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.
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 Colorado General Assembly has adjourned with many victories for The Arc Colorado including:
- HB 1343, which creates a conflict free case management system, meaning that case management agencies cannot also be service providers, unless the only willing provider of case management in a region is also the only willing service provider;
- HB 1276, which bans prone, mechanical, or chemical restraint in public schools except in cases where a student displays a deadly weapon, it is performed by a trained police officer who has made a law enforcement referral, or it occurs at a school under the jurisdiction of the Division of Youth Corrections;
- HB 1087, which creates a pilot office of public guardianship for incapacitated adults without family or friends able to serve as guardian or enough money to pay a private guardian;
- HB 1046, which eliminates derogatory terms such as “mental retardation” and “mental deficiency” from state law and replaces them with “persons with an intellectual and developmental disability” and “persons with a mental illness”; and
- HB 1188, which makes harassment based on disability or sexual orientation a class 1 misdemeanor, bringing it to the same level as harassment based on race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin.
The Arc Colorado is having a busy legislative session, supporting twenty-nine bills and opposing five. Highlights include:
- The chapter successfully advocated for the defeat of HB 17-1013, which would have prohibited any state action that burdens a person’s exercise of religion unless it was the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. The bill stated that “exercise of religion” did not include “the ability to act or refuse to act based on race or ethnicity,” but did not include a similar exception for discrimination based on disability or any other protected status.
- The chapter supported HB 17-1001, which would have extended a 2009 law allowing family leave to attend a child’s academic activities but was defeated in the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee after passing in the House;
- The chapter supported HB 17-1038, which would have prohibited corporal punishment in public schools, licensed child care centers, family child care homes, and specialized youth group facilities, but was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee after passing in the House;
- The chapter supported HB 17-1046, which eliminates derogatory terms such as “mental retardation” and “mental deficiency” from state law and replaces them with “persons with an intellectual and developmental disability” and “persons with a mental illness.” This bill was recently signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper; and
- The chapter supported SB 17-024, which clarifies that the hearsay exception for persons with I/DD applies when an individual is being charged under increased penalties for crimes against certain persons with disabilities. This bill passed the Senate Unanimously.
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 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.
The Arc of Colorado supported HB 1328, recently signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper. This bill strengthens the safety provisions for the use of restraint and seclusion on individuals being detained by a state or local agency. The bill makes it clear that absent a demonstrated emergency, restraint and/or seclusion must never be used as a punishment, sanction, as part of a treatment plan, for retaliation, or for protection. The bill also established a committee to produce a research report for the legislature on the effects of restraint and/or seclusion on youth.
The Arc of Colorado conceived of and found sponsors for SB 77, recently signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper. This law requires multiple state agencies to work through the State Rehabilitation Council to develop an Employment First policy that increases competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities. These agencies will develop a strategic plan to incentivize employers to hire individuals with I/DD and provide training and support for people with disabilities to identify, secure, and maintain community based jobs in integrated settings.
The Arc of Colorado supported HB 1277, recently signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper. This law requires the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to provide 20 days of notice to a Medicaid recipient if medical assistance benefits will be suspended, terminated, or modified. The bill also extends the time for appeal of the intended action from 30 days to 60 days.