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Plan To Assist Disabled People Stay At Home Wins Federal Approval

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Jim Deisenroth says he hears frequently from other parents and grandparents worried about the future of their disabled children without services to keep them in their communities.

"People have been asking me and asking me and asking me - when are we going to get services?" said Deisenroth, who lives with his 32-year-old granddaughter, who has mental retardation and developmental disabilities.

The advocates got the answer they wanted.

Federal officials have approved a sweeping state plan to use Medicaid money to pay for home and community services for people with mental retardation and physical disabilities, officials with the state Health and Family Services Cabinet said Tuesday.

"I am ecstatic that this has happened," Deisenroth said.

The decision means thousands of disabled Kentuckians - many living with aging parents - may be about to get the help they need to continue living and working in their communities.

Such services could include personal care, therapy, day programs or other help for individuals that their caregivers can't provide. The approval comes nearly two years after the state settled a federal lawsuit filed by advocates for the disabled. The state agreed to pay to help people with disabilities stay at home instead of being forced into an institution, such as a nursing home or residential center.

About 3,000 people are on a waiting list for such services, and state officials estimate there are thousands more who could benefit from what is known as the "Michelle P." settlement, named after the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, Michelle Phillips of Louisville.

"I think this goes a long way toward providing the right care at the right time at the right place," cabinet Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell said.

Phillips, 32, who is Deisenroth's granddaughter, said she was delighted to learn that the lawsuit, filed in 2002, has finally brought results.

"I'm happy to hear the good news," she said. "We need the services."

Maureen Fitzgerald, director of Kentucky Protection and Advocacy, whose agency filed the suit, said she was "thrilled " by the results.

"It's going to be just terrific for people who have been waiting and waiting for years," she said.

The $50-million-a-year project - which could serve as many as 10,000 people - will be funded through Medicaid, the federal-state health plan for the poor and disabled. About 70 percent of the money will come from the federal government.

The plan comes four months after the state announced it will receive an additional $50 million in federal money during the next five years to help people in facilities, such as nursing homes, move into the community if they choose. Kentucky will use the money to provide assistance - such as personal care or home health - to help those people.

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Information from: The Courier-Journal,
http://www.courier-journal.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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