Millett introduces bill to eliminate disability service wait lists for adults

Posted: January 29, 2020 | Health and Human Services, Senator Millett

AUGUSTA — Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, on Monday introduced a bill that aims to eliminate service wait lists for disabled adults in Maine. LD 1984 “An Act To Eliminate Waiting Lists for Home and Community-based Services for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism, Brain Injury and Other Related Conditions” was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

“Every Mainer deserves to live a happy, healthy life. But too many people languish on long wait lists, unable to access the services, resources and help they qualify for, have a right to, and should be receiving. It’s past time for us to do something about it,” said Sen. Millett. “For too long, legislators have only picked away at the edges of this problem. In the meantime, waiting lists for disability services just keep growing. We owe these Mainers and their families a real solution.”

Sen. Millett stands with supporters of LD 1984 in the State House Welcome Center

LD 1984 would amend the system of care for adults with intellectual disabilities, autism, brain injury and other related conditions to reduce and eliminate MaineCare waiver waiting lists for home and community-based services, especially for those individuals covered under MaineCare Section 21 and Section 29. 

According to recent data, there are more than 1,900 people waiting for Section 21 or Section 29 services, which cover people over the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with an intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder.

Betsey Mahoney with the Autism Society of Maine testified that while people with disabilities have access to a broad network of support while they are in school, after graduation, they all too often hit a “cliff,” and are suddenly without the services they need to thrive. This sudden loss of support services causes people with disabilities to backslide in their development and growth. 

“In order for people with disabilities to be included in their community and enable their family members to work, the State must provide services and programs, and provide adequate reimbursement payments to ensure a workforce to work with this population,” Mahoney said.

“This bill puts in place good protections for people with intellectual disabilities and autism,” said Staci Converse with Disability Rights Maine, in testimony supporting the bill. “It also requires the Department to project the likely number of individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism who will need services in the future.”

Earlier in the day, Sen. Millett was joined by Mahoney and several parents of disabled adults from across Maine at a press conference to promote the bill.

Many family members of disabled Mainers submitted testimony in favor of the bill, as did the Maine Heritage Policy Center.

LD 1984 now faces further committee action before going to the Maine Senate and House for votes.