Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) is a term used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to describe the type of care that should be provided to people with “functional limitations and who need assistance with everyday activities.” As the term HCBS implies, these are person-centered services generally provided in the home and community. The goal is for people to remain in their homes in the community, rather than moving to a facility or institution for care.

The Department of Human Services budget, as outlined in House Bill 1012 and with an amendment, proposes to cut $6.9 million in residential service rates. This will be devastating to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as HCBS is already underfunded in North Dakota, and there is an ongoing struggle to retain sufficient staff. The reductions that have been proposed in the conference committee are unacceptable.

As we push this week to wrap up the legislative session, we must remember that it is our responsibility as citizens of the state of North Dakota to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens are adequately cared for. Section 25-01.2-02 of ND Century Code states that “all individuals with developmental disabilities have a right to appropriate treatment, services, and habilitation for those disabilities. Treatment, services, and habilitation for individuals with a developmental disability must be provided in the least restrictive appropriate setting.”

The Arc of North Dakota strongly believes that the least restrictive setting is generally services provided in the home and community, not services provided in facilities or institutions. However, reductions in funding to home and community-based services will mean people will no longer be able to be served in the community and will likely result in many individuals returning to congregate care. You must restore funding where you can in the DHS budget so that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the same opportunities as their peers to live in the community, as it is their fundamental human right.

Kirsten Dvorak, Bismarck, is executive director of The Arc of North Dakota.

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