Medicaid officials are looking to “jump-start efforts” to move people with disabilities from institutions to community-based settings and they’re offering up millions of dollars to do so.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said this week that up to $165 million is available to states for a program called Money Follows the Person.

The Medicaid program provides funding to states to cover employment supports, housing and other services so that individuals with disabilities can transition from nursing homes and other institutional facilities to homes in the community.

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Federal officials said that they want to boost transitions out of institutional facilities particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit nursing homes and other congregate settings especially hard.

“The tragic devastation wrought by the coronavirus on nursing home residents exposes America’s overreliance on institutional long-term care facilities,” said Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Residential care will always be an essential part of the care continuum, but our goal must always be to give residents options that help keep our loved ones in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.”

Between 2008 and 2019, Money Follows the Person helped 101,540 people leave institutions for community-based settings, according to a report out this week from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. However, the report notes that transitions to the community were down 46% in 2019 compared to 2018 as some states slowed or ended their programs.

This comes as Money Follows the Person has faced an uncertain future in recent years. The program officially expired in 2016, but Congress has approved a series of short-term extensions, with the latest one running through November.

The funding announced this week is available to the 33 states currently operating Money Follows the Person programs and intending to continue doing so in the next fiscal year, federal officials said. States have until June 30, 2021 to request a portion of the money.

“Home- and community-based care is not only frequently more cost effective, but is preferred by seniors and adults with disabilities seeking to maintain the dignity of independent living. This new federal investment will help states get our loved ones back home,” Verma said.

The eligible states are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Nicole Jorwic, senior director of public policy at The Arc, said it’s significant to see federal officials emphasizing Money Follows the Person and community services in general.

“It is great to see the Trump administration acknowledging with this announcement the value of Medicaid home- and community-based services,” she said. “Not only their cost-effectiveness, but the greater safety and outcomes for people with disabilities and aging adults who receive them instead of institutional care.”

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