Federal Judge Gives State One Week To Make Health Changes

FRANKFORT, KY -- A federal judge has given the state one week to begin implementing sweeping changes to the state's community-based services for people with mental retardation and physical disabilities, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Saturday edition.

The deadline means the Cabinet for Health and Family Services will have to allocate more money to the programs, said Marsha Hockensmith, assistant director of Kentucky Protection and Advocacy, the Herald-Leader reports.

The Cabinet has not yet seen the written order, said Vikki Franklin, a spokeswoman. "When we do, we will review our options and respond accordingly," she said.

Franklin noted that Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's proposed budget allocates $17.5 million each year of the 2009-10 biennium to support individuals in the community.

But Hockensmith said the Cabinet would need more money to adequately respond to the order. The money in Beshear's budget would provide services for 500 to 700 people, Hockensmith said. She estimates that as many as 10,000 people might need services, reports the newspaper.

The order is the result of a lawsuit that Protection and Advocacy, a state agency that represents people with mental and physical disabilities, filed in 2002, alleging that the state did not provide adequate services to people with physical and mental disabilities.

More than 2,500 people were on waiting lists for services such as day programs, personal care and therapy, the newspaper reports.

In a settlement agreement announced in January 2006, the state said it would put more money, approximately $45 million over five years, into the Medicaid program to pay for more community-based services. About 70 percent of that would come from the federal government.

Federal authorities approved the changes to the Medicaid program in August 2007, and officials with Protection and Advocacy were repeatedly told -- even as late as Oct. 30 -- that the program was on target to begin in January 2008, according to court documents, reports the Heald-Leader.

Then in November, Protection and Advocacy officials were told there was no money in the budget for the program and it might not be until April, at the earliest, that money would be allocated for it, according to a report in the Herald-Leader.

Copyright: The Lexington Herald-Leader.

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