Ask the Advocate: waivers and more during COVID pandemic

I have heard that people can use their CDCS (Consumer Directed Community Supports) waivered services more flexibly during COVID-19 closures of schools, therapies, and camps to receive remote services via platforms such as Zoom. Tell me more.

The MN Department of Human Services requested some flexibility from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Minnesota has permission for individuals, or family members who support the individual, to make changes to their annual CDCS plan. Review the DHS bulletin here. 

There was some initial confusion about how to get changes approved. The request for remote services must include how the service will meet a need outlined in the individual’s plan.

Example A: An individual no longer is able to participate in in-person music therapy, but wants to participate in a class via Zoom. The Zoom class can be approved by stating why the child can’t participate in-person (COVID-19) and how the class will meet one of the goals in their plan (e.g., could meet sensory needs, could be respite for the parent or caregiver to do other things during that time, could replace activities typically done by personal support staff who are no longer able to work in individual’s home, could meet an individual goal addressing social or behavioral concerns).

Example B: An individual was receiving massage therapy to meet sensory needs. The individual no longer can go in person because of COVID-19 risk factors. In this case, the parent or caregiver could request funding for training to take an online class to learn how to massage the individual, or they could request some sensory equipment or supplies that can meet the sensory needs. Again, the key is to explain how the remote activity meets a need in the individual plan.

What if I have a traditional waiver?

The DHS Bulletin linked above also addresses traditional services, including a list of services that are eligible for remote delivery. Talk to your service provider to see if they are delivering services in another way, or talk to your case manager about how to move funding from a service that isn’t being used, because of COVID-19 challenges, to another service category.

Can I use my waiver funding to pay for any of AuSM’s services?

Yes! We are offering some programs for families and individuals, including for those who are disappointed we had to cancel our summer camps. You can request waiver funding for these programs and our social skills programs as indicated in the above examples. Any of our Life with Autism Series and other educational programming can be funded under the training category. The Stronger Together in 2020 virtual state autism conference content also is available for purchase using training funds. Content is accessible at your own pace, in your own time through Nov. 1. Some of our programs are less expensive for AuSM members; you may be able to make an argument that using waiver funds to pay for a membership will be more cost effective than paying non-member prices for activities.

What about me? I don’t have a waiver.

Other types of funding (e.g., Family Support Grant, Consumer Support Grant, Community First Services and Supports) may be used. Check with your case manager. AuSM also offers a limited number of scholarships for people who need them. AuSM encourages those who have another funding source, like a waiver, to have the information on how to use that funding so we can reserve scholarships for those who have no other options.

Ask the Advocate author Jean Bender is a volunteer advocate for AuSM. She worked professionally as a service coordinator for preschool children who have disabilities. She has become an expert system navigator because she also has an adult son who has been receiving county services for 30 years.

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