MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The number of Minnesotans with disabilities who have to wait a long time for critical social services has fallen sharply in recent months as the state removes long-standing barriers.

The Star Tribune reports state officials are pressuring counties to spend more of the money allocated annually for a form of Medicaid assistance. It helps people with disabilities build independent lives, and much of the money has gone unspent in recent years.

A court report issued last week shows hundreds of people who have been on waiting lists for community services for months and years are now getting help. About 1,100 people were moved off waitlists in the last nine months of 2015, cutting the overall backlog by 23 percent statewide.

Nearly 4,000 applicants remain on county waiting lists for assistance.