The Journal Gazette
Monday, June 29, 2020 1:00 am

Cuts imperil services to disabled

Karen Brummet-Ferguson

The headlines have been understandably overwhelming in recent months. They make it difficult to focus on the myriad challenges Indiana faced even before COVID-19 and, more recently, the national crisis that has arisen since the tragic death of George Floyd.

While also battling the challenges that face us all, more than 40,000 Hoosiers and their families continue to also cope with the additional needs of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Those needs, like so many others, are made more daunting in this tumultuous time. It is important to continue the dialogue regarding these lifelong challenges and the professionals who serve the families facing them.

Indiana Professional Management Group has provided case management services to this vital population since 2006. We provide support to families in all 92 counties. Our 350 employee-owners live and work in the same communities as the individuals we support.

We have one physical office, yet we provide services in every county. Prior to pandemic-driven work-from-home requirements, our employee-owners were already strategically located throughout the state, working remotely and supplying their own technology tools to complete our state and federally required work. Our innovative service delivery efficiencies have mitigated funding needs for more than a decade.

However, funding levels have grown inadequate and now threaten Indiana's stated commitment to the disability community.

Our unique company structure assures that 93% of company revenue is utilized for wages, benefits and taxes. Over the past 20 years, the rate for case management has been significantly reduced while the needs, requirements and expectations for this support have grown. Indiana's reimbursement rates for the federally mandated services we provide have consistently ranked in the bottom half of the nation. Changing that is long overdue.

We are doing our part to innovate and serve Indiana's families as well as any other company in any state. Advocating for livable wages cannot be delayed or sidetracked as we unite to confront the more recent challenges of the day.

The state's rate deficiencies have been in place for quite some time, as we expect it will continue to be. But we can do better, as most other states have shown.

The existing and significant economic pressure this vulnerable population is already facing is more than most. We should not let the current crises we face push progress for them further into an ever-uncertain future.

We provide person-centered case management that fully supports individuals in accessing support and services to achieve a meaningful life. This mission is shared by our governmental partners. Our experience shows that case management is a vital, complex and comprehensive service that extends beyond the day-to-day activities of the individual case managers. It truly is a community.

The more than 14,000 Hoosiers we serve every year cannot face reductions or cutbacks designed to shore up other areas of our newly embattled state budget. We are all facing unique challenges in these trying times, but there is no reason to further strain this already-underfunded service.

These families are too important. Our service to them is as well.

Karen Brummet-Ferguson is CEO of Indiana Professional Management Group.

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