Developmental disability aid to get a boost

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SANTA FE – Two state agencies are under orders by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to craft a plan to help the thousands of New Mexicans who have developmental disabilities but are waiting for state services.

The average wait time exceeds 13 years.

“New Mexico must find creative ways to support people with special needs in our state and help the families who care for them,” Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who took office Jan. 1, said in a written statement Friday.

Incredibly long waits have been a problem for years in the state-run program that helps people with developmental disabilities participate as active members of the community – through therapy, help with employment and other services.

It’s particularly difficult, families say, when their children become young adults and are no longer in school.

Lujan Grisham, a former state Cabinet secretary, said Friday that she has directed the state departments of Health and Human Services to develop a program to help people as they wait. About 20 other states already offer similar services, her administration said.

The departments will examine how other states serve people on waiting lists, survey what services are available to help them and analyze funding levels.

“This will help us provide aid to those on the wait list as soon as possible,” Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said of the proposal.

About 5,000 people are waiting for their allocation of funding through what are known as “waiver” programs that serve New Mexicans with developmentally disabilities, such as autism.

It’s called a waiver because the federal government, for some states, has waived the requirement to use a nursing home or other institutional setting to provide services.

“As a physician, I’m proud to work with our governor and DOH in expanding services to people with disabilities and help them receive the additional support they need,” Human Services Secretary David Scrase said in a prepared statement announcing the plan.

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