In Arkansas there are 2,800 people working their way up a list, hoping to get a waiver for at home or community care for the severely disabled. At waiver number 131, Nathan Dodson has been on the list for seven years. Thursday, his mom Teresa Dodson testified in front of a Health Services Subcommittee about a tough choice she had to make two years ago. "His behavior got so severe and so aggressive about two years ago that we all sat down and had a meeting, and they tried to make me come to terms with the fact that maybe my son needed to be someplace else," said Dodson.Teresa had to decide if she should send her son to an institution or quit her job so she could care for him and he could stay in the home"I could not have left my son there. Driving him up there and dropping him off it just would not have been an option for me. It was heart-wrenching. I will sacrifice everything I need to sacrifice to be able to keep my son at home," said Dodson.That's exactly what she did. Taking a 66% pay cut, so she could work from home and care for Nathan. It's the same choice that many other families on the waiting list have made. Dodson feels lucky to have two other moms in her community with autistic children. They provide a support network that can help and understand one another."It's just so nice to have people to understand what you're going through. You truly cannot understand what we live with and less you live with it. Fifteen, 20 minutes 30 minutes, an hour doesn't even do us justice for what we deal with on a daily basis," said Dodson.Just this year, her 14-year-old was potty-trained. Another child in her group finally learned to say yes and no at the age of thirteen, and the youngest, 12-year-old Tyler, has to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet because he often runs away from home, walking into the houses of strangers or getting in their cars.Right now the state is considering whether or not to implement a program known as the Community First Care Option. If so, the waiting list disappears. The federal government will increase a match rate to pay for at home and community based care. The Department of Human Services says it will save money. In home care is less expensive, and the federal match rate increase will pay more of the costs."There is a question of numbers. DHS has their numbers. Other people have looked at it and they think the numbers are different," said Sen. Cecile Bledsoe following the committee meeting.Bledsoe says there are still a lot of unknowns. She worries because the program will not be capped at the 2,800 on the list, but she believes the legislature should do something to help the families."That's a given. I don't think anyone ever disputes that, but its just the wisdom of knowing what to do. How much to do and will we have the money once we get the people on these services, will we have the money to continue those," said Bledsoe.Bledsoe and others support waiting until January to take the matter up in the general session, but for Dodson and other families, that just means their long wait gets even longer."This change may not be perfect, but we have to do something for these children and the family," said Dodson.Dodson said at first she was hesitant to support CFCO, but now she believes it's the best option to help children like Nathan live fuller, happier lives. Bledsoe and other lawmakers said they need more information before they can reach a decision.
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