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Conn. Lawmakers Push Back On Job Training Limits For People With Brain Injuries

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Connecticut’s Department of Social Services has to implement time limits on a Medicaid program that helps some low-income people with brain injuries get job skills, in order to comply with guidelines from the federal government.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent out a memo to all 50 states in 2011 saying that “prevocational training” — or lessons in general skills, like dealing with people and time management, so people with brain injuries can get prepared for the workplace — should have a time limit.

At a legislative hearing on Tuesday, the Department of Social Services talked about how to comply with the federal guidelines. The department, which administers Medicaid programs in Connecticut, proposed a two-year limit on job skills training with an extra year of training in special cases. But brain injury advocates said that wasn’t enough time.

Dominic Cotton owns a company that helps people with brain injuries. At Tuesday's legislative hearing in Hartford, he said two or three years was not always enough time.

“Look, it’s not a straight line. It is definitely not a straight line,” he said. "I’ve worked with people some people for 10, 11 years. People make progress at different increments because everyone with a brain injury is different.”

Cathy Johnson is the mother of a brain injury survivor from the program who is now a writer and artist. She said her son was part of the program, and that he was given as much time as he needed to learn the coping skills he uses today. She wanted other people with brain injuries to have a similar experience.

“My son got filet mignon and they’re going to get oatmeal,” she said. “It’s not right.”

Legislators asked the department to instead implement a two-year time limit, with two more years of training for people who are “making progress towards their employment goals.” That will potentially mean up to four years of prevocational training in total.

A representative from the Brain Injury Alliance of Connecticut said the request from legislators for more time was a positive move. The representative explains that next, the department will have to ask the federal government to approve the four-year proposal.

Kathie is a former editor at WSHU.