The Arc Massachusetts is continuing to seek passage of S. 1169, which creates a system of licensure for dental therapists. Massachusetts has a severe shortage of dentists who serve people with I/DD, and even fewer accept Medicaid. The purpose of the bill is to address this shortage of dental services for underserved populations, including those with I/DD. The bill requires that the curriculum for dental therapists include training on working with patients with I/DD. Maura Sullivan, Director of Government Affairs for the chapter testified before the Massachusetts General Court’s Joint Committee on Public Health. She discussed her challenges finding quality dental care for her son, Neil and Tyler, who have autism and mitochondrial disease. Their dentist ignored tooth decay until it was severe enough to require hospitalization and anesthesia because he was unable to treat them without it. She stated, “They deserve better care, more effort and I needed more communication and oral hygiene support strategies.”
The Arc Michigan is advocating for passage of SB 541, which creates a system of licensure for dental therapists. Dental therapists would be allowed to perform certain procedures currently reserved for dentists only. They must work under the supervision of a dentist in a setting for underserved populations, such as people with I/DD. Dental therapists could help address the severe shortage of dental providers that limits access to care, especially for people with I/DD. SB 541 was approved by the Committee on Health Policy.
The Massachusetts Senate hosted a heath care discussion at the state house in preparation for upcoming health care cost containment legislation. The discussion involved a panel on long term supports and services for people with disabilities that included Leo Sarkissian, Executive Director of The Arc Massachusetts. The Arc Massachusetts is pleased that the State Senate is considering long term supports and services in its discussion of future health care legislation.
The Arc Colorado has engaged its local chapter leaders in advocacy against the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Stephanie Garcia, Executive Director of The Arc Boulder, whose son with autism benefits from Medicaid, took part in a protest at U.S. Senator Cory Gardner’s office. Carol Meredith, Executive Director of The Arc Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, and her son Alex were featured in a story in the Denver Post. Alex has autism and is able to live in the community and work at a local thrift store thanks to Medicaid.
NYSARC joined 25 other organizations in signing a letter to the New York Congressional delegation opposing the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The letter states: “The Senate bill retains the American Health Care Act’s dramatic cuts to the Medicaid program through the proposed per capita cap, lowering the cap even further in the out years, and targets high-cost states like ours specifically for further reductions.”
The Arc Illinois Executive Director Meg Cooch, Ligas Family Advocate Missy Kichline, and her daughter Sam Kichline presented at a press conference with Senator Dick Durbin on the Better Care Reconciliation Act. They highlighted the opportunities Sam has in the community because of Medicaid.
Congressman Tom MacArthur visited The Arc Ocean County in New Jersey to learn about the services the chapter provides. Executive Director Laura Williams gave Congressman MacArthur an overview of the chapter’s programs and explained the ways in which Medicaid is important to individuals the chapter serves. Additionally, Congressman MacArthur had a conversation with individuals with I/DD and their families who are served by the chapter. Photos from the event can be found on The Arc New Jersey’s Facebook page.
Kelly Stahlman, a member of the Board of Directors of The Arc Colorado, was featured in a story on NBC.com. The story discusses her twin sons, Eric and Mark, who were born 12 weeks premature and have cerebral palsy and other health issues. Their family faced bills running in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year before qualifying for Medicaid. Because of Medicaid, her sons were able to live fulfilling lives in the community before they passed away at ages 22 and 23. In discussing proposals to change the bill to make less drastic cuts, Stahlman said: “There’s no negotiation that can change the core of this bill, which decimates Medicaid.”
The Arc North Carolina has been mobilizing forces to fight the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Service providers in their network have been organizing families to make calls to U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. Valerie Vizena, Executive Director of The Arc Forsyth County/Enrichment Center, penned a letter to the editor in the Winston-Salem Journal. She wrote: “This is a program that is pro-family, creates jobs, keeps families in the workforce and treats individuals with disabilities with the respect they deserve.”
The Arc Wisconsin and other disability and aging organizations coordinated an informational session for legislators and their staffers on Medicaid and the health care legislation being considered by Congress. The information session was co-sponsored by Representatives Tom Weatherson and Beth Meyers, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Assembly Aging and Long-Term Care Committee, respectively. Lisa Pugh, Executive Director of The Arc Wisconsin served as an expert speaker, and David Boelter, Executive Director of The Arc Fond du Lac, served as a panelist. Read more about the briefing here.