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April 1, 2014 at 5:40 AM

Inslee signs bills to add state developmental-disability services

Gov. Jay Inslee has signed legislation to start to reduce a massive backlog of developmentally-disabled residents waiting for state help.

Senate Bill 6387, sponsored by Redmond Republican Andy Hill, and House Bill 2746, sponsored by Lakewood Democrat Tami Green, are expected to together give services to some 5,000 families through a new program made possible by the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. It will cost the state basically nothing

Overall, more than 14,000 families have been determined eligible for services — such as specialized behavioral programs, help paying for therapies or a trained caregiver to give parents a break — but denied due to a lack of funding. On average, they have been waiting three years for help.

While the bills will only make a dent in that long-standing backlog, advocates hailed their passage.

“I’ve never seen a move like this — something that’s going to help so many people,” said Margaret Lee-Thompson, who has advocated for people with developmental disabilities for more than 30 years and now serves on the board of the national Arc of the United States advocacy group.

The bills, drafted partially in response to a state audit, were two of the last measures passed before the Legislature adjourned. They were held up due to a disagreement about which party would get credit.

They will enable the state to get a higher percent funding match from the federal government, adding millions of federal dollars to the state budget.

But state Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, a strong supporter of the bill, said the new services will likely not arrive until next year at the earliest.

Comments | More in State Legislature | Topics: andy hill, developmental disabilities, Jay Inslee

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