Maryland loses $3 million in federal aid
Advocates worry about waiting list for disabled; hearing set for Tuesday
An ongoing makeover to a list of developmentally disabled individuals waiting for state services has advocates fearing that people in need, some of whom have waited two decades, will be removed from the roll.
The Developmental Disabilities Administration is conducting a review to determine which individuals on the list are in most urgent need of services.
"It's our understanding that a large number of people will be taken off the list," said Laura Howell, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Services.
That worries service providers, said Cristine Marchand, executive director of The Arc of Maryland.
When individuals come off the list "they disappear," she said. "And they're the silent majority."
The agency's review of the list, which had grown by May to include 18,928 names, was described in a 45-page audit report released Tuesday.
State auditors found that the agency did not claim $3 million in federal reimbursements that Maryland was eligible to receive and failed to recoup $3.6 million that it overpaid to service providers.
The audit also found that the disabilities administration paid contractors for services for people who had died, did not properly track Medicaid eligibility and had inadequate data systems in place that compromised security.
The legislature's Joint Audit Committee will hold a hearing on the audit at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Annapolis.
DDA Executive Director Michael S. Chapman declined to comment on details of the audit report until after the hearing, but said that the agency welcomed the scrutiny, even if it did not agree with all 14 findings.
The agency, in a response to the audit findings, said it could not recoup $911,000 of the federal reimbursement because of a two-year statute of limitations for claims. DDA was able to recover more than $546,000, according to the response.
Despite the millions that auditors claim DDA left on the table at a time when services for the disabled have been slashed by $29 million this year alone, advocates said that their worry lies more with the future of the waiting list.
The agency began sending letters to families on the waiting list in October 2008 in order to assess their needs, Chapman said. The agency plans to complete its review by April.
Caroline Munro, 15, has been on the waiting list since October 1999. With cerebral palsy and mental disabilities she is nonverbal and wheelchair-bound.
Her mother, Beth Munro, would like DDA funding for a roll-in shower in their Rockville home. But it cannot be installed unless square footage is added to the bathroom, something DDA will not pay for and Munro cannot afford.
Other services, such as access to an after-school program, could have made it possible for Munro to work full time. As a single mother, she needs to be home when Caroline returns from Richard Montgomery High School.
"I think about what our lives could've been like had we had supports, particularly, just respite," she said. "Perhaps I would've been able to afford to do some of the home modifications myself."