State Can Do Better To Obtain Interim DD Relief Services »Albuquerque Journal
It’s one thing to have a good idea. It is quite another to execute it.
New Mexicans had another look at the unfortunate disconnect between concept and follow-up last week as officials revealed fewer than 100 people – out of more than 2,000 guests – were receiving services as part of a reduced support plan to help people who have lingered off the waitlist for the state’s full developmental disorders program. It is estimated that 4,000 families have been on the waiting list, some for 13 years.
In an effort to close the gap, the Legislature last year authorized $ 7 million for the new program, which can pay for things like respite care, day programs and environmental modifications, including including items such as widened doors to accommodate wheelchairs. “This is an opportunity to truly improve the quality of life for their loved ones and their families,” said Jason Cornwell, director of the Developmental Disabilities Supports division at the State Department of Health, of the new program.
So why so few takers?
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Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino said the launch encountered a few issues, including a lengthy application process that hampered participation. The Albuquerque Democrat said he was “terribly disappointed” with the number of people registered and added “I think this is a classic example of how a bureaucracy really struggles to grasp something new.” . To people who struggled with their unemployment benefit issues during the pandemic, he preaches in the choir.
And COVID-19 made it more difficult for those who had to leave their homes for doctor visits or other steps necessary to qualify.
Tim Gardner, legal director of the nonprofit Disability Rights New Mexico, said letters from the state might not be the best way to reach those on the list. He said some had a “history of disappointment” in their interactions with state agencies, adding that “there is a natural distrust in some people.”
Cornwell said the Department of Health has admitted the agency has encountered skepticism from families who fear losing their place on the waiting list if they sign up for the new program. He stressed that would not happen and said the new services offered were designed in response to surveys asking families on the waiting list what they need. “It’s not a bait and switch,” said Cornwell.
And he said the DOH was looking for ways to better reach the families on the list. “We have a lot of work to do for people to understand how valuable this is to their families,” he said. “We can help. We can really, really help.
Fair enough. And recognizing that the effort was way below expectations is a good place to start. As part of ramping up awareness, Cornwell is asking those on the waiting list to call the phone number on the letter they received or even contact him directly at [email protected] .nm.us.
This program can make a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities and their families. Now it’s up to the state to help make it happen with clear explanations and a simple, streamlined application process.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the journal rather than that of the authors.