s we have discussed in our September GO! Bulletin, in a budget note in the Office of Developmental Disability Services (ODDS) budget, the legislature directs ODDS to cut an additional $12 million from its budget. If ODDS cannot, then it directs ODDS to look at changing eligibility for DD services.
Although ODDS is working to find $12 million in its budget, ODDS has also unveiled a plan that will cap how many children can receive DD services - and gives legislators the option to start counting family income when looking at Intellectual and/or Developmental Disability eligibility.
Phase 1 of the children's waiver changes will cap the number of children served. Any children seeking services after the cap is reached will be placed on a wait list. Children on the wait list will not receive services until a slot opens on the waiver. For now, ODDS plans to cap the number of children on this waiver at the number of children they anticipate serving as of July 1, 2018.
Phase 2 of the waiver changes will start in October 2019 and require that ODDS consider the family's income when looking at children's eligibility for DD services. Currently, ODDS only looks to the child's income when establishing waiver eligibility. This will cut services completely for approximately one third of the families currently using services and leave them with only out of home placements options if they need support. ODDS was clear that Phase 2 will only happen if they are directed by the legislature to make this change.
If the Center for Medicaid Services at the federal level approves, Phase 1 (starting a wait list) would only save an estimated $360,000 in general funds this biennium and $2.7 million general funds in the following biennium. The costs to the systems and to families would be higher in the end. It was estimated that the average cost of children's in-home services is only $2,000 per month; whereas foster care costs $5,000 monthly and children's group residential care is approximately $11,000 per month per child.
While the ODDS budget has expanded in the last few years, families now have access to the needed supports and services to remain at home, and that while there are more children accessing services, the number of children entering the system is expected to level out in 2019.
Oregon's financial forecast has been moving in a positive direction and while federal tax changes may impact our State budget, we ask the legislature to prioritize the well-being of our most-vulnerable citizens and their families.
We question whether long-term sustainability can be achieved by cutting people out of services. Removing access to services has costly, long-term consequences to children, families and our community. If families lose access to DD services it would result in higher demand for police, medical, emergency room and educators for crisis support. These children and families will still need services and will be forced into crisis, isolation and then into programs that are more expensive and less appropriate to meet their needs.
Let's not take a step backward! These short-term budget cuts will have lasting and devastating consequences for Oregon families.
Rather than making changes to eligibility now, we urge the legislature to allow the caseloads to plateau in 2019 as expected and give sustainability measures already underway time to stabilize program costs so that Oregon children experiencing DD continue to have opportunities to access supports and succeed in our communities.
We urge the legislature to continue the current course of providing proactive support to families so children with disabilities have a real chance of growing up to be independent adults who are more likely to have natural connections to community resources. Effective support from the start can change the trajectory for children with disabilities in our state. Please make these children a priority!