Nearly a year after eliminating its 25-year-old waiting list for specialized services, the Louisiana Department of Health’s Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities is receiving positive feedback from those served by the Tiered Waiver plan.

Tiered Waiver prioritizes individuals with a greater urgency of need for receiving the most appropriate home and community-based services, rather than the Office’s prior approach of offering services on a first-come, first-served basis.

Julie Foster Hagan, assistant secretary of the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, said more than 12,000 people have received a Screening for Urgency of Need (SUN), using a nationally accepted best practice model, to determine the urgency of their need for waiver services. There are five levels of need, or tiers:

  • 4-Emergent: Supports will be needed in the next 90 days.
  • 3-Urgent: Supports will be needed in the next 3-12 months.
  • 2-Critical: Supports will be needed in the next 1-2 years.
  • 1-Planning: Supports will be needed in the next 3-5 years.
  • 0-Currently no unmet needs.

The registry allows the Office to plan for and be responsive to people if their needs change, becoming urgent or emergent.

Everyone in Tiers 3 and 4 is offered the most appropriate services and supports.

“What we hear from family members is that it’s saving their lives, it’s keeping their families together, it’s helping them be able to continue to be a part of their community,” Hagan said.

Among those receiving services through Tiered Waiver is Laci Polotzola’s 11-year-old-son, Tyler, who has autism, is nonverbal and has a heart rhythm disorder.

“The extra support that we have received has actually given us our life back. I feel like we can take a breath sometimes now, whereas before I was always holding my breath to try and run to get to one thing to the next,” Polotzola recently shared in a video interview. “Not only that, I just feel like we’re more of a family. We have time to connect as a family again.”

For more information or frequently asked questions regarding Tiered Waivers, click here.