Advocacy still needed to ensure supports get to people with DD
First the good news: The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote by Friday on a COVID-19 relief package that includes essential funding and protections for people with developmental disabilities. Both The Arc of the United States and NAMI have issued action alerts to advocates.
HR 6800 is a very large bill that will be trimmed down. Not everything in it now will stay in.
And then the bill needs to go to the Senate. We're told leaders there don't feel the same urgency to pass it quickly. And it is expected to get trimmed down more in the Senate.
So while your advocacy is working, we aren't there yet. Calls and emails are still needed. No one in the Washington State delegation is sponsoring.
Following are action alerts from The Arc of the United States and NAMI, a national alliance for mental health. We don't normally share NAMI alerts, but we are worried about state capacity to support people with DD who are dually diagnosed with DD and a mental health disorder, and we are concerned about increased demand for mental health support among family and caregivers due to social isolation, stress, and anxiety triggered by the pandemic.
From The Arc of the United States:
Contact your members of Congress NOW to make sure that these specific needs are included:
- Dedicated funding for Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS). These funds are necessary to serve people with disabilities in their homes and communities and will provide better wages and support for the DSP workforce. Access to HCBS will limit the risk of people with disabilities being put in institutions. (Note: In Washington, we call these "community supports" or "DDA services.")
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) for direct support professionals. This is urgently needed to protect the health and safety of this critical workforce. DSPs must be designated as essential workers so that they can get access to the PPE and medical supplies they need. (Note: Washington state does not prioritize access to PPE for people supporting others in home environments. PPE is only offered after COVID-19 has been diagnosed, leaving DSPs vulnerable and potentially unknowingly spreading the virus if the people they are supporting are asymptomatic, are waiting on test results, or cannot access a test.)
- Paid leave for all caregivers. As more people with disabilities lose their usual sources of care, family caregivers are scrambling and need access to paid leave and sick days to help their loved ones. Congress should include all family caregivers in the emergency paid leave provisions.
- Economic impact payments for all people with disabilities. Tell Congress to make sure that stimulus payments are available to everyone, including adults with disabilities who are claimed as dependents. (Note: You might also want to add access to stimulus payments for all citizens, regardless of whether they are married to a non-citizen.)
Thank you for your advocacy!
The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing America into a mental health crisis that we aren’t prepared to address. Social isolation, financial distress, fears about health and an uncertain future are worsening symptoms for people with mental health conditions and causing new mental health challenges for many others.
We need your help in ensuring Congress takes action to address this growing crisis.
Yesterday, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800) was released in the House, and it includes many of NAMI’s priorities. The HEROES Act could be voted on as early as Friday. This bill supports mental health by:
- Protecting state and local capacity to provide mental health services: State and local governments are on the verge of making widespread cuts. This bill provides emergency funds to preserve mental health services and meet growing demand.
- Enhancing the ability to respond to mental health crises: Helplines are experiencing surges in calls as people struggle. The HEROES Act establishes 9-8-8 as the nation’s three-digit hotline for effective mental health crisis care and suicide prevention.
- Protecting people with mental illness who are justice-involved: There are alarming gaps in our health care system’s ability to care for people in custody and as they reenter the community. This bill provides Medicaid coverage for eligible people leaving the criminal justice system.
- Ensuring safe housing for people with mental illness: Many people with mental health conditions do not have safe housing or are at risk of losing housing with the loss of steady income. The HEROES Act includes investments in emergency rental assistance, assistance to homeowners and to people experiencing homelessness.
- Preserving the mental health treatment infrastructure: While the need for mental health services has never been higher, many mental health providers are reducing services. This bill includes $100 billion in emergency funding for health care providers, including mental health providers.
Raise your voice and ask your members of Congress to act NOW. Urge your representative to support the HEROES Act and ask your senators to prioritize similar mental health provisions in any Senate action.
Take action on NAMI's alert
Thank you for your advocacy.