The Arc Tennessee is advocating for an increase in the DSP base wage from $8.73 to $9.73. It has been nearly ten years since the waiver rates were overhauled and they no longer reflect the cost of living or providing services. Governor Bill Haslam recently announced a 4.8% increase in his proposed budget for DSP wages, which would fund approximately 40% of the targeted increase. The Arc Tennessee welcomes this increase and will continue to advocate for more funding during the legislative session.
In its advocacy work to help defeat the American Health Care Act, The Arc Tennessee released a video discussing the importance of “lifeline” programs such as Medicaid in the lives of people with disabilities. Families in the video discuss the negative impact the proposal to cut and cap Medicaid might have on them such as being unable to work or institutionalized due to lack of supports in the community. Carrie Hobbs Guiden, The Arc Tennessee’s Executive Director, noted the importance of contacting members of Congress to ensure these voices are heard.
The Arc Tennessee is advocating for passage of SB264, The Supported Decision Making Act. This bill makes supported decision making a legally recognized option for adults with disabilities. Under a supported decision making agreement, an individual with a disability maintains all legal decision-making rights and receives help in making decisions from a trusted person. It is an extension of the “least restrictive alternative” principle that guided the movement from segregation to inclusion in education, housing, and workplaces. More information can be found in The Arc of Tennessee’s action alert.
Have you wanted to become more active in public policy but didn’t know where to start? Are you concerned about the future of supports and services for people with disabilities and their families? Do you want to learn how your voice and your story can impact laws at the state and federal level? Then join The Arc Tennessee for its new webinar series: “The Power of Advocacy: The Arc Tennessee Public Policy Advocacy Webinar Series.” Topics will include:
- Overview of the legislative process – state and federal
- Navigating the Tennessee General Assembly website
- Developing relationships with your elected officials
- Coalition building
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Tennessee’s Employment First Task Force, of which The Arc of Tennessee is a part, is promoting a #HireMyStrengths campaign. The campaign, started by TennesseeWorks, places an emphasis on the individual strengths of people with and without disabilities. Participants are asked to write their strengths on a sign and share a picture holding the sign on social media.
The Arc of Tennessee is actively involved in Governor Bill Haslam’s Employment First Task Force and facilitates monthly family support meetings around the topic of employment in each grand region of the state. The chapter also conducts workshops for local chambers of commerce and the Society for Human Resource Management on the “Business Case for Employment” to educate businesses about the benefits of hiring people with I/DD.
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 Tennessee helped secure the passage of SB1485/HB1512, which expands the categories of missing citizens for whom a media alert is sent to include people with disabilities.
The Arc of Tennessee helped secure the passage of SB1584/HB1983 which amends the state’s STEP UP Scholarship program to fund students for up to four years instead of just two. The STEP UP scholarship provides approximately $3,500 per year to students with I/DD attending one of five approved post-secondary programs for people with I/DD throughout the state.