Some things are worth waiting for.
In fact, sometimes waiting can help build anticipation, such as waiting for Christmas, that vacation to Costa Rica or the summer clearance at Brown’s Shoes. Other things get better if you are willing to delay your gratification: wine, cheese, retirement.
But there are those things in life you cannot wait for. Paramedics are a good example.
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Colorado have had to wait too long for the services they need. Imagine if you called to make an appointment with a medical specialist and the receptionist told you the next available appointment was 10 years from now.
That’s exactly the experience people with intellectual disabilities have had since the 1990s. When I started working at Community Connections in 2001, the waiting list for comprehensive disability services was already 10 to 15 years long. By 2010, we had to tell families to expect a 15- to 20-year wait.
Colorado has been attempting to fix the problem of the waiting list for as long as it has existed, but progress has been slow. At one point several years ago, even people who met the criteria for emergency services had to wait months or years to receive them.
Thankfully, we are now able to plan for and address emergency needs as they arise and, in the last two years, we have also managed to enroll 450 people from the waiting list, which is far more than we had enrolled over the previous 10 years. But more than 3,000 people are still waiting. That does not include the people who do not even get on the list because they simply cannot wait that long.
In the meantime, people are living in tenuous circumstances. Some people have aging caregivers whose capacity to provide needed supports are diminishing. Others are aging themselves and have increasing needs that are no longer met by their current programs. Many are just trying to begin their adult lives and need support to get jobs, get involved in their communities and live full and independent lives.
No one should have to wait to live their life.
During the 2020 Colorado legislative session, our legislators will be asked to make a significant investment in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. The movement to “End the Wait” is here.
“End the Wait” seeks to eliminate the waiting list by enrolling 500 people a year over the next six years. At the same time, it makes some necessary changes to the funding formulas used to pay providers of intellectual disabilities services to ensure needed services are available across the state.
This a substantial request to meet a critical need. In our communities of Southwest Colorado, we have more than two dozen people currently waiting for essential services. And you can help them get those services.
Our local state representatives need to hear that this is important to our communities. Please visit the “End the Wait” website at www.coidd.com to learn more about our efforts and make your voice heard.
Tara Kiene is president/CEO of Community Connections Inc.