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DHHR taking comments on proposed changes to disabilities waiver

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Health and Human Resources is proposing reductions as part of a five-year renewal for the program that provides services for people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities in their home environments.

“The program, from our perspective, is absolutely critical. It serves a vulnerable population that we feel we absolutely have to serve and are morally obligated to serve,” said Jeremiah Samples, deputy DHHR secretary, of the Intellectual Developmental Disabilities Waiver (IDDW).

“The problem that we have is that we have 1,000 individuals that have the same acuity, the same types of issues as those on the program, but they cannot get onto the program.”

For the last three years, Samples said the waiver, one he called among the “most generous” in the nation, has exceeded its budget by tens of millions of dollars, while hundreds of people remain on a wait list.

The program is not a requirement of the federal government but, together, $385 million in state and federal money is spent on it each year.

“One of our primary concerns is serving this population, but we also have to be very concerned with the amount of money we’re spending,” Samples said.

At any one time, between 4,500 and 5,000 are receiving the waiver, according to information from the DHHR. In other states, those qualifying for the waivers would be placed in institutional settings.

West Virginia has no institutions, a fact that Cheryl Perone, president and CEO of Valley Health System, calls a “good thing.” “Yes, that’s expensive, but it’s less expensive than having people in institutions,” she said of the waiver program.

“The problem with the cuts to this program is that the people who are going to suffer are the individuals with disabilities themselves and, in many cases, their family members.”

On Thursday, family members of the people who would be affected by the cuts were part of a rally at the State Capitol.

Both Samples and Perone were guests on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

A public comment period on the proposed changes continues through April 24.

Comments can be submitted by e-mail at or through regular mail to WV Bureau of Medical Services, COBS Unit, 350 Capitol Street, Room 251, Charleston, WV 25301.

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