Maura Sullivan, Director of Governmental Affairs for The Arc Massachusetts, recently testified at a hearing before the Executive Office of Health and Human Services on a proposed 2.72% increase in Community-Based Day Support Services rates. While The Arc Massachusetts is grateful for the increase, it is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act because it does not allow for the meaningful integration of beneficiaries in the community. For example, Sullivan’s son Neil would likely only be out in the community for two hours per week due to her family’s inability to afford a higher staffing ratio.
Governor Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced their support for an affordable housing initiative funded by a bond and a fee on real estate transactions. The Arc California supports this initiative and is also seeking to ensure that people with I/DD have the supports they need to live in the community. Specifically, The Arc California and the Lanternman Coalition propose that the state lease the properties of closed developmental centers, use the revenue to increase the supply of integrated housing, and use the savings from the closure of these developmental centers to fund community-based services.
Following the passage of the American Health Care Act in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday, The Arc New Jersey’s board President Bob Hage and incoming board member Carolyn Hayer spoke with U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and Congressman Bill Pascrell about the devastating impacts of the legislation and the Medicaid cuts for people with I/DD. Bob and Carolyn talked about their children and explained how Medicaid provides for critical long-term supports and services that keep their children in the community. They urged the representatives to do everything they can to prevent the AHCA from becoming law, explaining that this would have a far-reaching and shattering impact on individuals with I/DD and their families living in New Jersey. This was an important opportunity to meet with high-ranking members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation as well as a chance to arm the state’s elected officials with real-life stories they can bring back to Washington. The chapter will continue to push back against this bill as debate on it begins in the Senate.
Meg Cooch, Executive Director of The Arc Illinois, and Kimberly Johnson-Evans, mom and Ligas Family Advocate, testified at a House Human Services Appropriations hearing on the FY18 Department of Human Services budget. They stressed the need to rebalance funding to focus on home and community-based services, the need for a wage increase for DSPs, and the funding of grant programs including Life Span, The Autism Program, and Best Buddies.
Heather Bump, a self-advocate from the NYSARC network, shared her experience advocating on both the federal and state level in an essay. She visited Member of Congress on Capitol Hill as part of the Disability Policy Seminar to advocate against the American Health Care Act. On the state level, she was active with the #bFair2DirectCare Coalition, writing letters, signing petitions, marching, making phone calls, and meeting directly with elected officials.
The Staten Island Advance recently published a letter to the editor from NYSARC’s President, Laura Kennedy. Kennedy wrote: “The defeat of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is only a short-term victory in a war far from over. We must continue to preserve and support the lifeline that tens of thousands of New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers rely on . . . Medicaid. Cutting Medicaid would be catastrophic for people with disabilities and their families.”
As a result of The Arc Minnesota’s advocacy, the Minnesota House recently approved HF919/ SF562 to expand benefits to individuals with autism and related conditions. This bill is meant to modify the 2013 law surrounding intensive treatment for children with autism. Sponsored by Representative Roz Peterson and Senator Jim Abeler, this bill will extend Early Intensive Developmental and Behavioral Intervention (EIDBI) to 21-year-olds as well as children with other qualifying conditions. Other benefits of the bill include: coverage of individualized treatment plans, training for parents and caregivers, monitoring of treatment plans, and evaluations of treatment goals. The bill passed the Senate in March by a 66-0 vote and passed the House this week by a 131-0 vote. The bill was recently signed by Governor Mark Dayton.
The 2017 session of the Indiana General Assembly concluded at the end of April and The Arc Indiana had a very successful session. Following is a summary of The Arc’s key legislative initiatives.
- Budget Bill: The two-year biennial state budget includes a 5% increase in Medicaid Waiver rates to increase DSP wages. And the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) program in Indiana received funding needed through the State Treasurer’s office to start marketing efforts and have the Treasurer serve as chairperson of the ABLE Board.
- Senate Resolution 44 – Supported Decision Making – A Senate Resolution, urging the legislative council to study the topic of supported decision making as an alternative option to adult guardianship, passed the Senate and will go to Legislative Council for consideration to be directed to a summer study committee for discussion.
- SB 61 – School Resource Officers – Requires a school resource officer to report all incidents of seclusion and restraint involving the school resource officer. Requires the commission on seclusion and restraint in schools to adopt rules concerning reporting requirements for the use of seclusion and restraint by school resource officers.
- SB 390 – Employment of Individuals with Disabilities – Provides that the policy of the state is to promote competitive, integrated employment, including self-employment as the first and preferred option when providing services to individuals with disabilities. Adds numerous members to the Commission on Rehabilitation Services. Adds additional responsibilities to the commission in regards to employment initiatives.
- HB 1102 – Task Force to Assess Services – Establishes a seventeen (17) member task force for assessment of services and supports for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.
The chapter’s full legislative wrap up can be viewed here.
The Arc Minnesota has had many successes this year at the State Capitol and in Congress due to the personal stories the chapter received from individuals with disabilities and their families. Many of these were delivered through the chapter’s “Telling Your Story” app, developed by the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, which can be downloaded to a smart phone or tablet. The app can be used to create a story and send it to elected officials.
This week, The Arc Virginia sent a strong letter to the state’s Congressional delegation opposing the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and expressing grave concern about the Medicaid per capita cap proposals. The News Virginian published the chapter’s letter, which can be accessed here. “These proposals would cause harm to thousands of Virginians with developmental disabilities who rely on Medicaid for home and community based care and would impede efforts to address the unmet needs of Virginians on the Developmental Disability (DD) Waiver waiting list,” wrote Kim Goodloe, President of the chapter. “On behalf of the tens of thousands of Virginians with developmental disabilities and families who are affected by these proposals, we urge you to oppose the AHCA and speak publicly against the Medicaid per capita caps.”