From 500 to 900 people with developmental disabilities would move off the current waiting list and receive home-based or community-based services under a plan announced by the governor.

He proposed allocating about $8.5 million from the state’s tobacco settlement revenue to provide the services and shorten the waiting list, which now has about 3,000 people on it.

Under the formula for this method of Medicaid spending, the federal government would provide an additional $20.5 million, so the total amount of new spending on services for people with developmental disabilities would be about $29 million a year.

The state Department of Human Services said that currently about 4,200 people with disabilities receive home or community services. A common alternative to community and home-based services is to place the person with disabilities in an institution, such as a Human Development Center.

The department operates HDCs in Arkadelphia, Booneville, Conway, Jonesboro and Warren.

Arkansas policy makers, like those in many other states, are in a debate about how best to provide care for people with developmental disabilities. Some families prefer that their loved ones remain at home and that the state provide support services. Other families are satisfied with the care that is provided in HDCs.

Revenue from the tobacco settlement results from a lawsuit filed by 46 states against cigarette manufacturers. The intent of the states was to recover the financial costs of caring for people with chronic illnesses caused by smoking.

Arkansas was supposed to get about $62 million a year for 25 years under the settlement, but has not always received that much. In May Arkansas received $49.7 million, according to the state attorney general, who added that this year’s proceeds bring the total amount that tobacco companies have paid Arkansas to $896,732,626.

Arkansas voters approved an act that sets out how the revenue from cigarette makers is to be spent. We are one of the few states that spends all of the revenue on health-related programs.

Enrollment gains

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville reported record enrollment for this fall semester – 27,194 students. That number includes 4,967 freshmen, an increase of 1.1 percent over last year.

Arkansas State University at Jonesboro also has a record enrollment this fall – 14,074 students. That is 5 percent greater than last year.

This fall Southern Arkansas University at Magnolia set a record for the fourth consecutive year with 4,771 students. That is 15.3 percent more than last year.

In a related development the Lottery Commission reported that ticket sales in August were $35 million. That is an increase of $3.8 million over the same month last year, attributable to popular interest in the lottery caused by jackpots of more than $500 million in the Mega Millions game and almost as much in the Powerball game.

After prizes are paid to lottery winners, a portion of ticket sales goes to Academic Challenge scholarships.

Since lottery tickets first went on sale in September of 2009, more than 31,000 students have been awarded a scholarship each year. This year 34,322 students received a scholarship with revenue from the lottery.

If you have any questions or comments about legislative issues, contact me at terry.rice@senate.ar.gov or call me at (479) 650-9712.