Gov. Ricketts signs law aimed at protecting Nebraskans with disabilities in custody cases

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At a bill signing event in the Governor’s Hearing Room on Monday, Governor Pete Ricketts highlighted LB 845, which was introduced by Senator Tom Briese of Albion.

LB 845 will prohibit courts from denying legal or physical custody of children based upon the disability of one of the parents. LB 845 was approved by the Legislature by a vote of 49-0.

“Thank you to Senator Briese for his work on this legislation that helps to ensure we are always keeping the best interest of the child as the top priority in custody cases,” said Governor Ricketts. “When deciding which parent should have custody of a child, the disability of a parent should not be used against him or her in court. Custody decisions should be based on the best interests of the child, and this bill helps accomplish that objective.”

Under the new law, when determining legal custody or physical custody of children, a court shall not give preference to either parent based on the sex or disability of the parent. Also, no presumption shall exist that either parent is more fit or suitable than the other.

“I am very proud that we were able to pass this legislation,” said Senator Briese. “It is critical to ensure that the best interest of children is always the number one consideration in custody cases, and it should be made clear that antiquated prejudices about individuals with disabilities have no place in making a determination of placement or parenting time. I want to thank Speaker Scheer, many of my colleagues, Governor Ricketts, and our friends in the community of Nebraskans with disabilities who helped ensure that decisions about children in our state are being made with 21st-century considerations.”

GOVERNOR RICKETTS’ INITIATIVES FOR NEBRASKANS WITH DISABILITIES

Governor Ricketts and his team have launched a variety of initiatives for Nebraskans with disabilities. Advances that have been made include:

• Better Community Outreach: Improved outreach to individuals on the developmental disability waitlist and streamlined management to ensure an accurate count of individuals waiting for services is maintained.
• Better Quality Management: Developed a quality management strategy for developmental disability homes and community-based services, as well as intermediate care facility services.
• Faster Provider Approval: Reduced the time to approve prospective developmental disability service providers from 163 days to 49 days on average, a 70 percent reduction.
• More Service Offers: Made more service offers to Nebraskans with developmental disabilities in 2017 than in the previous five years combined. This funding will allow the state to provide an even higher level of service to one of our most vulnerable populations.
• New Crisis Response Services: Established the Beatrice State Developmental Center as a statewide resource providing short term crisis intervention for individuals with developmental disabilities and two mobile community crisis teams.
• New Funding: Increased funding by $2.7 million for developmental disability programming in the most recent budget.
• New Waiver Applications: Successfully amended the Medicaid Developmental Disability Home and Community Based Services waiver applications with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approval to clearly articulate the prioritization and participation of individuals receiving services through the waiver to include populations and services. This has lowered the reliance on offering services solely funded with state dollars due to eligibility for federal matching funds and allowed for an increase in funding offers from the wait list. The Division of Developmental Disabilities made 898 funding offers in calendar year 2017.
• Shorter Waits for Services: Cut wait times to determine eligibility for developmental disability services from an average of 69 days to an average of just 16 days, a nearly 80 percent reduction.