ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) offered through Medicaid allows recipients to hire individuals to help them. It may offer an alternative for disabled people who want to remain independent and comfortable in their homes.

There are some drawbacks. Individuals who get approved for the program must work directly with the people they hire. Essentially, they become an employer, and with that comes the responsibility of hiring and firing, setting and tracking hours worked, and complying with labor laws.

Independence is vital to the happiness and well-being of disabled people. It increases their feeling of self-worth, confidence, productivity, and economic security. Disabled people who are able to rely less on family members are happier, according to

“With choice comes greater control,” said Denise Dinoto. “Personal care is an intimate task. Imagine if you needed help getting out of bed in the morning, getting dressed, taking a shower, changing your underwear. Wouldn’t you want a say in who’s providing that intimate care for you?”

Dinoto, a Communications and Outreach Specialist for Consumer Directed Choices, was given the Beacon Leadership Award by the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley for her lifetime advocacy work on behalf of disabled people in April 2017.

Consumer Directed Choices assists people enrolled in CDPAP by taking care of payroll, completing required annual health assessments and employment documents. They also take care of organizing workers’ compensation, disability, and unemployment for personal assistants. They also have an online database where people can search for personal assistants.

The CDPAP “provides home care services to chronically ill or physically disabled individuals who are self-directing and have a medical need for help with activities of daily living or skilled nursing services,” said the New York Department of Health Director of Public Information, Jonah Bruno.

People enrolled in a Medicaid managed care plan, long term care plan, and Medicaid fee-for-service are eligible for the CDPAP program. More than 139,000 New Yorkers are currently using CDPAP.

“To qualify for CDPAP, the individual must: be eligible for Medicaid; have a stable medical condition; be capable of self-directing (or have a designated representative who can make decisions); be assessed as having a medical need for services; and be capable of living safely in the community,” Bruno said. “The number of hours an individual receives depends on their needs, as determined by the Medicaid managed care plan or the local district.”

The parents of children under the age of 21 enrolled in the CDPAP cannot be hired as a personal assistant. However, that doesn’t mean all family members residing with the child cannot be hired.

“Living in the same home with the consumer does not disqualify a family member from being selected and hired as a personal assistant. Whether the consumer is self-directing or not is irrelevant. Provisions for the CDPAP have always allowed otherwise eligible family members to provide care while living in the same residence with the consumer,” according to the New York State Department of Health website.

The CDPAP could also protect the disabled from exposing themselves to COVID-19 at assisted living facilities.

Those with disabilities represent 22% of New York’s population. They are more likely to engage in poor behaviors such as inactivity and smoking. They are also more likely to have high blood pressure or be obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This may put them at a greater risk for complications from COVID-19.

Dinoto said she has conversations with her assistants about COVID-19, including where they have been, who they have been with, and whether they have been sticking to other prevention measures, like wearing a mask and frequent handwashing.

She values the fact that she gets to decide who comes into her home, at what time, and what they help her with. She said she appreciates being able to call them if she is in need of urgent help or has an emergency situation.