Last week, I signed House Bill 1, Louisiana’s budget bill for the next fiscal year. Despite reports to the contrary, the final budget that was signed into law does not include any cuts for people with developmental disabilities who are currently receiving waiver services.
The truth is, more people than ever before in Louisiana are now being served by programs for people with developmental disabilities (more than 20,000), and we’re providing more funding for New Opportunity Waiver (NOW) slots than at any time in our state’s history by committing $417 million in funding for the current Fiscal Year, a $91.3 million increase since I took office.
Overall since 2008, we have added more than 2,800 waiver slots for people with developmental disabilities. We have also made a substantial commitment to increasing funding for helping people with developmental disabilities.
According to the University of Colorado “State of the States in Developmental Disabilities Project,” Louisiana is currently among the top 10 states in terms of total spending for people with developmental disabilities.
Between fiscal year 2008 and the budget for fiscal year 2013, we have increased state funding support for our four waivers for people with developmental disabilities by 92.9 percent. In dollars, that represents a $71.5 million increase in State General Fund dollars, moving from $77 million in funding to $148.5 million.
During the same time period, we’ve implemented a 109.7 percent increase in state funding support for all Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers. In dollars, that represents a $98.6 million increase in State General Fund monies.
We have worked hard over the last five and a half years to make things better for those who need care by implementing measures to help individuals who are ready to transition from institutional settings to more-independent lives in their communities.
Caring for people with developmental disabilities is important, and it is a responsibility we take seriously — as evidenced by the fact that more of our most vulnerable are receiving care in our most comprehensive program with more funding than ever before.
We have expanded this program in the past and will continue to expand it in the future as the budget allows. This year’s budget, however, requires us to cut $40 million, which made a $4 million expansion difficult.
Instead, we protected the most-critical programs that our citizens with developmental disabilities use every day and focused on programs that haven’t yet been implemented, ensuring we maintain the services that people rely on.
Our efforts will allow us to ensure that future investments in these programs are made in the most-sustainable manner possible, for the benefit of both the people we serve and the taxpayers who entrust us with their dollars.