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Now is time to ask questions about change coming to OPWDD

Kathy Doody

The State Office of People with Developmental Disabilities is holding another series of public forums across New York this month to help educate families about the critical change coming in the way services are provided.

Beginning July 1, OPWDD is rolling out a new system it says will streamline Medicaid service coordination for families and, in turn, provide better care and ultimately save New York money. The state says it will be a major step toward Medicaid managed care and 2018 will be a transitional year.

Like choosing a health care plan, families currently receiving developmental disability services through Medicaid must enroll in a newly created entity called a Care Coordination Organization before July 1. In each region of the state there are two choices. A CCO will be the family's "single access point" for services, according to the state.

"They really are like the quarterback of your team, that Medicaid service coordinator," said Kathy Doody, an assistant professor of Exceptional Education at Buffalo State College. "They help you navigate the system and they make all sorts of calls on your behalf and get services in place."

Doody's 21-year-old son Kevin has a complicated medical condition that includes autism. He started receiving highly individualized Medicaid services when he was 3.

She said, as a mother change is always worrisome, but the service changes seen over the years have been managed well overall. One particular area of concern in this transitional year toward Medicaid managed care, however, is the high turnover of care coordinators.

Credit Kathy Doody
Kevin, now 21, has been receiving Medicaid services for his complicated medical history since age 3.

"Notoriously, the turnover over there is kinda high because it's hard work and I think a lot of those service coordinators are overworked," Doody said. "They have pretty enormous caseloads and the compensation traditionally was never really all that competitive."

Acting state OPWDD Commissioner Kerry Delaney told WBFO the state actually anticipates agencies to hire more staff to facilitate the transition. That comes as good news for Doody.

"In the system I'm always concerned that I'm missing a deadline. You know, we have recertification packages that go out at certain times of the year and forms that need to be filled out to keep my son's services active," Doody said. "That's why I've been so fortunate that I've had really good service coordinators who are right on top of things, but my worry with this transitional phase is that there may be something that I overlook."

Along with choosing a CCO, a new electronic record system will come online July 1 to facilitate sharing of information. That comes as good news for Doody, as well.

"Sometimes when I work with a new professional, I have to start all over and I start from scratch and I have to go through that medical history and how it impacts his day-to-day life and the safeguards we have to put into place," she said. "You know, I'm always worried I might miss a detail when I'm re-telling this story for the hundredth time. If it's in writing somewhere and it's in a permanent location that someone can go back and revisit as often as they need to, that's going to give me an added layer of security."

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