"It doesn't matter what we say here today," Pam Galbraith, the analyst charged with evaluating the Department of Health's developmental disabilities programs, told the Legislative Finance Committee this morning. "We're going to distress one stakeholder or another."
The stakeholders were there, but they kept quiet through Galbraith's presentation on the budgetary future of disability programs run through the DOH and HSD (Human Services Dept.). Details on the report's findings and recommendations are after the jump.
Galbraith started with the numbers:
3,792 people currently receive care through the state's Medicaid-funded developmental disabilities (DD) waiver program
4,555 people are currently on the waiting list for the DD waiver program
7 to 8 years is the average time a DD waiver participant will spend on the waiting list
Meanwhile, departmental budgets continue to decline, and federal appropriations for Medicaid are due to decline drastically when stimulus money dries up next year. Galbraith suggested reevaluating people on the waiting list to see if they could fit into other care programs, reassessing DD waiver participants' needs and reevaluating their reimbursements.
After Galbraith spoke, Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil gave a brief speech about the importance of rewriting the DD waiver (see this week's news). But Vigil, too, lamented the vitriol such discussions can provoke:
"Any time you're talking about any kind of adjustment to the [DD waiver] program, that's considered by somebody to be a threat," Vigil told the committee. "There's very, very little you can put on the table that's considered emotionally neutral." Even so, Vigil pledged to take a hard look at his department's budget, which he characterized as "daunting."
Most legislators responded with praise for Galbraith's report. Sen. Rod Adair, R-Chaves, revisited a familiar topic—the Jackson lawsuit—and grilled Vigil on where he was getting $4.9 million to pay Jackson costs.
"You're taking it [from] people who need services and you're paying this lawsuit without the permission of the legislature?" Adair asked Vigil. "The constitution says you shall not issue any payments of that type without legislative authorization. On what authorization are you paying these fees?"
Vigil responded that the lawsuit
She also brought up an interesting finding: the potential conflict of interest in a husband-wife team that, in a word, kept patients in the family. (One was a case manager, Galbraith said, and the other a provider.)
Galbraith's report examines the strengths, weaknesses and general future of developmental disability services in New Mexico—as well as of the two departments responsible for administering that care, the DOH and HSD (Human Services Department). Among her recommendations are contingency budget plans, cost savings and a joint powers agreement between the two departments.