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Bush To Propose $1.75 Billion For Community Living Initiatives
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 23, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC--If you have been battling for people to live in the community instead of institutions, the Bush Administration wants you to know they are on your side.

In his Fiscal Year 2004 budget to be revealed next month, President Bush will propose a $1.75 billion, five-year program to help Americans with disabilities move into the community from nursing homes or other institutions.

According to a press statement from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the proposals build on recommendations made to the President from a survey of federal policies that keep citizens with disabilities segregated in institutional facilities.

"The President and I are committed to changing policies that unnecessarily confine people with disabilities in institutional settings," said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "We want to work with the states and the disability community to change old programs and develop new ones that will serve people with disabilities in the settings that work best for them."

The "'Money Follows the Individual' Rebalancing Demonstration" would help states provide more cost-effective choices between institutional and community options. This would include financing Medicaid services for people to move from institutions to the community. Under the proposal, the federal government would pay the full cost of home and community based waiver services for one year, after which participating states would agree to pick up the regular Medicaid costs.

"We didn't do it for the reason of saving money, but in the long run helping people stay in their homes, in particular, is a win-win for everybody," one official told Reuters News Service. "That is what individuals prefer."

The President is also proposing a $220 million, five-year initiative called "New Freedom Initiative Demonstrations". This would fund four demonstrations that promote home and community-based alternatives. Two of the demonstrations would provide respite care services for caregivers of adults with disabilities or long-term illness and children with certain disabilities. Another demonstration would provide community-based care alternatives for children who are currently housed in psychiatric residential treatment facilities.

In addition, President Bush will propose $95 million be spent over the next five years to keep Medicaid coming for spouses of people with disabilities who return to work.

Disability groups were quick to applaud the administration's announcement.

Lex Frieden, chairperson for the National Council on Disability (NCD), said the proposal would help "eliminate many barriers to full participation in community life for people with disabilities."

"This is a significant step in the right direction," Frieden added.

Mitchell R. Stoller, President and CEO of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, said the plan would be "a tremendous boost to people living with disabilities."

"One of the biggest challenges faced by people transitioning from living in rehabilitation hospitals or nursing homes to living in their own homes and communities is the loss of medical benefits and services they were receiving under Medicaid."


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