AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It's a battle that's been brewing through two administrations; agencies which deal with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) claim DHHS is leaving them behind.
The Department of Health and Human Services, though, says they've only added funding under the LePage administration.
Commissioner Mary Mayhew argues that 70-million dollars has been added to the system to help adults with IDD, and in fact, 700 more people have been taken off the waitlist.
"Support for adults with developmental disabilities have been at the absolute front of the line," said Mayhew. "This administration has moved away from that and has created financial stability; has prioritized our most vulnerable. We've not cut rates of reimbursement, and yet this is the commentary and the criticism [from agencies]. I am dumbfounded by it."
Todd Goodwin, the CEO of Community Partners - which runs group homes and services throughout the state - says they haven't seen that money and he can't afford to keep on the proper staff to help those currently within the system.
"We can throw as much money as we want at 'the system' for people who are eligible for services, but without an appropriate rate on the ground, organizations like Community Partners and others are not able to meet the demand and provide a service without staff to provide that service," said Goodwin.
What Goodwin is referencing is the rate reimbursement that the Department of Health and Human Services provides. In 2007 that rate was $25.37 per unit of service. Goodwin says it's now $22.43, which equates to a nearly 12% decrease.
That rate covers everything from training and benefits, to program expenses and supplies, to HR. Six percent of what they're given, he says, is also given back to the state in taxes. What's left to pay employees, Goodwin says, is an average of $11/hour.
"It's incredibly difficult to find and retain staff that are willing to do this incredibly demanding work," said Goodwin.
On top of the cuts Goodwin talks about, the Department currently reimburses 100% based on 92.5% of services provided; something it wants to change to only reimburse what is actually provided.
Why should agencies be reimbursed for work not done? Goodwin says that rule was created for leeway; sick days, staff shortages, and work done above 100%. With the proposed change, agencies would lose another 7.5% of reimbursements.
"It truly is the perfect storm that has implications for the entire integrity of the system."
"We've increased the number of people receiving services by 700 that we have taken off of wait lists," said Mayhew in response. "We've been able to provide services for [them] because we increased funding by over $70 million."
DHHS commissioner, Mary Mayhew says this administration is making up for cuts the previous Democratic one made; but proposed restructuring within the system like changing the way rates are reimbursed and the testing that determines who is eligible for services has sparked outrage from those agencies, even petitions to block those changes.
"Truly, I don't recall these very same agencies over in line at the legislature opposing Medicaid expansion," said Mayhew about the struggle to pass added funding through the legislature. "Had the state expanded, we wouldn't be having any conversation about increasing our supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities."
What both sides agree on: there should be more communication.
"We all need to prioritize the services for these individuals," said Mayhew.
"I couldn't agree more," said Goodwin. "We'd very much like to do that. It's important to understand what they mean when they talk about where the dollars go."