While about 20 York County adults with intellectual disabilities could benefit from money earmarked in Gov. Tom Corbett's 2013-14 budget, there could be more than 430 Yorkers remaining on the waiting list.
Corbett said last week his proposed budget, to be unveiled in early February, calls for spending nearly $20 million more to provide home- and community-based services for about 1,200 people statewide.
The effort is aimed at reducing the waiting list for services for adults with intellectual disabilities.
People are classified as intellectually disabled if they have an IQ below 70, and those affected include people with Down syndrome, autism and other
conditions, said Steve Warren, administrator of the York/Adams Mental Health Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Program.
Emergency cases: The money is being targeted at adults who are on emergency waiting lists, those in the most dire situations, said Anne Bale, deputy press secretary at the state's Department of Public Welfare.
That includes those who have "aged-out" of the care they were getting at, for example, a high school, or those whose caregivers are no longer able to assist them, such as those with elderly parents, she said.
"So they're really kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place ... and don't have access to services," Bale said. "These are people who are unable to help themselves."
The proposal is part of Corbett's state budget, a full version of which has not yet been presented, and is subject to approval of the state Legislature, she said. Because it's preliminary, there's no breakdown of what each county would receive, she said.
Warren said the allocation in the current budget year, during which $17.8 million was set aside for the program, resulted in about 20 people being removed from the waiting list. He expects the current proposal, if it passes, would yield similar results, he said.
There were, on Thursday, 454 people on waiting lists in York County. Of those, 82 were considered emergencies, he said.
Assigned services: The services would be assigned in two different categories. In the first category, the amount of aid given could include assignment in a group-living arrangement, the cost of which runs from $50,000 to $200,000 annually per person, Warren said. The second caps services, such as respite care for primary caregivers, at $30,000.
The current year's allocation allowed York County to place two people in housing and give 18 people services limited to $30,000, Warren said. He said he expects the 2013-14 proposal to be similar.
"You can imagine having 82 people on that emergency list and having two new slots and trying to determine who are the people who get those two slots," he said.
With a shortage of services, elderly caretakers of intellectually disabled people end up "hanging on" until housing becomes available, he said. In the "worst-case scenario," a caretaker dies or moves into a nursing home and the dependent is left with no family; in such a case, the county would petition the court to have the person institutionalized.
That hasn't happened in at least 15 years, but it becomes harder to avoid as the waiting list grows, he said.
Warren said he's "very optimistic" this part of Corbett's budget will be approved, and applauds the initiative.
"We'll take whatever we can get," he said. "I just wish there were more (housing) slots."
Seek support: County social workers will ask local legislators for their support of the proposal, said Michelle Hovis, executive director of York County's Human Services Department.
"Certainly this is a very positive step," she said. "When you have many people that have difficult needs at any time, this isn't going to solve all of our problems by a long shot, but any individual we can help is certainly a positive thing."
State Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, said he supports the proposal, but Corbett's budget can't be viewed as a "piecemeal" document.
"I wouldn't say this is a single piece that would make me vote for the budget, but it's a good piece," he said. "Twenty million dollars is not an insignificant amount of money and it'll go a way to addressing some problems. It's very sad to hear stories of people who age out of the system, and older people who never asked for help for their intellectually disabled child but are getting older and can't do it anymore."
State Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said the additional money is overall "a good thing."
He does want to make sure, though, that counties without waiting lists aren't penalized.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.