Sexual health in the community: Services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities



Carli Friedman, PhD, Aleksa L. Owen, MSW PhD Candidate

Disability and Health JournalVol. 10Issue 3p387–393



Sexuality is a central dimension of overall health and well-being. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) continue to experience disparities in healthcare, particularly regarding access to sexual health related services. Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waivers are ideally situated to provide sexual and reproductive healthcare in accessible settings.


This preliminary study analyzed national Medicaid HCBS waivers to determine how they provide sexuality services for people with IDD.


111 FY 2015 HCBS 1915(c) waivers for people with IDD from 46 states and the District of Columbia were analyzed to determine which waivers were providing services related to sexuality. Expenditure and utilization data were analyzed to determine service allotment.


Currently, less than 12% of waivers include any kind of sexuality services, and those services provided are predominantly reactive, rather than proactive. Reactive services focused on interrupting sexually inappropriate behaviors through assessments and plans, intervention and therapy, and supervision. Meanwhile, proactive services promoted the healthy sexuality of people with IDD by providing sexuality education related to sexuality awareness, reproduction, and victimization avoidance.


The limited availability of Medicaid HCBS sexuality service provision not only hints at a lack of understanding of sexuality for people with IDD, but also presents an opportunity to perform increased evaluations on current service offerings in order to justify future expanded offerings in other states.