Tejus Sharathchandra stands in front of the room, a “Happy 21st Birthday” balloon tied to his jeans, wearing a bright orange “21 years of being awesome!” T-shirt.
Dozens of his peers at the UPMC Vocational Training Center on the South Side are singing “Happy Birthday” to him, while two large sheet cakes, one chocolate and one vanilla, will soon be cut and served.
Today could have been a dark day for Tejus and his family. Instead, it is full of singing, cake, pizza with his classmates at CITY Connections East, more cake, kickball and swimming with his teen and young-adult group at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill, and a special family dinner at Taco Bell — a treat he had been anticipating for weeks.
For months, Tejus’ family had been uncertain if his 21st birthday would mark the end of the intensive services and supports he receives for his intellectual disability and autism.
For families in Pennsylvania who have a child with an intellectual or developmental disability, a 21st birthday can be an unhappy milestone — an end to the vital services their children receive.
Until age 21, the care they receive, such as behavior and occupational therapy, is considered a federal entitlement — that is, Medicaid has to pay for it. At 21, that entitlement ends, which can lead to a “cliff” effect of a sudden cutoff of services and being put on a waiting list until additional funding is available. There are more than 13,000 people in Pennsylvania on a waiting list for intellectual disability services — there are more than 4,500 on the emergency waiting list.
So Tejus’ birthday isn’t just a birthday celebration — it’s also celebrating that he’ll be receiving what is know as a “consolidated waiver” — meaning the state’s Medicaid program, using a combination of state and federal dollars, will cover all the costs of his care.
“It’s the rest of his life. It’s his future. I feel like, we’ve solidified that. He has so many options now,” said Kristen Capp, Tejus’ supports coordinator.
You can read the full article on the Post Gazette website.
This post brought to you in part by the Jewish Community Center and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2016/12/04/21st-birthday-is-a-special-celebration-for-one-waiting-list-family/stories/201611060025