RI's Wood Confident that DD Agency Can Clear Backlog of Applications by September's End

By Gina Macris  

A backlog of about 230 Rhode Islanders waiting to hear whether they are eligible for adult developmental disability services should be eliminated by the end of September, according to Jennifer Wood, Deputy Director of Health and Human Services. 

She commented in a telephone interview July 13, elaborating on information previously released about the eligibility waiting list. 

“If at the end of the summer, the needle isn’t moving, we will recalibrate,” she said. If additional staff are needed, they will be added, Wood said. 

There are three social workers, a supervisor, and support staff in the eligibility unit of the Division of Disabilities in the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH). 

“We’re taking a lot of extraneous requirements out of the (application) review process,” Wood said, expanding on previous statements made by the state to the U.S. District Court as part of the requirements of a judge’s order. 

Instead of the eligibility workers tracking down medical records and the like from their original sources, they will first ask families to provide them. Families are often the best record keepers, Wood said. 

Rather than taking valuable time to write “referral narratives” on applicants to give to prospective service providers, the providers will get the applicants’ actual records, as long as the applicants or their parents sign the required release forms, Wood said. 

The providers will need to see those records anyway to put together services for new clients, she said. 

The eligibility staff will be able to dedicate their time to the pending applications during the summer because their other duties are at a minimum at this time of year, Wood said. 

For example, they don’t have to attend annual meetings for individual teenagers who are special education students planning a transition to adult life, she said. Those meetings usually are held during the academic year. 

Elements of an efficiency exercise undertaken in the eligibility unit during the month of June were included in a 16-page communication plan submitted to Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. on July 1. 

McConnell has set deadlines during July and August for numerous tasks intended to move the state toward compliance with a 2014 consent decree intended to correct violations of the Americans With  Disabilities Act. (Click here for related articles