district level, they found even greater disparities. Across the country, some 37 districts suspended more than 25 percent of their elementary school students with disabilities, including one district where over half of those with special needs were suspended.
The high level of suspensions among students with disabilities raises questions, the report suggests, about whether such children are unlawfully being taken out of class due to behavior issues related to their disabilities.
Beyond disabilities, the analysis also found significant variation in suspension rates based on race.
“Our nation cannot close the achievement gap if our educators ignore the discipline gap,” said Daniel J. Losen, the director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies and an author of the report. “Educators have an opportunity for serious and successful reform in this area and are legally and morally obligated to take action.”