Pennsylvania continues to do better for residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to a new report. However, the state still has a long way to go and, as advocates well know, the fight for fair treatment is never really over.
The latest edition of “The Case for Inclusion,” published periodically since 2006 by United Cerebral Palsy and in partnership this year with the Ancor Foundation, ranked Pennsylvania 19th overall among the 50 states in the quality of services provided to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. That’s up from 21st place in the previous report, issued in 2016.
The report ranked states on their efforts to promote independence and productivity among this group of residents; their success in reaching those in need and providing services that keep families intact; and the extent to which these residents have “health, safety and quality of life.”
Pennsylvania did best on the latter matrix, ranking sixth. The category takes into account such factors as whether residents visit the dentist and have relationships with people outside of their families.
It did worst, ranking 47th, on reaching those in need, a shortfall that partly reflects the large number of residents still living in institutions or on waiting lists for home- and community-based services. But Pennsylvania isn’t the only state struggling in this regard; according to the report, only 14 states, four fewer than in 2016, have no waiting lists or only short waiting lists. Cost is one issue; a shortage of qualified care professionals is another.
Pennsylvania should continue to whittle down its waiting lists, give a higher priority to funding home- and community-based care and work on building a more robust corps of care workers.
But even if the state joins the ranks of those with no waiting lists, advocates always will have other battles to fight. Pennsylvania’s improving track record is a sign that they know what they’re doing, even if it takes them a while to accomplish their goals.