The Arc Pennsylvania is supporting HB 1650, which will close Pennsylvania’s five remaining state-run institutions. Executive Director Maureen Cronin, who was on the Pennhurst staff when it closed discussed the topic with the Tribune-Review. She is quoted as saying “You can’t deny that, at one time, there was a movement to separate people with disabilities from the community,” and “It’s hard to imagine that we would need legislation in 2017 to close these institutions. Nobody thought they would stay open that long.” The Arc Pennsylvania has a long history of advocating for institutional closures, including serving as chief plaintiff in the case that resulted in the closure of Pennhurst.
The state budget recently signed into law by Governor Chris Christie included funding for several priorities for The Arc New Jersey, including:
- $10 million for community-based services for people currently on the Community Care Waiver Waiting List;
- $8.6 million for community-based residential placements for 54 people currently living in state institutions;
- $1 million for 125 new housing vouchers;
- $46.2 million for service expansion for current and new Supports Program participants; and
- $23.9 million for general division growth.
The Arc Pennsylvania commends the decision by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to close the Hamburg State Center and transition its residents to community-based living. This outcome is a result of The Arc Pennsylvania’s advocacy efforts in this area which have been ongoing since the chapter was successful in the 1970s in bringing about the closure of the Pennhurst institution. While conditions in state institutions have improved since the days of Pennhurst, these facilities still segregate people with I/DD from the community.
The Arc Pennsylvania has released its budget and policy priorities for the legislative session including:
- Enacting new revenue measures to fund a waiting list reduction such as a $2 admission fee at each establishment with slot machines, an additional four cent tax on cigarettes, and an increase in the tax on table games from 12% to 14%;
- Continuing efforts to close the remaining state institutions;
- Improving school climate by expanding Statewide Positive Behavior Supports and ending unnecessary restraint and seclusion;
- Ending organ transplant discrimination; and
- Placing the burden of proof on school district rather than parents in IDEA disputes.
The Arc Pennsylvania lauds Governor Tom Wolf’s newly proposed budget as the best in a decade. Major improvements include:
- $26.2 million for a new waiver called the “Community Living waiver” with slots for 1,000 individuals with ID currently on the waiting list and 820 Person/Family Directed Support waivers for recent high school graduates;
- $195.9 million, a 14.7% increase, to provide home and community based services to more than 55,000 individuals and increase DSP wages;
- $4.9 million decrease for State Centers;
- $544,000 to transition 40 individuals out of state institutions and into the community as part of a litigation settlement;
- $25 million increase for special education; and
- $11.7 million for Preschool Early Intervention for 1,100 new children
In response to the budget, The Arc Pennsylvania’s Executive Director Maureen Cronin said: “Advocacy is frustrating work because we don’t always (well, almost never) see the impact right away, but times like this remind us that showing up makes a difference.”
The Arc Connecticut recently testified before the state legislature regarding revelations of excessive overtime costs at Southbury Training School, an institution for people with I/DD, encouraging the state to move away from this institutional model of care and to use the savings to provide more services to people with I/DD in the community. The Southbury Training School paid $12.3 million in overtime to its 615 staff members in the last fiscal year. One direct care worker with a base salary of $60,225 received total compensation of $237,886. The average cost per resident on the Southbury campus was $360,000, more than twice the cost per resident in the private sector, according to an analysis from the state of Connecticut. Learn more about the issue here.
The Arc of Virginia, as part of the Developmental Disabilities (DD) Coalition, recently released a legislative agenda. Priorities include reduction in the DD Waiver waiting list, inclusive education, completing the closure of the two remaining institutions, transparency and accountability in the DD Waiver system, and Medicaid Early Intervention Targeted Case Management.
Lisa Pugh, Executive Director of The Arc Wisconsin, recently published a commentary in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on behalf of The Arc Wisconsin as well as other statewide disability organizations in response to a prior commentary promoting institutionalization as a means of keeping people with disabilities safer. Pugh wrote: “Rather than hunkering down for another decade in secluded settings that are perceived to be safer, our organizations espouse the belief that the antidote to ignorance is exposure. People with disabilities in the classroom with their peers, in houses of faith, in our neighborhoods and in our community workplaces, results in real relationships that make people safer. Wisconsin has a history of overreliance on facility-based settings, and it is time to shift our system to provide some balance of options for people who want a fuller life in the community.”
The Chicago Tribune published a two-part series (part 1, part 2) about the troubling conditions inside Illinois group homes and the lack of proper oversight by the state, portraying the conditions as a natural result of deinstitutionalization. In response, Executive Director Tony Paulauski and Board President Terri Devine each wrote letters to the editor expressing the importance of community living and calling on legislators to reform the system and fund a living wage for direct support professionals. Paulauski wrote: “‘Suffering in Secret'” has identified serious problems, but it also should remind Rauner and legislators that Illinois can no longer continue to fund an obsolete institutional system at the expense of community services. It is time to close six of the seven fully operational state institutions in Illinois. It is time to invest those resources into home- and community-based services. It is time for Illinois to step up and transform the disability system here in Illinois like Indiana and 14 other states that have closed those obsolete state institutions.”