Looking to the Future of Disability Services

Looking to the Future of Disability Services

During the last legislative session, the Indiana General Assembly passed HEA 1102 which provided for a task force to study the future of disabilities services in Indiana. Since then the 1102 Task Force (“Task Force”), chaired by Lt. Governor, Suzanne Crouch, has been meeting across the state. The Task Force recently released its report to the General Assembly. A summary of the report’s recommendations prepared by INARF, New Hope’s trade association, is also available. At New Hope’s October Board meeting, INARF’s President and former NHI Administrator Steve Cook presented New Hope’s leadership team with an overview of these recommendations and a described the overall landscape of the disability services field over the next several years.

The 1102 Task Force’s report is far-reaching and contains thirty-four recommendations, both legislative and administrative. This is a very important next step for disability services in our state. We are especially fortunate that Lt. Governor Crouch took such an active interest in the Task Force and is very committed to seeing the recommendations through.

At this point in the year, it is unknown which of the thirteen legislative recommendations will be taken up by the Indiana General Assembly. However, we do know that INARF will be advocating for the following:

1) Recommendation 4.5, “Increasing, as soon as possible, the current state-wide average of direct support professionals to a level competitive with other service sector and health care jobs using current Bureau of Labor Statistics salary data through funding an increase in base compensation…” Because the upcoming session is a budget session, INARF will be asking for the average wage of DSPs to go to $15 an hour. This would have a $40 million fiscal note. The statewide average is approximately $11.20 and New Hope is approximately $11.30.
2) Recommendation 4.7, “The implementation of a public registry listing direct care staff who the Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services has determined have committed certain offenses that bar them from employment supporting people with developmental disabilities in the state of Indiana.” This is such a consumer safety issue for all the individuals served throughout our state!
3) Recommendation 1.5, “Increasing funding for Vocational Rehabilitation Services to ensure the program can address the fiscal deficit, increase Vocational Rehabilitation Services staffing resources, ensure appropriate reimbursement rates for providers to cover costs and recruit and retain staff an allow expansion and innovation of Pre-Employment Transition Services.” Again this issue will be tackled in a budget year. Interestingly, $6M in State dollars over the biennium will draw down $22.2M in federal dollars. It is very hard to pass up this match, especially when there are people waiting for vocational services.
4) Recommendation 3.1, “Since investing in early childhood development is more effective and less costly than addressing problems at a later age and due to increased referrals for early intervention services, the First Steps program receive enhanced funding in order to sustain a high quality early intervention program for the children and families it serves.” Another budget year priority. At this time, New Hope does not provide First Steps services.

There will surely be more initiatives from the Task Force recommendations and New Hope will keep you informed of all of them. We are happy for these “first steps” and are thankful to Lt. Governor Crouch and all of the other 1102 Task Force members for the hours they spent on this very important work!

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