September 11, 2008
2008 HUMAN SERVICES ACTS
By: Robin K. Cohen, Principal Analyst
You asked for a summary of 2008 public acts that deal with human services issues. This report does not address bills that we consider to be minor or technical, nor does it include FY 09 mid-term adjustments to the state budget that may affect human services, but it does include provisions in the recently passed energy relief legislation passed in the recent special session.
Complete summaries of these acts are available on the OLR website, www.cga.ct.gov/olr.
CHILDREN AND YOUTH
Two 2008 acts deal with troubled youth. The first allows judges to order certain 16- and 17-year old runaways to submit to the control of their parents or other caretakers for a period the court specifies. These youth must meet the law's definition of a “youth in crisis” (PA 08-41, effective October 1, 2008).
The other new law makes a number of changes in the families with service needs or FWSN law. Generally, children in FWSNs are under age 16 (or under 18 beginning January 1, 2010) who have run away without good cause, are truant, or have engaged in certain forms of sexual or immoral conduct.
Some of the changes include (1) making confidential information obtained about potential FWSN children receiving diversionary services and (2) codifying a practice in which judges can modify or enlarge a FWSN child's conditions of supervision.
A related provision in the act extends the FWSN Advisory Board's sunset date from July 1, 2008 to July 1, 2010 (PA 08-86, effective October 1, except the sunset extension is effective on passage).
Youth Policy Council
Another 2008 act creates a 19-member Youth Policy Council from the three branches of government and representatives of the Connecticut Youth Services Association. The council's overall mission is to support positive development in 12- to 21-year-olds and promote recommendations for keeping youth in high school, on track for higher education, and well prepared to enter the workforce. The council dissolves after it submits a legislative report or on January 1, 2010, whichever is later (SA 08-3, effective on passage).
A 2008 act extends eligibility for parents receiving child care subsidies under the Care4Kids program. The Department of Social Services (DSS) commissioner must now allow parents to remain in the program during temporary interruptions in (1) employment or (2) participation in approved education, training, or other job preparation activities (PA 08-100, effective July 1, 2008).
A new law transfers authority to appoint the Behavioral Health Partnership Oversight Council's public members from the Medicaid Managed Care Council's leaders to legislative leaders and the governor. It also adds four members to the council. The council generally oversees how state government provides behavioral health services to children (PA 08-95, effective October 1, 2008).
Food Stamp Employment and Training
Another new law requires DSS to administer a Food Stamp employment and training program, which it already administers on a voluntary basis. It also requires DSS to (1) follow federal rules, (2) try to maximize federal funds, and (3) spend such funds on poverty reduction strategies (PA 08-161, effective October 1, 2008).
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
A new law may encourage more vendor participation in the WIC program. It prohibits the Department of Public Health (DPH) from denying any vendor authorization to participate in the WIC program, either initially or on reapplying, based on DPH's minimum distance requirements between participating vendors in the applicant's geographic area.
It also requires DPH to give vendors 15 days to cure any deficiency DPH finds in their application for initial or continued authorization, which starts once the vendor receives notice. Previously, vendors were not given this opportunity (§60 of PA 08-184).
Emergency Housing Assistance
A new law allows recipients of Temporary Family Assistance (TFA, family cash welfare) or State Supplement (cash assistance for aged, blind and disabled residents) who are foreclosure defendants to qualify for emergency housing benefits when a foreclosure judgment is entered, rather than when the property owner's right to redeem has expired (PA 08-22, effective October 1, 2008).
Another new law will create more supportive housing by authorizing the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) to provide an additional 500 “Next Steps” supportive housing units mainly for people with mental illness.
Next Steps serves (1) people or families affected by psychiatric disabilities, chemical dependencies, or both, and who are homeless or at risk of such; (2) families who qualify for federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits; (3) 18-to 23-year-olds who are homeless or at risk of such because they are transitioning out of foster care or other residential programs; and (4) community-supervised offenders with serious mental health needs who are under Judicial Branch or Correction Department jurisdiction.
