January 27, 2020
Press Herald Op-Ed: Time to Reform Maine's Services for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities
Mills Administration is connecting individuals with Section 21 services, will pursue funding to eliminate Section 29 waitlist, and working to reform the system to meet the needs of those it's intended to serve
AUGUSTA – In case you missed it, Paul Saucier, Director of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) Office of Aging and Disability Services, penned an op-ed in the Portland Press Herald today describing DHHS' plan to reform and reinvigorate services for adults with intellectual disabilities, brain injury and autism.
With funding included in the biennial budget that took effect July 1, DHHS is already connecting 167 additional adults with services through Section 21 of MaineCare, as well as helping to prevent and de-escalate crises by using specially trained crisis workers, better assessing clinical needs earlier, improving data, and taking pressure off field workers.
Looking ahead, the Mills Administration will pursue funding to eliminate one of the current waitlists for services, known as Section 29, and begin connecting more individuals with services in their communities, Saucier wrote in the op-ed. DHHS has also prioritized better support for families, increasing respite services and providing training throughout the system.
"Addressing this longstanding problem requires a new vision and strategy, one centered around the goals that each individual has for their life and adapts as those goals evolve. We're developing that vision. But we also recognize the need to take action now," Saucier wrote.
In his op-ed, Saucier wrote that fully clearing the current waitlists for services – which DHHS estimates would cost at least $80 million in state General Fund dollars – would lock in a system initially set up 30 years ago to support people who were leaving Pineland Center.
"But today, all these years later, the largest portion of adults in the system are still being served in group homes, even though the population this system is designed to serve has changed considerably... Many do not need or want to live in a group home with strangers, where most of their day must follow a group schedule," Saucier wrote.
Saucier pointed to DHHS' Community 2.0 initiative, which will guide the reinvigoration the system and take the next big step toward full inclusion of everyone in our communities. The goal is to support individuals and families with better information and a more flexible array of services over the lifespan, as individuals' needs and goals change over time.
"Adults with disabilities have much to offer the state of Maine. They can do so best when they have a role in determining their own goals and choosing their settings and services," Saucier wrote.
Paul Saucier's complete op-ed in the Portland Press Herald.