By Gina Macris
(This article has been updated.)
Rhode Island’s Division of Developmental Disabilities has cleared a backlog of more than 200 applications for adult services, and eligibility workers are now adhering to a 30-day timeline for screening applications, in accordance with a schedule submitted to the U.S. District Court.
In the spring of this year, the U.S. Department of Justice and an independent court monitor in a federal consent decree case expressed concern that extensive delays in reviewing applications for adult developmental disability services has prevented teenagers and young adults from receiving supports to which they are entitled, in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The backlog had persisted for years.
Over the summer, in response to an order issued by Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., officials of the Executive Office of Human Services(EOHHS) took the lead in streamlining the screening process for applications.
Jennifer Wood, Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, promised the backlog would be cleared by Sept. 30.
On that date, all 224 applications that had been pending for at least the previous two months had been cleared by the developmental disabilities eligibility unit, part of the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH), according to a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS).
Of the 224 applicants who had been waiting for a decision on Aug.1, 106 were found eligible, 31 were deemed ineligible, and the remaining individuals were notified they either needed to submit additional information or schedule a face-to-face evaluation, according to the EOHHS spokeswoman, Sophie O’Connell.
On Oct. 14, there were 35 pending applications, O’Connell said, and eligibility workers are now adhering to the 30-day time limit for screening applications, in keeping with a work plan submitted to the court over the summer.
Individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities are eligible for adult services funded by BHDDH at the age of 18, according to state law.
EOHHS released the following details about the timeline for deciding eligibility:
• When the eligibility unit receives an application, it sends a letter of confirmation to the family/applicant, stating that it will be reviewed within 30 days. The timeline for decision making is shared with the applicant as well as contact information for any questions.
• All applications are screened and reviewed within 30 days. Either they are decided in that period or held for additional information.
• All applicants whose applications are held for additional information will be sent a letter identifying what information is needed. The applicants and their families will have 60 days to submit missing information.
• If the additional information is not submitted within 60 days, the application will be withdrawn and the individual can reapply.
O’Connell said the withdrawal will prevent incomplete applications from sitting for extended periods of time, in some cases years, waiting for documentation, as had been the case in some instances in the past.
(The original version of this article said in error that 137 applications had been approved.)