Gov. Jim Justice announced Dec. 13 that he has directed the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to initiate a formal study to determine options for eliminating the waiting list for the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Waiver (IDDW) program.

The study is to be delivered to him by Jan. 15, or a week after the start of the next session of the Legislature.

People have been on the waiting list for four years, and this is a problem that’s been around longer than that. The governor’s call for action is welcome, and long overdue. It’s too bad that it had to wait until we are heading into an election year. Is that why there is a rush now?

Elimination of the waiting list would allow 1,060 more West Virginians, including 606 children, to receive critical services through the IDDW program, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

“Some of West Virginia’s most vulnerable men, women and children have been on the wait list for more than four years,” Justice said in the news release. “We absolutely must find a way to eliminate the wait list so that these West Virginians can get the help and support they deserve.”

Justice said he is working closely with legislative leadership on the issue. He has directed DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch to work with Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy to incorporate options into Justice’s 2021 budget proposal.

The IDDW program gives individuals the choice of receiving support and services in their home and community instead of in an institutional setting. It reimburses for services to instruct, train, support, supervise and assist people with certain needs.

Services are available for, among other things, professional behavioral support, dietary therapy, crisis services, skilled nursing and physical therapy. Applicants must have substantial deficits in three of six areas: self care; receptive or expressive language; learning; mobility; self-direction; or capacity for independent living.

The cost of services provided through the IDDW program is 46% lower than the cost of services provided by an intermediate care facility for individuals with developmental disabilities, according to state officials.

As part of DHHR’s long-term goals, in July 2015 certain services in the IDDW program were redefined to be more comparable to services available in neighboring states, said Allison Adler, director of communications for DHHR. This made possible cost savings of $55.8 million to the program over the next three fiscal years, she said.

As part of the requested study, DHHR’s Bureau for Medical Services will reach out to individuals on the waiting list for re-assessments of their needs, inform them of the services available through the IDDW program and provide information regarding service providers.

So let’s take this apart. People have been on a waiting list for four years and just now Justice and the DHHR are studying how to accelerate the delivery of services? Justice wants the DHHR to come up with ways to “incorporate options” into the 2020-21 budget?

There’s no hard and fast commitment to shortening the waiting time?

Bureaucracies are not known for speed or agility. Dealing with them can be a difficult process for many of us.

It’s good that Justice and others at the DHHR have realized that some people have waited too long for services they have applied for. No one who needs the services of IDDW should have to wait four years for them, or for an answer on whether an application has been approved.

To be fair to Justice, some people have been on the list since before he was elected. Still, this truly is a situation calling for all due speed so it can be resolved as soon as possible.