Two people sit at a desk in a wood paneled room.
Rep. Jay Case, R-Winchester, and Rep. Lucy Dathan, D-New Canaan, co-drafters of HB 5001, in the chamber ahead of the Connecticut House bill's vote. Erica Phillips / CT Mirror

A bipartisan House bill to expand resources and support services for residents with intellectual or developmental disabilities won unanimous passage Tuesday in the Senate. It now heads to the governor’s desk for final signature. 

“This population has been left behind for many years of budget cuts and lack of real investment,” said Rep. Lucy Dathan, D-New Canaan, during the House debate last week. “While we’ve expanded services in the last budget cycle, there’s still more work to do.”

House Bill 5001 — An Act Concerning Resources and Support Services for Persons With an Intellectual or Developmental Disability — addresses waitlists for Medicaid waiver programs and establishes plans to address the needs of residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities across a range of areas, including education, employment, housing and transportation. Dathan co-drafted the bill with Rep. Jay Case, R-Winsted.

One of the bill’s main goals is to alleviate Medicaid waiver waitlists that prevent people from receiving timely access to care.

Residents with autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities can qualify for what are called Medicaid waivers, which allow them to receive services at home or in the community, as opposed to in an institutional setting.

However, long waitlists for the waiver programs prevent many residents from receiving care when they need it.

The legislation seeks to address this challenge by, among other measures, requiring state agencies to make recommendations for how to reduce the number of people on waiting lists and regularly report the number of people currently waiting for services.

“We’ve been able to come up with this document that I believe is the pathway to ending waiting lists in the state of Connecticut. Does this do this upon passage? No. Is this a work in progress? Yes,” said Case.

There are currently 2,000 people on a waitlist for the autism waiver, which is managed by the Department of Social Services, Dathan said during the debate. There are also more than 900 people on the waitlist for home and community-based services, which is managed by the Department of Developmental Services.

In addition to directly grappling with the waiting lists, the bill also seeks to indirectly address the problem by partnering with the state Department of Education to provide transition planning resources to every student requiring special education, beginning at age 14. This will allow students and parents to understand the services available to them once their child leaves school.

“I do believe that by doing that we will deplete waiting lists at a faster pace, and we will have less waiting lists because more people will have a plan in front of them for when they aged out of SDE and move into services with DDS or DSS,” said Case.

Across its 72 sections, the legislation also tasks various state agencies with conducting studies and putting together plans related to intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) community needs within housing, education, employment and transportation, among others.

According to the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, the bill will cost $30 million from the General Fund and $400,000 from the Special Transportation Fund over the next two years. 

The bond package includes $17 million to fund certain measures in the bill, including $15 million to establish a Department of Developmental Services grant program for supportive housing services and $1 million for the Department of Economic and Community Development to provide grants to nonprofit organizations that employ individuals with an intellectual disability.

Katy Golvala is a member of our three-person investigative team. Originally from New Jersey, Katy earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Mathematics from Williams College and received a master’s degree in Business and Economic Journalism from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in August 2021. Her work experience includes roles as a Business Analyst at A.T. Kearney, a Reporter and Researcher at Investment Wires, and a Reporter at Inframation, covering infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean.