Disability services lack Southern hospitality

By Stasya Hopp | Reporter

Every year Texas has performed poorly in the national ranking of developmental disability services called the Case for Inclusion report annually released by United Cerebral Palsy and the ANCOR Foundation.

In 2019, Texas ranked 49th among states in efforts to serve individuals with disabilities. ANCOR Foundation’s press release addressing the issue said, “Texas has taken no significant steps to improve policies that help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities lead more independent and productive lives, resulting in a continued poor showing in state rankings.”

My sister has intellectual and developmental disabilities, and my family has struggled to find and maintain the services she is entitled to and deserves.

Medicaid cuts across the nation impact the quality of healthcare she receives. In December 2016, Texas implemented $350 million in Medicaid cuts to speech, occupational and physical therapy, two of which my sister currently participates in.

The Texas Medicaid and Healthcare Partnership determined my sister’s condition didn’t meet the criteria of being medically dependent, according to a Medicaid waiver offering services called the Medically Dependent Children’s Criteria Program.

Despite having epilepsy, a seizure condition, being unable to walk independently, having intellectual and developmental disabilities and brain damage that has caused cerebral palsy, they determined she didn’t meet the criteria anymore because she stopped having seizures frequently enough.

Thankfully, my sister’s case was appealed, and the judge overturned the denial and she is still receiving services. Other children are not so lucky. The criteria and the Texas healthcare system make it extremely difficult for children deserving of these services to prove medical dependence.

According to ANCOR, this ranking is essentially unchanged from the 2016 report. The foundation said Texas has ranked 49th or 50th in every Case for Inclusion Report since it began publishing.

There are five categories that impact rankings of the states that best serve people with disabilities: independence promotion; tracking health, safety, and quality of life; keeping families together; promoting productivity; and reaching those in need.

ANCOR’s press release details the factors impacting Texas’ poor performance. The percentage of people served through Medicaid-funded waivers in Texas is 10 percent less than the national average. Intellectual and developmental disability funds allocated for supporting individuals in home and community environments were 68 percent in Texas versus 85 percent nationally. Seven percent of individuals with I/DD in Texas live in large, state institutions compared to 1.7 percent across the country. Texas spends more than the national average to keep families together but saw just 26 percent of individuals with I/DD living in a family home, 36 percent lower than the average.

Texas had, in 2019, the longest waiting list for Home and Community-Based Services in the country. As written in the press release, the state would have to “expand its existing service offerings by a whopping 535 percent in order to match current levels of demand.”

It is unethical, unfair, and damaging to the quality of life for Texas to progress in the way it has been when it comes to disability services. A society is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members. Texas does not measure up.

Stasya is a sophomore University Scholar major from Cedar Park.