Admission to Public and Subsidized Housing
Another new law allows certain elderly and disabled individuals accepted into state or federally subsidized housing to terminate their existing leases or rental agreements without penalty if they provide 30 days written notice to their landlord. It applies to low-income seniors age 62 and older and individuals certified as disabled by a federal board or agency (PA 08-93, effective October 1, 2008 and applicable to any existing lease or rental agreement entered into, renewed, or extended on or after that date).
MEDICAID AND OTHER PUBLIC HEALTH INSURANCE
Hospice for Medicaid Recipients
The 2008 legislature required DSS to amend its Medicaid state plan to add hospice services, beginning January 1, 2009 (PA 08-158, effective January 1, 2009).
Medicaid Coverage for Smoking Cessation
By law, DSS must amend the Medicaid state plan to cover smoking cessation drugs if the state budget provides funds for this coverage; currently, it does not. A new law requires the plan, if changed to include these drugs, to cover all prescriptive options, not just drugs, if the initial treatment does not work (§ 61 of PA 08-184, effective July 1, 2008).
Presumptive Eligibility for Pregnant Women
Another 2008 act replaces the existing expedited Medicaid-eligibility process for pregnant women with a presumptive eligibility process enumerated in federal law. Presumptive eligibility generally allows states to grant health care coverage to these women sooner (PA 08-68, effective January 1, 2008).
Preferred Provider Network Exemption for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC)
Two new laws specify that the state-funded FQHC consortium that provides services only to DSS-administered programs is exempt from certain provisions governing preferred provider networks, including net worth and reserve requirements. DSS currently contracts with an FQHC consortium to run the State-Administered General Assistance program, and this same consortium serves HUSKY and Charter Oak Health Plan enrollees (PA 08-147 and PA 08-184, effective upon passage).
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Home Care for Under-65 Population
A new law increases the asset limit in the state-funded, pilot home- and community-based services program for adults under age 65 who have disabilities. For a single person, the limit rises from $20,880 to $31,320 and for married couples, it goes from $31, 320 to $41,760. These amounts will be indexed annually for inflation as the act ties them to a Medicaid asset protection rule (PA 08-88, effective July 1, 2008).
Support Staff for Blind and Visually Impaired
A new law allows the Board of Education and Services to the Blind to use up to 5% of its Educational Aid for the Blind and Visually Handicapped account appropriation to employ special assistants to the blind and other support staff needed to ensure services are delivered efficiently (PA 08-133, effective July 1, 2008).
Criminal Background Checks for DMHAS Job Applicants
Another act conforms law to practice by requiring all applicants for jobs or volunteer positions in DMHAS to submit to both (1) state criminal background checks and (2) checks of the Children and Families (DCF) and Developmental Services (DDS) departments' abuse and neglect registries. Applicants who previously lived in other states can be required to submit to national background checks (PA 08-46, effective upon passage).
Adults with Autism
A 2008 act expands, from 50 to 75, the number of people who can participate in DDS' pilot program for adults with autism spectrum disorders but not mental retardation. The program provides coordinated services and support, including case management, for people who are not otherwise eligible for DDS services and their families.
It requires the DDS commissioner to ensure that eligible adults living outside the pilot's existing service area (parts of New Haven and Middlesex counties) have access to the expanded slots.
It also extends the pilot's end date from October 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009 (PA 08-63, effective upon passage).
Money Follows the Person (MFP)
A new act increases, from 700 to 5,000, the number of individuals who can be served under the state's plan for implementing the MFP demonstration program. MFP is a five-year program that permits the state to move individuals out of nursing homes or other institutional settings and into less-restrictive, community-based settings and not jeopardize federal (primarily Medicaid) funding.
The act also requires DDS to develop a plan to establish a similar program for adults who may not meet MFP's institutional requirement. And it establishes a separate, nonlapsing General Fund account to hold any enhanced federal matching funds the state expects to receive under MFP (PA 08-180, effective on passage for MFP demonstration changes and July 1, 2008 for other provisions).
