Call To Action – CARES Act Money not appropriated correctly by the State of Indiana

Editor,

As you know – it’s tough, we are all fighting our own battles and each day brings new challenges! That is nothing new for Abilities Services, Inc. Our priority, as always, is keeping clients and staff safe, healthy, and happy. This sounds easy – until this public health crisis began.

Abilities Services, Inc. (ASI) is an agency that assists individuals with developmental and physical disabilities to live and work within our community. We have been providing this service right here in Clinton County since December of 1971!

During this crisis, finding personal protective equipment (PPE) has become close to impossible. When we do find it – the price is generally four times the amount we were paying just a couple months ago. On Thursday, we had to pay $56 for a gallon of hand sanitizer. HAND SANITZER! Donations have all but dried up. To date we have already spent greater than $10,000 in PPE, cleaning supplies, and items that will be needed to re-open. $10,000 was NOT in our budget.

Even though we had to idle our day program and temporarily sunset our transportation to ensure the safety of our individuals, we are still providing services to those we serve – 24 hours a day 7 days a week in their homes. Our Job Coaches are still meeting with high school and middle school students (albeit via zoom and conference calls) helping them map out their future. Our Vocational Rehabilitation department is continuing to electronically meet with clients and work towards job placement. Our nursing staff is busier than ever making wellness visits, conducting telehealth appointments, and checking in on our individuals’ health and wellbeing. If you could peel back the layers of Abilities Services, Inc., you would see that we are busier now more than ever. All of this shift in business, requires more staff than we currently have. We are desperately looking to hire 20+ members of the community to help support our individuals. We have added “HERO PAY” to all front line employees working directly with (non-family) individuals. Unfortunately, job applications and new hires have all but come to a standstill. Like other businesses, we are plagued by having more than ten employees who for various reasons, cannot or are not comfortable, working at this time – this a loss of 400 required service hours we cannot provide.

Although the Federal government has designated money through the CARES Act for Medicaid service providers like Abilities Services, Inc., the State has not passed that money through to agencies like ours! Congress approved a 6% increase in Medicaid dollars (FMAP – Federal Medical Assistance Percentages), but at this time, Governor Holcomb has not approved any funding for our industry. Much of the additional work we are doing is a requirement of the state to ensure the health and safety of those who we are entrusted, and ASI is not being paid for those services. Once again – this is one more thing that is not in the budget.

Our agency is solely Medicaid funded - no other revenue stream to provide some stability. It is important to note that with the massive financial loss to the State of Indiana’s budget, not to mention the rainy day fund, we have already been warned that cuts to Medicaid budgets are eminent. Once again, that 6% increase is vital for the future solvency of our programs. With budget cuts looming and not receiving the increased Medicaid dollars that were intended for services to individuals with I/DD, agencies like ours will have to make difficult choices to find ways to even keep the lights on – let alone provide the services families so urgently need in our community.

No one is stepping up to help, even though Abilities Services, Inc. is a front line agency helping our vulnerable population. Please help us by taking a minute to reach out to Governor Holcomb (317-232-4567), Rep Heath VanNatter (317-232-9600) and Senator Brian Buchanan (317-234-9426). Encourage them to pass along the Medicaid funds as was intended when it was appropriated by Congress to help ensure that agencies like ASI will be able to provide these vital services for our community long after this National Health Emergency is over.

Michelle Leonard-Smith

CEO/Executive Director Abilities Services, Inc.