By Melissa Austin, Columbus FACES program
Despite advocacy efforts from service providers all across the state, at present there will be no increase in Georgia's Human Service Subcommittee Budget for the NOW/COMP Medicaid Waivers programs. These programs are used to care for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities, including those in Lutheran Services of Georgia's FACES program.
The Service Providers Association for Developmental Disabilities is calling on the Georgia Senate to request a 5% increase in the NOW and COMP waivers which would amount to approximately $8.1 million in state funds. This would also generate an additional $16 million in federal matching funds.
SPADD has created an online petition that will go to key legislators to encourage them to support these Waivers. The goal is 15,000 signatures by Tuesday, March 3.
Since the late 1980s, COMP and NOW have provided critical care services to individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities in a highly cost efficient manner. In 2014, Georgia approved a small funding increase of 1.5%, the first increase in funding for over 25 years.
Providers of these services, including LSG, support approximately 13,000 citizens with developmental/disabilities each year. Providers also employ 13,500 direct service workers and thousands of other personnel. The lack of adequate funding, along with an insufficient minimum wage, have resulted in service providers having to close their doors.
Increasing the COMP/NOW funding by 5% or 8.1 million dollars would allow for expanded services, a stable direct services workforce, and the provision of intellectual/developmental disability services to an additional 7,000 citizens. This is only the second increase request in 25 years and is necessary for providers to remain viable and offer these much-needed services.