(INDIANAPOLIS) - Thousands of Hoosiers with developmental disabilities are coming off the Medicaid waiver waiting list and getting the services they need.
A year ago, 20,000 people were waiting for services, but that number has been whittled down to 13,000.
Nineteen-year-old Christian Hale, who has cerebral palsy, was on the waiting list for 10 years, but started receiving services in June.
"It came at the perfect time," said DeShawn Hale, mother and caretaker of Christian Hale. "He was going to be graduating high school, and I didn't know how I was going to make a life for him after that. I was just thankful."
Christian Hale cannot speak, wears diapers and needs constant care.
DeShawn Hale said her son will now receive $43,000 worth of services, including in-home care and a day center, where Christian can socialize.
For many Hoosiers, a Medicaid waiver is the only way to avoid a nursing home.
"It allows me to keep him at home and give him some kind of life," said DeShawn Hale.
The state Family and Social Services Administration hopes to remove 2,000 people from the waiting list each year, and eliminate the waiting list altogether within the next five years.
Marni Lemons, spokeswoman for FSSA, told RTV6 via email FSSA's Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services is placing more emphasis on supporting families and keeping family units together longer.
"Many families around the state have expressed that they would need a minimal amount of support if they could just access it sooner," said Lemons via email.
FSSA said instead of having multiple waiting lists for different kinds of Medicaid waivers, they've boiled it down to one waiting list.
"All applicants will now access the waiver program through the newly named Family Supports Waiver," said Lemons via email.
John Dickerson, executive director of the advocacy group The Arc of Indiana, said the waivers boost the economy by allowing Hoosier caretakers to go back to work.
"We have moms who have to stay at home because their adult son or daughter can't get any support services," said Dickerson. "The longer we can help someone in the family get a job, become part of their community, the more cost effective it is for the state."
Dickerson explained the state did not receive additional funding, but instead, found a way to make the dollars go further.
"It's about getting more people a little bit of services, and that's a good thing," said Dickerson.
DeShawn Hale quit working years ago.
"It's a challenge to work because his health is so unpredictable," said Hale. "It's been a major challenge and a huge sacrifice."
Hale said she plans to start working from home now that her son is finally getting the services he needs.
"I think it's wonderful, and I think the state is really serious about this," said DeShawn Hale.
Currently, 40 percent of people with developmental disabilities are in a residential setting, but FSSA expects that number to grow as more families come off the waiting list.
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