$1.5 million federal grant to help adults with disabilities in Colorado find jobs

The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (known affectionately as "hick-puff") didn't win any popularity contests this past summer when it unveiled changes in the way Medicaid payments would be doled out to adults with disabilities who live at home -- a conflict profiled in the Westword feature "Colorado's New Medicaid Funding Plan Will Leave Disabled Adults on the Outside."

But perhaps a new $1.5 million federal grant to support and expand employment opportunities for that same population will put them back in the good graces of clients, patients and service providers.

The two-year grant will do a couple of things, according to Marci Eads, a rates analyst and Medicaid infrastructure grant project director with HCPF. First, it will pay for HCPF to convene stakeholder meetings all around the state to try to answer the question, How do we better help people with disabilities access existing resources in terms of employment? It will also pay for training for clients, service providers and business owners around how to get a job -- and why hiring people with disabilities "makes good business sense," Eads says.

Second, the grant will help support the roll-out of the state's new Medicaid Buy-In Program, which will allow adults and children with disabilities who earn more money than is currently allowed to buy Medicaid benefits. Many people with disabilities are afraid to work because they don't want to make too much money and lose their Medicaid coverage, Eads says. The Buy-In Program will hopefully alleviate those fears and make employment an option, she says.

It's estimated there are about 336,000 people in Colorado with disabilities, Eads says. Over half are unemployed. "We hope this has a really big impact," she says of the grant. "It's not a perfect system, but it will help a number of people."

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar