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February, 2010

Maryland residents protest cuts to Medicaid

February 26th, 2010

By Erin Gibson, News Channel 8

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Hundreds of disabled people marched to the statehouse in Annapolis Thursday demanding more help as state budget cuts threaten to hurt their quality of life.

Anissa Brown was among the hundreds of people with developmental disabilities and their supporters. She says the marchers are trying “to get them not to cut the budget anymore.”

Brian Saal was also present during the march. “More money. We need more money,” Saal said.

Among the participants were parents who say they are burned out and stressed out from caring for their children without any help.

Beth Monroe’s daughter has been waiting 11 years to get services.

“Right now, I can’t die. There is no one to take care of her. She is not part of a system,” Monroe said.

State funding cuts coupled with increased need have left programs and people struggling. More than 19,000 people now on the waiting list for assistance.

We’ve had to shrink programs, we’ve had to consolidate group homes, we’ve had to do many, many things to keep our budget balanced, and every time we turn around, there’s another cut,” said Frank Zappala with Arc of Montgomery County.

Mike Knox, 35, has Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus and the Arc of Montgomery County, which provides support and services for people with developmental disabilities and their families, has had to cut back on helping him find a job.

“Even though I am in a wheelchair…I am still thirsty for work and I am still like everyone else. I deserve that chance,” Knox said.

Advocates for the disabled are lobbying for a 10 cent tax on alcoholic drinks and other cost-sharing measures, and are taking the message directly to lawmakers.

The protesters say Maryland is among the nation’s richest states, but ranks 43rd in the amount of money spent on services for people with developmental disabilities.

Families outraged by Delegate Robert Marshall’s remarks

February 24th, 2010

By The Arc of Virginia

The Arc of Virginia is surprised and disappointed by remarks attributed to Delegate Robert Marshall indicating he believes children with disabilities were “God’s punishment.”   Such unfortunate remarks continue to lend credence to the stigma people with disabilities and their families are fighting to overcome.

 Since this issue went public today, many family members who heard the audio remarks have contacted The Arc to express their outrage over Delegate Marshall’s statements.   Delegate Marshall has issued an apology saying he “regrets any misimpression my poorly chosen words may have created as to my deep commitment to fighting for these vulnerable children and their families.”  The Arc takes him at his word.

Mr. Howard Cullum, President of The Arc of Virginia said, “Many of our families are struggling with the 24/7 care taking demands.  It is rewarding but hard work.  Families don’t appreciate statements that can be construed to connect having a disabled child with some religious punishment.  Our families don’t need the grief or the guilt”.

According to Mr. Cullum, “The Arc families are especially sensitive now because of proposed state budget cuts to critical services that support persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities.  The Arc appreciates yesterday’s House and Senate budget reports that seek to restore some of the services.  However, the important waiver program is still slated to lose 1,134 waiver slots that were scheduled to begin reducing the long wait lists.  Our wait list families are in pain and crisis.”

The waiver wait list is now over 6,000 persons and growing rapidly.  The lack of waivers means families will now have to wait at least another two years before any new waiver slots are available.  Some families have already been waiting for years.  The safety net for our families is in tatters.

Historically, Virginia’s track record for valuing the lives of people with disabilities has not been good.  The Commonwealth was notorious for its history of involuntary sterilization, for its state-sponsored segregation and institutionalization and for its minimal help for families. Even today, Virginia is currently ranked 46th in the country for its community support of people with developmental disabilities and their families. 

At a time when the majority of states are moving people with intellectual disabilities out of institutions, Virginia is the only state seeking to rebuild costly, segregated state institutions for people with intellectual disabilities.  The Arc is hopeful that Delegate Marshall’s comments, however offensive to our families, draw public attention to the plight of families caring for persons with disabilities in our state.

Arc Action Alert: stand up against the proposed budget cuts

February 19th, 2010

The Arc of Virginia Action Alert: Last Minute Push for “Community for All”

On behalf of the Arc, thank you for helping us get 1,200 emails in to the Governor’s office this week.  Now, we need your help to do a last minute push for “Community for All” at the General Assembly. The money committees will be presenting their versions of the budget on Sunday, which means we have less than 72 hours to make sure the message of “Community for All” is heard loud and clear.

The fight is down to the wire.  With additional cuts being proposed to community-based services (see below), the call to action has become even more urgent.

 CLICK HERE TO SEND AN EMAIL TO YOUR DELEGATE AND SENATOR RIGHT AWAY.

Ask them to:

  • Oppose cuts to community services for Virginians with developmental disabilities
  • Stop rebuilding large, segregated institutions

And make sure to tell them why it is important to have a community where everyone is included.


Status of the State Budget:

The House and Senate money committees will release their versions of the budget on Sunday, February 21st in Richmond.  This will tell us where we stand on proposed cuts community services and plans to rebuild state institutions.  

After the committees report their budget bill out of committee, the budget bills will then go the floor of each respective house for a vote on the budget bill next week.  Delegates/Senators will then have a chance to stand up for/against items in the budget bill-including funding for community services and the rebuilding of state institutions.

Will your Delegate and Senator stand up for “Community for All”?  Please send an email to your Delegate and Senator as soon as possible-ask them to take a stand!


Governor McDonnell proposes further cuts to services

As noted above, the fight for “A Life Like Yours” has become even more urgent.

Yesterday, Governor McDonnell announced his proposal for filling a $2 billion hole in the budget.  One of his proposals was to eliminate all consumer-directed services for people on Medicaid Waivers. (This is in addition to the cuts that were already proposed in Governor Kaine’s budget.)

What would this mean to families?
The consumer direction option for families receiving Medicaid waiver would be eliminated (applies to ID, DD, EDCD and HIV/AIDS waivers).  No longer would families be able to hire their own attendants for personal/respite/companion care.  Over 8,000 people with disabilities would be impacted.

What are the details of the proposal?
The proposal assumes that 50% of all families currently receiving consumer-directed services would be able to access agency-directed services.  The remaining 50%, the proposal assumes, would not be able to access services at all.

Is the Governor’s proposal included in the budget bill?
Not yet, but the proposal is now officially “on the table” for discussion.  The House and Senate money committees will be presenting their own versions of the budget on Sunday.  The Governor’s proposals may or may not be included in those budgets.  It will be up to families to make your feelings known, helping theGeneral Assembly make the right decision.

What can you do?

Join the email campaign to Virginia General Assembly, ask them to protect community-based services for Virginians with disabilities and STOP rebuilding institutions.  CLICK HERE to send a polite email or call to your Delegate and Senator TODAY!  Let them know how YOU are affected. 

Major cuts proposed to services for Virginians with disabilities

February 17th, 2010

The Virginia General Assembly is considering major cuts to Medicaid services that will reduce the number of hours of respite from 720 hours to 240 hours a year; reduce Medicaid Waiver provider rates by 5%; increase waiting lists for the DD and ID/MR Waivers; stop new enrollment into the DD, EDCD, and ID/MR Waivers; eliminate thousands of jobs, including personal care attendants/aides and respite staff; eliminate podiatry services and adult optometry services and reduce therapy services.

Contact your State Senator and Delegate, the Governor, and leaders of the legislative money committees.  Let them know that these cuts will negatively impact you, your friends and family, and your community.

Contact information for your Senator and Delegate is at: http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform

You can also call or email the following:

Senator Colgan, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee
district29@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7529

Senator Houck, Chair of the Senate Finance Health and Human Resources Subcommittee
district17@senate.virginia.gov, 804-698-7517

Delegate Putney, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee
DelLPutney@house.virginia.gov, 804-698-1019

Delegate Morgan, Chair of the House Appropriations Health and Human Resources Subcommittee
DelHMorgan@house.virginia.gov
, 804-698-1098

Governor McDonnell
www.governor.virginia.gov/TheAdministration/contactGovernor.cfm
, 804-786-2211

Arc action alert: Protect the rights of people with disabilities

February 10th, 2010

The Arc of Virginia Action Alert

We are in the fight of our lives.

The introduced budget proposed unprecedented cuts to home and community-based services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities -the worst our state has ever seen. More than $270 million in home and community-based waiver services are on the chopping block.   At the same time, the budget proposes investing $106 million in new funding for large, segregated, state institutions.

To say these policies are backwards, outdated and fiscally irresponsible is truly an understatement.  They not only destroy the community-based safety net for people with developmental disabilities and their families-they revert back to a policy of institutionalization.

The fight to save our community safety net has become even more urgent- the state legislature may be proposing more cuts to community-based services in order to make up for an additional $2 billion budget shortfall if revenues are not increased!

Grassroots action in large numbers is absolutely necessary.

Time is of the essence.

Here is what YOU can do in the next 7 days to make a difference:

1. MARCH with The Arc on February 15th in Richmond. Join us in calling for the state to save the community safety net and end the segregation of people with developmental disabilities. Click here to learn more about the event, an email will also be coming later today with information re: logistics.

2. WRITE your elected officials (Delegate, Senator and Governor)-including your personal story and a picture.  Hand-deliver it in Richmond on February 15th.  If you can’t make it that day, email or fax a copy as soon as possible.  Find your elected officials here.

3. CALL your local paper/news outlet using The Arc’s media center.  Ask them to make the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities a visible issue.  Offer to share your story and/or write a letter to the editor.

4. ASK friends and family to get involved in the movement.  Invite them to the February 15th  ”mArcH for Rights” and help them call/write their legislators. Consider asking fellow constituents to sign on in support of your letters to elected officials (include addresses).

Need help or have questions?  Call The Arc of Virginia at 804-649-8481, ext. 101.

The KEY MESSAGES WE MUST DELIVER TO ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE :

1.  OPPOSE ALL CUTS TO THE COMMUNITY SAFETY NET FOR PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES

-Protect our lives, homes, jobs and families.

-People with developmental disabilities have a RIGHT to receive services in  the community.

