RI House Finance Committee Gives Raimondo Part of Her DD Budget Request for Next Fiscal Year

By Gina Macris

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo would get about $11 million of an added  $16.9 million in combined federal and state Medicaid revenue she requested to fund developmental disability services in the next fiscal year, according to an early morning vote June 8 by the House Finance Committee. 

One thing that is clear is that much of the added revenue would be used to restore money for  unrealized savings envisioned in Raimondo’s budget proposal.  A planned shift of as many as 500 individuals from group homes to less costly shared living arrangements will not materialize, at least not in a single budget year, according to the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.  

 The committee specifies that about $4 million be targeted for activities to comply with a federal consent decree intended to correct violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act by providing more community-based supports to help adults with intellectual challenges find regular jobs. 

Meanwhile, the Finance Committee denied Raimondo’s request to carry forward into the new fiscal year, starting July 1, a total of $5.8 million for a caseload increase, saying that developmental disability caseloads historically remain stable.

What impact that denial might have on the rest of the BHDDH plans for developmental disability spending is  not clear. 

A more complete picture of what the House Finance vote means to developmental disabilities programs is expected to emerge in the days to come. 

The vote occurred about 1:30 a.m., with aides scrambling to distribute copies of various budget articles to committee members just moments before they were asked to weigh in on an overall total of $9 billion in state spending.

 The full House is expected to vote on the budget June 15. The budget then would be transmitted to the Senate. 

 The state is under a federal court order to meet nearly two dozen benchmarks by the end of this year to comply with a federal consent decree requiring the state to reorganize its services for adults with developmental disabilities around regular jobs and other community-based activities. 

One of the requirements of the court order, issued May 18 by U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., is that the state adopt Raimondo’s budget request for developmental disability services. 

The order mentions no dollar amount, but it appears - without the $5.8-million carryover - that the committee-approved budget is not in compliance. 

If the U.S. Department of Justice finds the allocation is insufficient to achieve court-ordered goals, it may ask the judge to hold a contempt hearing, according to the order.  The order provides for penalties starting at $1,000 a day, with a ceiling of $1 million for the current calendar year. 

The House Finance Committee also would require BHDDH to report monthly on a number of data points, including all the consent decree compliance information reported to the federal court, as well as other information intended to enable the legislature to keep better track of funding for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.