Adult Services for Individuals with Special Needs: Applications, wait times and tips on how to navigate the process

 August 18, 2016
Posted by M&LAdmin4

Thursday, August 18, 2016

As parents/family members/guardians of individuals with disabilities, many of us has already or will experience the application process (and sometimes excruciating wait times) for obtaining adult supports and services for our family members with special needs.

In the event that you have not yet had to go through this process, here is a little background information. When an individual with disabilities turns 21/22, he or she may (depending on state of residency) experience a “cliff”, or drop in the availability and level of supports and services. This “cliff” occurs for one simple reason: prior to age 21/22, “all qualified persons with disabilities within the jurisdiction of a school district are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education, (FAPE).”  After the 21st or 22nd birthday, however, (and again, please remember that this is dependent on the state in which you live) individuals lose these supports and services. For additional supports and services, families need to apply to their Department of Disability Services (DDA) for adult services and supports in their state, oftentimes being placed on indeterminable wait lists.

If you are interested in learning more about supports and services for individuals with disabilities, including the application process, possible wait times, and how to effectively navigate this process, please read on!

Applications for Supports for Adults with Disabilities

Before we even begin the discussion, it is important to note that the application process for services for adults with disabilities needs to be completed in the state in which the individual has residency. In all states, the application for supports and services is completed through the Department of Disability Services (DDS) or Department of Disability Agency (DDA). Every state may have a different yet similar name for this agency. Individual eligibility is state specific and the supports do not transfer to another state. If the individual moves, one has to reapply for the supports and services in that state.

Supports and services for adults with disabilities, as applied for through the department specific to your home state, can be obtained through a Medicaid Waiver Program, oftentimes through the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waiver, which enables states to allow the provision of long term care services in home and community based settings under the Medicaid program. (Note: to learn more about the waiver program, visit the Medicaid.gov website.)

As every state has a specific set of rules and regulations, you should begin your search in your home state and familiarize yourself with the regulations and application process that you will need to follow.

Wait Times for Services

When contemplating wait list times for adult services and supports in general, it is important to remember that every state has its own timeline of applying and waiting for services. In some states, Illinois and Florida for example, there are approximately 22,000 individuals with disabilities on a wait list, and there is basically no hope of ever receiving supports from those states. In Maryland, one can apply at any age for adult services and be put on a wait list – if found eligible – until the age of 21. During the individual’s 20th year, the state will contact the individual to begin the process. However, in Maryland, if the individual applies for supports after the age of 22, if found eligible, they are put on a wait list with approximately 8000 other individuals. Maryland has what is called “Transitioning Youth Initiative”, so one can receive benefits if they get into the system before the age of 22.

As of right now, Washington DC does not have a wait list, but DC has what is called an Intellectual Disability waiver, and the IQ before and after the age of 18 must be 69 or below. To learn more about each state’s wait list, you can go to the two websites: The Case for Inclusion and The State of States in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

How to deal with wait list times for services

Unfortunately, there aren’t any sure-fire ways to reduce support and services wait times for your family member with special needs. There are a few things you can do, however, to try to mitigate the effect of these wait times. These include preparing for losing services as your family member ages into adulthood, seeking support and assistance as you attempt to prevent regression, and seeking professional help applying for federal benefits.

To begin, try to anticipate and prepare for the aforementioned “cliff” that occurs when individuals with disabilities reach 21. It is important to speak with the team of services and supports professionals about this transition well before your family member reaches this pivotal age. Ensure that you have all your information and applications well in hand before that date, (especially if you live in a state with rules similar to that of Maryland and can secure a spot on the wait list before the individual turns 21) and familiarize yourself with the process before it occurs. As well, assemble a “support” team – even if the team consists of family members and friends – to assist you and your family member with disability throughout the process.

Another way to help mitigate the effects of the long wait lists would be to prepare and work with your family member to ensure that he or she doesn’t regress – or lose – the skills that he or she has built while in the educational system. This may be easier said than done, as the busy and hectic lives that surround families with special needs may not allow the resources – time, financial, or otherwise – necessary to avoid all regression, but any resources spent helping your family member retain skills is an investment in his or her future, and will help tremendously when he or she finally receives access to services.

A third tip to help your family with special needs handle indefinite wait times is to – if at all possible – get professional help when applying for benefits and services. Here at M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC, we help individuals with disability and their families apply for and receive the federal disability benefits of SSI and SSDI. (M&L currently has a 95% success rate with this service for three years running.) Acquiring professional help can ensure that you do not make mistakes in the application process that could set you back months or even years in the application process. For more information, please click here.

Would you like more information?

Thank you all so much for visiting our site today – we hope that our information is helpful to your family with special needs. We hope that you can take a moment to share this article with family members, friends, and colleagues – one of our goals is to share information that can benefit all families with special needs.  If you have any questions about this or any other topic, please do not hesitate to contact us! We love hearing from readers, and will ensure that we are putting you on the path to future success.

That’s all for today – see you next week!

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