The Arc of Colorado helped defeat HB 1054 seeking to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Proponents of the bill have secured enough signatures to put this issue on the ballot in November.
The Arc of New Jersey’s Board President, Robert Hage, sent a letter to the editor that was published in the Daily Journal. In honor of the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Hage wrote about the need to improve services for people with disabilities in New Jersey, particularly with regards to employment, transportation, and community living. Hage noted: “…while celebration is certainly warranted, the anniversary of the ADA should also galvanize conversation about ways we can continue to improve equality and increase opportunities for people with disabilities…The Arc of New Jersey encourages you to use this occasion to celebrate the past, but also to think and plan for a future that addresses the needs of people with disabilities in 2016 and beyond.”
Over the summer, The Arc of New Mexico brought together self-advocate leaders and other advocates and funders to brainstorm about how to create a comprehensive and sustainable statewide self-advocacy movement in New Mexico. In addition to the chapter, attendees came from organizations such as People First, Allies in Advocacy, Parents Reaching Out, the Department of Health – Developmental Disabilities Supports Division, and the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council/ Center for Self-Advocacy. The group developed a two- year vision that outlined a path to ensuring the voices of self-advocates become a force in public policy in New Mexico via, among other things, training self-advocates in legislative advocacy, seeking to create a disability history curriculum in public schools, and improving accessible transportation in rural areas.
The Arc of Indiana, through a grant from the National Resource Center for Supported Decision Making and the Administration for Community Living, recently published the report “Supported Decision Making in Indiana: Guardianship, Civil Rights and the Case for a Less Restrictive Environment.”
The Arc of New Jersey’s Executive Director, Tom Baffuto, spoke out in favor of increasing wages for DSPs at a press conference hosted by State Senate President Stephen Sweeney. The press conference was held in response to Governor Chris Christie’s line-item veto of funding in the 2017 budget designated for DSPs. A number of representatives from various human services organizations attended, but The Arc of New Jersey was the only group asked to provide remarks about DSPs and the impact of their work on people with I/DD. Tom implored the Governor to value the work of DSPs by paying them wages that are in line with the crucial work that they do and he emphasized that the current low wages cannot be tolerated any longer. He also spoke about the challenges associated with hiring and retaining employees for these positions and the fact that community provider agencies have not seen increases in their contracts in almost 10 years.
NYSARC has led in the development of the #bFair2DirectCare coalition of providers to advocate for increased Medicaid funding to provide a living wage for DSPs and other support staff in light of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement regarding raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour throughout the state over the course of five years. 2015 data from the seven major providers throughout the state indicates a 9.3% vacancy rate for DSPs, a 23% one-year turnover rate, and reliance on more than 6.4 million hours of overtime. The coalition’s position is that failing to provide funding to increase pay to DSPs places providers at a great disadvantage in a competitive labor market. “It is not uncommon to see talented and dedicated DSPs driven to leave our field to take jobs at big box stores so they can better provide for their families,” said NYSARC Executive Director Steven Kroll. The campaign has been garnering media coverage and gaining awareness as it takes its message statewide. In June, the coalition held a press conference outside of the Nassau County Supreme Court to highlight the “300 Days to Better Pay” campaign. The press conference highlighted how providers of supports and services for New Yorkers with I/DD face inadequate funding and policies that threaten community integration. Organizations that support individuals with I/DD have seen only one rate increase since the recession of 2008, an average increase of less than one-half of 1% per year. Now they face as much as a 67% increase in the mandated minimum wage, new overtime rules, and growing competition from other employers. Read more in the coalition’s press release and an article covering the coalition’s work in Newsday. Follow the coalition on Facebook and Twitter.
The Arc of Tennessee helped to secure the passage of SB2003/HB2014, the “Aging Caregiver Bill.” This bill allows individuals with I/DD on the waiting list for Home and Community Based Services to be enrolled into waiver services when their primary caregiver reaches the age of 75. Prior to this bill, the individual was not eligible for waiver services until the caregiver reached the age of 80.
The Arc of Tennessee worked actively with TennCare (Tennessee’s Division of Health Care Finance and Administration) on the implementation of the new Employment and Community First CHOICES waiver by providing information sessions across the state and written comments on the waiver itself. This waiver includes three benefits packages based on eligibility and level of care. As a result of the chapter’s advocacy, respite services and alternatives to conservatorship counseling are now available for all three packages rather than just one. In addition, transportation coverage now extends to buses, taxis, ride-sharing services, and carpooling options, rather than being limited to transportation from provider agencies.
The Arc of Massachusetts helped secure a significant increase in funding for the Department of Developmental Services’ Family Support line item via its Supporting Families Campaign. The Arc of Massachusetts initiated this campaign with six other disability advocacy organizations in the state in order to advocate for more meaningful supports for families and call attention to the issues facing aging caregivers.
The Arc of Colorado advocated for the passage of HB1254, which requires the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to provide a training curriculum on abuse and exploitation of individuals with I/DD who are 18 or over. Governor Hickenlooper recently signed this bill into law.