By Megan Poinski
Many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are being left behind or underserved by state and national governments – including thousands in Maryland, according to a new study released on Tuesday.
The study, released by The Arc, a national advocacy group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, surveyed thousands of people with disabilities and their families about care, employment and assistance options. The results painted a bleak picture.
· About a third are on waiting lists to receive government assistance. The average time on a waiting list is five years.
· Three-quarters of caregivers cannot find adequate facilities for assistance.
· More than half of caregivers spend more than 40 hours each week providing assistance to disabled people.
· Nearly half say that they have more caregiving responsibilities than they can handle.
· Four out of five caregivers are tired, stressed out, and suffer from guilt or emotional upset.
· One in five families had to have someone stop working to be a full-time caregiver.
· 85% of families reported that their adult disabled relative was unemployed.
While the survey results released on Tuesday look at the nationwide state of care, Arc Maryland Acting Director Stephen Morgan said that he felt statistics in Maryland are very similar to the country as a whole. Hundreds of Marylanders contributed to the study, and he said Maryland specific figures will be released soon.
“I am surprised at the magnitude,” Morgan said. “Every finding in this report, you can anecdotally see. To see it expressed as numbers and percentages shows the stark reality.”
Maryland currently has a waiting list for assistance of about 5,000 people, Morgan said. The actual number of people who will need help is higher; there are thousands more who will be seeking assistance in the next three years.
Morgan said that the state has many of the programs that would provide the help that the developmentally disabled needs. What is needed is money to ensure that those programs reach more people.
A new 3% alcohol tax, set to take effect July 1, will provide $15 million more annually for the Developmental Disabilities Administration. While Morgan said that it is good to be getting more money – especially since Medicaid matching funds would therefore also increase by about $13 million a year – the money will not meet the state’s needs. Morgan estimated only about 500 more people will move off of the waiting lists each year.
The original proposal for an alcohol tax hike allocated more money for the developmentally disabled, but some of the new revenues are being spent on school funding.
Morgan said that he feels that services to the disabled community in Maryland have not suffered as much as elsewhere, largely because Maryland has not suffered as much as other states. He also feels that the state’s policymakers understand the importance of helping the developmentally disabled community, but need to identify a consistent source of funds to keep programs running.
“If we had our druthers, we’d like to see a commitment to community-based services that mirrors the kind of commitment the state has to funding K-12 education,” Morgan said.
With Maryland’s consistent economic success and rankings as one of the nation’s wealthiest states, Morgan said he feels that more can be done financially to help the developmentally disabled. However, there are no specific proposals that advocates will be lobbying for in the next General Assembly session.
According to state-by-state calculations, Morgan said, the money provided to the developmentally disabled “compared to the wealth of the state is not great. Maryland is in the bottom half. Maryland prides itself on trying to be #1 at everything. I’d like to see them do that here. We should at least be in the top 10.”