March 18, 2011


Contact: Melanie Shaw, Office: 518-465-4650, Cell: 518-209-2343


Disability Advocates Praise Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Shah for Implementing the Community First Choice Option in New York



Disability advocates are praising Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., who today endorsed the Community First Choice Option offered to states as part of federal health reform. This option will allow New York State to offer enhanced personal care services to help people with disabilities and elderly New Yorkers stay in their homes.


The disability rights community in New York has vigorously pressed the State to implement the Community First Choice Option, which is the culmination of 20 years of advocacy. Through the CFC Option, the State has the opportunity to save $90 million annually in Medicaid costs for home and community based long term services and supports. The CFC Option is available October 1, 2011. “At a time when the State is looking for ways to save Medicaid costs, we praise Commissioner Shah’s announcement that the State will implement the Community First Choice option, an initiative in health care reform that would expand access to community based services for people with disabilities and older New Yorkers and save the state $400 million over five years,” said Melanie Shaw, Executive Director of the New York Association on Independent Living. “We thank Governor Cuomo for moving New York to the forefront of states seeking to rebalance their long term care system away from a reliance on institutions to more home and community-based services and supports.” The Community First Choice Option allows states to create a community-based State Plan service for people who are at an institutional level of care and provides an additional six percentage points of federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for individuals served under this program.


Bruce Darling, an organizer with ADAPT, a national grassroots disability rights network devoted to eliminating Medicaid’s institutional bias, said Community First Choice was included in federal health reform in large part through the support of Senator Charles Schumer. “Senator Schumer’s work made this important victory possible.  Seniors, people with disabilities and the taxpayers of New York owe him a debt of gratitude.”


“Through this announcement, Governor Cuomo has indicated that the right of individuals with disabilities to live in the community is the State’s priority,” said Maria Dibble, Executive Director of the Southern Tier Independence Center and Chair of NYAIL.


Over 250 disability advocates had demonstrated at the State Capitol on Tuesday about the State budget and Medicaid reform. The disability community had previously recommended several policy changes to comprehensively reverse Medicaid’s current institutional bias in favor of responsive and fiscally responsible home and community based care, including the implementation by the State of the Community First Choice Option. If adopted, the recommendations would result in $1 billion in long term care Medicaid savings over five years. The full proposal prepared by the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL) and the Center for Disability Rights (CDR) is available at 


In announcing the State’s intention to implement CFC, Commissioner Shah said, “Allowing disabled and elderly New Yorkers additional options to stay in their homes is consistent with Governor Cuomo’s goals. This new federal opportunity will help New York reform its Medicaid program while at the same time empower elderly and disabled individuals to stay in their own homes.” The DOH statement noted that the program must be offered throughout the state in the most integrated setting appropriate to individuals’ needs. Dr. Shah said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has asked him to take all necessary steps to prepare New York to make use of the new care option. Action will include establishing a development and implementation council, whose membership must consist primarily of elderly and disabled individuals and their representatives. “Patient-centered and patient-directed care needs flexibility to work, which Community First Choice will help provide,” Dr. Shah said. “This is an opportunity to rethink the way New York supports its elderly and disabled populations. We look forward to implementing this new concept.”




NYAIL is a membership organization representing Independent Living Centers (ILCs), community-based not-for-profit providers of advocacy, services and supports for New Yorkers with disabilities of all ages. ILCs are controlled by, and largely staffed by, people with disabilities. NYAIL supports shifting state spending away from costly institutional and segregated services to cost-effective community-based services and supports.