Arkansas Uses Tobacco Money to Cut Waiting List for Disability Services

By: - July 12, 2017 12:00 am

Beth Munro cares for her daughter, Caroline, who has developmental disabilities. Many states are trying to provide more services to people with disabilities.

© The Pew Charitable Trusts

Money from a 1999 settlement with tobacco companies has helped more people in Arkansas with developmental disabilities get the care they need.

The number of people on the waiting list for home- and community-based services fell from about 3,000 to about 2,500 this year after the state started using money from the settlement to provide more services, according to an article by The Associated Press published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Arkansas is one of many states struggling to provide services to people developmental disabilities. In many states, there are thousands of people on waiting lists for the services. Some states, including Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, have recently started to put more money in their budget to try to chip away at the lists.

Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill in January to allow the state to use $8.5 million it has collected from tobacco companies to help provide the services. The state is one of 46 states that sued tobacco companies for damages over money spent to treat smoking-related illnesses, and it has received $62 million a year from the companies. 

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Jen Fifield

Jen Fifield reports on rural issues for Stateline, She has covered government in Maryland and Arizona. She has won several regional journalism awards, and was recently a fellow in the Ravitch Fiscal Reporting Program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She graduated with honors from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.