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Federal Dollars Could Sustain Fairfax Special Needs Services

But some officials say more funding for job placement, independent living services should come from the state.

The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) is working to secure more federal funding for employment services that could help county residents with intellectual disabilities.

The idea comes after months of work with TansCen, a consulting firm hired last summer to help the organization with ongoing budget problems.

The cost of enrolling residents in the CSB's employment and day services program, which helps high school graduates with intellectual disabilities find career opportunities and become independent, has become too high for the county to sustain long term.

  • See: Speakers Urge Fairfax County to Restore Human Services Funding and Fairfax Asks McDonnell for Human Services Funds

CSB officials are working on short-term solutions to reduce county costs, which would take effect in Fiscal Year 2015. But four recommendations offered this week by TansCen — developed in part from focus groups with stakeholders and successful employment service models from five other states — could help the programs well into the future.

For instance, consultants recommended applying for Medicaid waivers that would allow the county to leverage its local dollars with matching money from the federal government. Every dollar from the county would be matched by a federal Medicaid dollar, CSB's Alan Wooten said.

“We want a higher standard of services than other parts of the state,” Wooten said.

Other recommendations include:

  • Broaden waiver eligibility so more residents can be served by the federal dollars.
  • Incentivize vendors to provide employment services to more residents as opposed to facility-based day services.
  • Work with the school system to transition students to employment before they graduate to reduce long-term costs.

County officials have said that funding these services is largely the state’s responsibility, and Supervisor Linda Smyth was wary of seeking federal money as well.

“I’m just a little concerned that if we’re talking on one hand about local funds to match federal, when the real goal was to get the state to cough up more, we don’t want to send a mixed message to the state,” she said.

CSB will also be looking at how it can work with Fairfax County Public Schools to transition students with intellectual disabilities into supported employment before they actually leave school.

“Once you get somebody into a job setting, and they get the supports and they can be successful, the costs go down over time,” Wooten said.

The CSB will present its finalized recommendations for employment and day service enhancements to the Human Services Committee on June 25.

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