The cuts leave clients without the care they really need

To read on Arizona Daily Sun website:

Hozhoni in crisis amid state funding cuts

Jake Bacon Arizona Daily Sun Morgan Blackgoat works on a weaving in the art studio at the Hozhoni Foundation Thursday morning.

Jake Bacon Arizona Daily Sun
Morgan Blackgoat works on a weaving in the art studio at the Hozhoni Foundation Thursday morning.

Morgan Blackgoat has a smile on his face and a look of determination in his eyes as he weaves colored bands of yarn in the Hozhoni art studio. On the wall behind him, oranges, reds and purples glow on a canvas, contrasting against his own dark hand prints.

“I like to make abstract (art),” Blackgoat said. “Usually, it is in my head. I look at colors and then I put them on the canvas.”

Blackgoat, who will turn 50 this month, was diagnosed with an intellectual disability. He used to live on the Navajo Nation. About 17 years ago, he made the switch to the Hozhoni Foundation in Flagstaff.

“I heard this program was a good one,” Blackgoat said. “They have wonderful people here.”

The Hozhoni Foundation is a 46-year-old nonprofit corporation that provides residential, vocational and educational services for indigent people with severe cognitive disabilities, autism, epilepsy and cerebral palsy. It houses close to 150 clients in its 16 Flagstaff group homes and five Prescott group homes.

But a funding crisis could put Hozhoni Foundation’s very existence — and that of similar programs throughout Arizona — in jeopardy. Thousands would lose their jobs and some of the community’s most vulnerable residents would be displaced, possibly to Phoenix or Tucson for more centralized state care.

RECESSION CUTS

There are more than 30,000 people who receive services from the Department of Developmental Disabilities, which falls under the Arizona Department of Economic Security. Most service providers are private agencies. Arizona policymakers prefer that model because it saves the state money.

“A private sector model works if you fund it,” said Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix.

For many services, vendors like Hozhoni get one-third of their funding from the state Legislature and two-thirds from fund matching from the federal Medicaid program. DES distributes the money as reimbursement for costs of care.

In 2008, provider agencies were reimbursed at 100 percent of the actuarially determined costs. When the Great Recession hit, the state Legislature cut reimbursements by 15 percent.

Funding has only been partially restored. At a February hearing, DES Director Timothy Jeffries told the Arizona Senate Appropriations Committee DES can only reimburse providers for about 78 percent of their costs. Group homes, which do not receive federal funds, are reimbursed at a rate of about 72 percent.

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