By Gina Macris
The special legislative commission studying Project Sustainability, Rhode Island’s fee-for-service funding model for adult developmental disability services, will resume deliberations March 28, according to its chairman, Sen. Louis DiPalma, D-Middletown.
The commission last met in January, hearing testimony on best practices from one national expert and another from Vermont, where the system appears to be closely aligned with the needs and preferences of individuals.
DiPalma said he has spent the intervening weeks meeting one-on-one with commission members who represent the state and various segments of the developmental disability community to jump-start their analysis of expert testimony the commission has received since last fall. By the time of the March 28 meeting, DiPalma said, he expects commission members to be ready to make well-developed recommendations that identify concrete goals and the strategies for achieving them.
DiPalma said the vision of the commission is to have a more individualized, or “person-centered” system within the next five years.
He said he expects it will take two meetings to fully air the members’ recommendations on how to get there.
A review of Project Sustainability’s rates and the fee-for-service model itself would have been the commission’s first recommendation, if the state had not already launched that project, DiPalma said.
“The reimbursement model is the foundation and is pivotal to everything that is done,” he said. Project Sustainability, enacted by the General Assembly in 2011, did not reduce services or create waiting lists but was implemented on the backs of private providers and their employees, DiPalma said.
Project Sustainability also has been criticized by the U.S. Department of Justice, which found that it incentivized segregated services for adults with developmental disabilities, in violation of the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That finding and others resulted in a 2014 consent decree, which authorizes broad federal oversight of the state’s efforts to transform its system to a network of community-based, individualized services that put the consumer first.
The state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) recently hired the non-profit New England States Consortium Systems Organization as a consultant in reviewing the fee-for-service model and its rates.
DiPalma has said it is imperative that the review be completed in time for Governor Gina Raimondo to submit her budget proposal to the General Assembly in January, 2020. He said he believes the commission can have an oversight role on the implementation of any changes in the rate model that BHDDH recommends.
DiPalma said the commission meeting on Thursday, March 28, will run from 2-4 p.m. in the Senate Lounge at the State House.