2.  STOP REBUILDING STATE INSTITUTIONS

-It is time to reform the system!

-People with developmental disabilities currently living in institutions can receive better services in the community for less money to the state, allowing more people to receive the services they need.

Summary of policies proposed in Kaine’s introduced budget:

More than  $270 million in cuts to home and community-based waiver services:

  • Elimination of 1,000 ID Waivers and 134 DD Waivers
  • Freeze on Waiver enrollment (affects ID, DD, EDCD, DS and Alzheimer’s Waivers)
  • 5% cut in all Waiver reimbursement rates–affects all HCBS Waiver services (except skilled nursing in the Tech Waiver)-including residential, day support, employment, personal care, skilled nursing, companion and respite supports.
  • 2/3 cut in respite services for all HCBS Waivers (reduced from 720 hour/year to 240 hour/year)
  • Elimination of Medicaid podiatry and optometry services for adults
  • Reduction in incontinence supplies and occupational, physical and speech therapies for adults.

$107 million in new funding for segregated, state institutions

  • $23 million in capital funds to rebuild a NEW state institution in Chesapeake
  • $60 million in new operating funds for state institutions

$24 million in capital funds to renovate a 100-year old state institution in Lynchburg

Virginia proposing to slash Medicaid funding

February 8th, 2010

By Elizabeth Simpson, The Virginian Pilot

Virginia’s budget-setting season is always a nail-biting time for people like Barbara Kimble.

Will there be enough money to help her and her husband care for their 25-year-old mentally disabled son at their Chesapeake home, or will they have to wait another year – or two, or three?

This year, the news was about as bad as it has ever been. Not only is there no additional funding for the Medicaid waiver program that helps families keep disabled or elderly relatives at home instead of at institutions, but there’s a one-year freeze on the existing waivers.

That means even if someone already in the program dies, drops out or moves out of state, the money for that slot can’t be used for someone on the waiting list.

“People will be institutionalized who never, ever would have considered it,” said Maureen Hollowell, director of advocacy and services at The Endependence Center in Norfolk, which helps the disabled. “There will be no option for them.”

Medicaid is a shared federal and state insurance program that insures low-income families and the disabled. People with disabilities use Medicaid dollars to pay for care in state facilities, private long-term care centers or nursing homes. The Medicaid waiver program was created in 1991 to shift people from institutional care to home care, which is generally less expensive. The money pays for personal aides, respite care and other services.

One waiver is used for people with mental disabilities. That’s the waiting list Kimble’s son, Michael Ward, is on, along with 5,000 other Virginians, more than half of whom are considered in urgent need of help. Ward has been on the list since he finished public school in 2006.

Another waiver for people with developmental disabilities like autism has about 870 Virginians on the waiting list. There’s also a waiver that helps elderly people and those with Alzheimer’s disease stay at home rather than move into nursing homes. In the past, there hasn’t been much of a waiting list for that waiver, but a freeze would mean a year long gap in new people getting home-based services under the program.

The proposed budget also calls for cuts for people who already have one of the waivers, such as a reduction in the amount paid to personal care assistants and fewer respite care hours for parents and caregivers.

Samantha Gregg-Montella of Virginia Beach has a waiver to care for her 12-year-old son, David. He has autism, cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. State budget cuts would reduce the amount paid to personal care assistants for David. Already, it’s difficult to keep the aides because the pay is low.

Cuts would also reduce the number of respite hours for families to have some time away from their disabled relatives. Gregg-Montella and her husband have three other children, 16, 14 and 8: “There are times you need the one-on-one time with your other children.”

The budget reductions are doubly difficult for Norfolk resident Julia Newton, who has a 26-year-old son on the waiting list for a waiver for the mentally disabled. Newton also works as a personal care assistant for others who already have the waiver.

Her pay will be cut by 5 percent under the proposed budget cuts, and she also worries the drop in respite care hours will result in less work for her.

Meanwhile, she waits for her son’s turn at a waiver for the mentally disabled to come up.

“I feel like I’m going from being a taxpayer to a tax burden,” she said.

Proposed budget cuts also call for closing Commonwealth Center for Children in Staunton and two units of the Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute in Marion.

Spared from this year’s budget cuts is the Southeastern Virginia Training Center in Chesapeake. In December 2008, former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine proposed closing that state facility, which cares for people with severe mental disabilities.

However, there was an outcry from families of residents, and instead, legislators provided $23 million to build a down sized 75-bed facility and $8.4 million in housing for the disabled throughout Hampton Roads.

Contracts were awarded last month for those facilities, which are scheduled to be finished in 2011.

The Arc of Virginia, however, has protested rebuilding the Southeastern Virginia Training Center. The Richmond-based organization, which advocates for the mentally disabled, has sent a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell asking that money be reallocated for disabled people living in family and community homes, particularly in light of this year’s budget cuts.

“The proposed cuts are devastating to the system. They erase years of work by advocates and the General Assembly,” said Jamie Liban, executive director of The Arc of Virginia. “The one-year freeze for enrollment reverts to a policy of institutionalization.”