Pre-Admission Screening for Nursing Home Care
Federal law requires screening patients before they enter a nursing home to determine whether they have serious mental illness (Level I screen) and if they do, whether they need specialized mental health services (Level II). A new law requires nursing home administrators to notify DMHAS within 14 days of admitting people whose Level II screens confirm mental illness.
DMHAS, within available appropriations, must (1) consult with the home's staff about the status and discharge of any of its clients and (2) protect the housing of any client whose screening identifies a need for a nursing home stay for 90 or fewer days.
The act also requires the Department of Public Health (DPH), when conducting its annual survey of a nursing home, to compare services recommended for Level II residents with actual services received and include this comparison in the survey (§57 of PA 08-184).
Continuing Care at Home
A new law allows continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) to provide care to individuals in their own homes if these individuals are given future access to facility care. Previously, CCRCs could provide shelter and medical services only to their residents (PA 08-36, effective October 1, 2008).
Pilot Small House Nursing Homes and Certificate of Need Moratorium
A 2008 law requires the DSS commissioner, within available appropriations, to establish a pilot program to help develop up to 10 small house nursing homes in the state. These homes provide a more home-like setting for their residents. The new law requires them to comply with the existing certificate of need (CON) requirements and exempts from the CON moratorium any Medicaid-certified beds transferred to a small-house nursing home (PA 08-91, effective July 1, 2008).
Grants for Relative Caregivers
A new law allows grandparents or other relative caregivers appointed guardian of a child through Superior Court who are not receiving subsidized guardianship or foster care payments from DCF to apply for grants from the probate court-administered Kinship and Grandparents and Relatives Respite funds. Previously, only those caretaker relatives appointed by the probate court could get these grants, which are subject to available appropriations (PA 08-97, effective July 1, 2008).
Home Care Option
The Homecare Option Program for the Elderly (HOPE) allows participants to establish individual savings accounts in a state-administered trust fund. It allows an account's beneficiary to withdraw funds from these accounts to pay for certain home care expenses.
A new law exempts dividends and capital gains earned on account contributions from the beneficiary's state income tax. Interest earned is already exempt. And it expands the specified people who can benefit from a HOPE account to include any designated beneficiary (PA 08-140, effective July 1, 2008 and applicable to tax years starting on or after January 1, 2008).
2008 Special Session Acts
Several provisions in the recently passed energy relief legislation offer assistance to the state's neediest residents and pay for it by crediting the state's surplus to FY 09 general revenue.
In the first of two acts, the legislature appropriated $4 million to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to provide home heating assistance to seniors age 65 and older who have incomes at or below 100% of the state's median and cannot make timely payments on deliverable fuel, electricity, or natural gas bills.
It also appropriated $3.5 million to OPM to provide heating assistance grants to human services and public health nonprofit organizations, including those that contract with the state to provide services. Grant recipients can include providers of adult care, homeless housing, and services to domestic violence victims (PA 08-1, August Special Session, effective upon passage).
The second act increased, from 150% to 200% of the area median, the maximum income a household can have to participate in the Energy Conservation Loan Program. It also appropriated $2 million to DSS to develop a plan for (1) funding weatherization projects for households who participate in the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program, (2) giving priority to helping households with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level, and (3) coordinating this assistance to maximize the effectiveness of DSS funds given the availability of other weatherization assistance (PA 08-2, August Special Session, effective upon passage).
Excluding Economic Stimulus Payments in DSS Program Eligibility and Benefit Determinations
The 2008 legislature prohibited DSS from counting a tax refund received under the federal Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 as income or assets when determining eligibility for, or amounts or services and benefits under, any of its needs-based programs. The prohibition applies during the month the refund is received and the following two months (PA 08-68, effective upon passage).
Public Accommodation Discrimination Settlement and Awards Exempt from Recoveries
A 2008 law prohibits the state from claiming or applying a lien against any money received as a settlement or award in a public accommodation discrimination case by people who (1) have been supported wholly or in part by the state in a humane institution or (2) received public assistance, such as Medicaid or TFA. The law already prohibited these recoveries from housing and employment discrimination settlements or awards (PA 08-45, effective October 1, 2008 effective upon passage).