Gov. Asa Hutchinson says diverting money from Arkansas’s tobacco settlement to help people with developmental disabilities has cut the number of families on a waiting list by 500.
Speaking at the quarterly meeting of the state’s Tobacco Settlement Commission Tuesday, Hutchinson praised commissioners for supporting a proposal he made in September 2016.
"You embraced that idea, which I wanted to thank you for," he said.
The proposal, which was approved by the legislature earlier this year, involved using $8.5 million in unused money from the fund, leveraged with $20 million federal dollars to go toward the state’s Community and Employment Supports waiver. Now the governor is pushing for continued support.
"That is a great success story, and I’m very proud of the commission for your support of this. This is an ongoing effort, and of course you can’t stop with simply the 500 families," Hutchinson said. The eventual goal, he said, is to completely eliminate the waiting list.
Among those now getting assistance is 19-year-old Regan Reaves who attends Bryant High School. As a toddler, she was diagnosed with a neurological condition that has had her parents taking care of basic daily needs.
Her mom, Wendy Reaves, told the commission she was on a waiting list for eight years, but is now getting regular assistance.
"We were told she wouldn’t walk or ever talk, and we’re doing all those things. But now, as far as working towards independence, we have someone through (a) waiver who can come in and help Regan in the evenings and on the weekends learn how to take care of herself because we’ve done that all of her life."
Reaves said those include things as simple as learning how to buy tube of toothpaste at a store.
"Those things are happening now. She’s becoming more independent – she’s happier with that situation – and our family is blessed and I just want to say thank you to you all and to Governor Hutchinson. I appreciate all the work that has gone into this," Reaves said.