Friday, March 26, 2010

CLASS: community living assistance services and supports

If it weren't for the recent healthcare reform bill, many Americans would shrug their shoulders if you asked them if they knew what the commnity living assistance services and supports (CLASS) program was. In fact, some of them still don't know what it is, mainly because the healthcare reform bill is over 2300 pages long, so who could expect them to understand every single detail?!? But this post will not get into my positive and/or negative thoughts on the bill. I am just motivated to blog on the CLASS program.

Although it is a federal program that provides long term care for mentally and/or physically disabled Americans, each state varies a bit in how they handle enrollment and other details. Information on the criteria for who qualifies can be found on this government link: and

What is consistent across state lines is that it helps with the long term needs of the individual. It may include payment for adapted feeding equipment, respite, physical/occupational therapy treatments, wheelchair and accessories, and modifications to a home/apt. By keeping the individual with special needs as independent as possible, it is believed to help in numerous ways, and possibly save the taxpayers money because the individual is overall healthier and less dependent upon caregivers. I have had the honor of providing therapy services to young adults with cerebral palsy in which CLASS paid for it. The only thing that seemed to be a bit burdensome is when I ordered adapted feeding equipment or computerized assistive technology, it took many months for the paperwork to be processed and items to be purchased. But hey, at least it got paid for eventually, and these young adults wouldn't have had the money to pay for it on their own otherwise.

I presently work as an occupational therapist with infants and toddlers, and at times am doing case management (social work) with families too. One of the things I encourage families with children with developmental disabilities (cerebral palsy, down syndrome, CHARGE, etc) to do is sign up for the CLASS program. They can sign up on the waiting list for more than one company that sponsors it, but once they're application is being processed they can only go with one facility. I say to go with the first place that calls you, or at least in my area. One place I know off of the top of my head that offers the programs is MHMRA. In the state that I live in sometimes it is 5 or more years before the child's application gets processed and they begin the CLASS program. Some states are quicker, probably depends on funds and populations...not sure. It seems so weird to rush these parents of babies into signing up for various programs when they have barely grasped the reality that their baby will have a permanent disability. But if they wait to sign up for it when they need it, then they'll be disappointed of the waiting period. There are numerous other programs that I encourage people to sign up for, but I think every state is so different in what they offer. I encourage parents to find a case manager if they don't already have one. They can really help you navigate the world of special needs programs. And it looks like after the healthcare reform bill is in effect, there will be changes to the present programs as well as new additional ones.

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