BRUNSWICK

A Brunswick-based group that provides support to hundreds of local people with developmental disabilities is sounding an alarm over changes in state funding.

“It could mean people will receive less services,” said Ray Nagel, executive director of the Independence Association.

Currently, what a person with disabilities receives for support is based on a plan determined by a team of provider agencies, family members, case managers, and the person himself or herself. That plan is almost always approved by the state, said Nagel.

Starting July 1, 2015, Maine’s Office of Aging and Disability Services will use the Supports Intensity Scale — or SIS.

A town hall-style meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Knights of Columbus Hall on 2 Columbus Drive to discuss the coming changes.

Speakers will include Nagel; Jim Martin, director of the Office of Aging and Disability Services, and Developmental Services Manager Karen Mason.

The SIS will categorize those with behavioral disabilities into one of five tiers based on a one-time assessment.

Independence Association board member Richard Estabrook said SIS was never designed for resource allocation.

Behavioral disabilities such as autism should not be be “force fed into a category,” said Estabrook.

“It’s purely a financial move,” said Estabrook, that will compact the state’s growing waiting list for those receiving funding.

Independence Association estimates that the SIS will reduce the daily average funding rate for home support services by 8 percent, and community supports rate by almost 23 percent.

Efforts to reach the Department of Health and Human Services for comment were unsuccessful on Monday.

According to the department’s website, the SIS measures practical supports — such as community or home living, employment, health and safety, and social activities — needed by an individual.

“It’s a comprehensive assessment that engages the consumer in a positive interview process,” according to the department’s site. “Case managers, guardians and direct support professionals are included in the interview.”

SIS is designed to provide the same tool for everyone, be flexible, and a SIS interview will be conducted once every three years for each individual, according to DHHS.

Sweetser, which provides behavioral health care to a different population, will likely be unaffected by the SIS implementation. “It’s definitely not going to affect us,” said Sweetser representative Stephanie Hanner.

Other agencies will be impacted, according to Nagel.

“There will be agencies that will go partially out of business. Something’s going to happen that compromises the quality of care of people,” Nagel said.

“We know that money is very tight, especially in MaineCare money. We were originally amenable for a (funding) system. But there’s many problems with the funding and the lack of understanding, and the implementation dates,” Nagel said.

Nagel and Estabrook said that group homes and community support programs are traditionally funded on a collective, not an individual, basis.

Estabrook noted that dollar values have not yet been attached to the tier groups. However, both Estabrook and Nagel said they fear that there will not be adequate funding for staff to supervise group homes or community programs when the SIS is adopted and clients are placed into the wrong tiers.

“You have staff there for safety issues,” Estabrook said. “I’m concerned about the impact of the quality of life by the imposition of the SIS.”

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