CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After a years-long court battle, West Virginia residents will be able to enroll in the state's new Medicaid waiver program for people with traumatic brain injuries.
Under the waiver, brain injury survivors will be able to receive care in their homes and communities rather than being institutionalized. But some advocates for those survivors say the program is too small and won't do enough.
In April 2011, the state Supreme Court upheld a 2009 ruling from Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom, who ordered the state Department of Health and Human Resources to apply for the waiver.
In both 2001 and 2007, DHHR had agreed to apply for the waiver, but did not follow through with those plans.
"It's something that's extremely needed and the parties agreed on it 10 years ago and there was a great deal of foot-dragging," Bloom said Monday. "This is going to be a godsend for so many people."
The judge said the majority of the costs associated with the waiver will be picked up by the federal government. It was not clear Monday exactly how much the program would cost.
"It's a wonderful thing," Bloom said. "At long last these folks are going to get the services."
But advocates for brain injury survivors criticized the program. They argued that it will only help a small number of those who need it.
"It's taken us 25 years to get [the waiver] in place and it is sorely lacking," said Mike Davis, president of the Brain Injury Association of West Virginia. "They didn't rely upon the experts who work with this stuff day in and day out to design this waiver."
The program will begin accepting enrollees on Wednesday. It will accept 75 people in its first year, 100 people the second and 125 in the third year, said Cindy Beane, deputy commissioner at the state Bureau for Medical Services.
Beane said patients will be re-evaluated periodically to determine their need for services. "Unless they would improve to the point where they don't need services, technically they could receive services for a number of years," she said.
She called the program a "huge step forward" for those with TBI.