Governor Orders Policy Changes
to Encourage Community-Based Alternatives
for Persons with Disabilities

By Melanie R. Margolis

Texas Governor Rick Perry issued Executive Order RP 13, relating to community-based alternatives for persons with disabilities, on April 18, 2002. In the order, he called for the appropriate Texas agencies to review and amend relevant state policy, report on the status of community-based services, assure accessible housing, and work toward employing more individuals with disabilities. The order is Web-accessible at http://www.governor.state.tx.us/divisions/press/exorders/rp13.

The order calls for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission ("HHSC") to review and amend state policies that act as barriers to individuals who wish to move into community-based settings, when such placement is appropriate and can be reasonably accommodated. Governor Perry called upon HHSC to ensure that the state has in place a comprehensive and effective plan for promoting independence, which HHSC will regularly update and evaluate.

In addition, the order directs HHSC and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs ("TDHCA") to work together to assure accessible, affordable, and integrated housing. The TDHCA is to provide relevant in-house training to staff and technical assistance to local public housing authorities. HHSC and TRDHCA are  to maximize federal funds for accessible, affordable, and integrated housing for people with disabilities, and they are to identify innovative funding mechanisms to develop additional housing assistance for people with disabilities.

Governor Perry has ordered the Texas Rehabilitation Commission and the Texas Commission for the Blind to explore ways to employ people with disabilities and to review agency policies to ensure they promote the independence of people with disabilities in community settings.

The order also states that HHSC shall coordinate efforts with the Texas Workforce Commission to increase the pool of available community-based service workers and to promote the new franchise tax exemption for employers who hire certain people with disabilities. Also, HHSC shall work with health and human services agencies to ensure that permanency planning for children results in children receiving support services in the community when such a placement is determined to be desirable and appropriate and services are available. Furthermore, HHSC shall move forward with a pilot to develop and implement a system of family-based options to expand the continuum of care for families of children with disabilities. If feasible, HHSC shall direct the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation to implement a selected essential services waiver, in order to provide community services for people who are waiting for the Home and Community-based Services waiver.

The issue of providing community-based alternatives arose in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Courtís decision in L.C. v. Olmstead, 527 U.S. 581 (1999). In L.C. v. Olmstead, the Supreme Court held that placing individuals with disabilities in institutions when they are capable of functioning in community-based alternatives violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). See 42 U.S.C. § 12132. States are now working to move individuals with disabilities from institutions to community-based alternatives when appropriate. For additional information about how other states are responding to the Olmstead mandate, see http://www.ilru.org/olmstead/stateplans/states.htm.

08/30/02