Thursday, August 17, 2017

1-2-3 … Next up on the federal front

We have a reprieve on the Affordable Care Act and cuts to Medicaid... But now what?

Here are three federal issues you should have on your advocacy to-do list:

1. Keep educating people about Medicaid

The House budget committee is looking for $1.5 trillion in cuts to Medicaid. It is important that your elected leaders understand the role Medicaid plays in the developmental disability community. Medicaid provides access to health care AND access to home and community based services so people can live in the community.

 

2. Ask your Congressional representatives to protect the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000

(Also known as the “Developmental Disabilities Act” or “DD Act”)

We are hearing about proposals to scale back the act, or cut funding for its programs. Community participation is at the core of this federal legislation. Its programs empower individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to help shape policies that impact them, and they conduct important research and test innovative service delivery models. They work to bring the latest knowledge and resources to those who can put it to the best use, including self-advocates, families, service providers, and policymakers. DD Act programs also investigate cases of abuse and serve as advocates for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.
DD Act programs in Washington State include:

3. Ask your Congressional representatives to sign on to the Disability Integration Act of 2017


The Disability Integration Act is bipartisan, bicameral legislation that ensures Americans with disabilities have a right to live and receive services in their own homes. As of August 15, no one from the King County Congressional delegation has signed on, nor have Senators Murray or Cantwell. This bill would give community-based services extra protection should Medicaid cuts go through. Right now, funding for institutions is required; funding to offer the same care or support in a community setting is not.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

ADA: Hope, leverage and opportunity

Today we celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act, while remaining ever vigilant


Dear Arc Community:

It has been 27 years since the landmark enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibiting discrimination toward people with disabilities.  While it has not been a perfect journey, we pause to celebrate that the ADA offers us continued hope, leverage, and opportunity to ensure equity for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our public schools, places of employment, in public accommodations, government services, and transportation. 

The ADA opened the door for the Supreme Court's decision in Olmstead v. L.C., a ruling that requires states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities and provide supports in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. 

“Confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment."   U.S. Supreme Court, Olmstead v. L.C., 1999

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

On the federal front ...

Major recent events, shared by The Arc's national office


  • $4.4 trillion in House cuts
  • Most disability programs level funded in HHS-Ed funding bill
  • Social security action

Budget & Appropriations - House Budget Committee Passes FY 2018 Budget Resolution

The House Budget Committee approved a Budget Resolution on a 22-14 party-line vote. The 10-year budget plan includes:

$4.4 trillion in cuts from Mandatory programs:

Monday, July 17, 2017

Advocates want Access to stop, rethink

Concerned about Metro Access?

  • Contact the county council. See sample messaging, at bottom

If you are one of the 34,000 people in King County with a developmental disability, Metro Access can be lifeline.

But a recent audit of Metro Access flagged a number of troubling issues that were also called out by users in a customer feedback survey, mainly excessive trip length, unreliability in pickups, and arrivals that are too late or too early.

On a personal level, unreliable service can leave users stranded. This is always unsafe and particularly troublesome given the vulnerable population that Access serves.

Some of problems are driven by the way the county contracts out Metro Access, and advocates are worried that the county's new request for proposals (RFP) falls short. This means key safety issues could go unaddressed for years.

Hit pause, set up review board


Advocates are asking council members to stop the RFP process underway and revise it to prioritize rider safety and compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). They are also asking for an independent review board for Metro Access.

They say the RFP underway :
  • Fails to track key performance indicators to ensure ADA compliance 
  • Sets performance standards below federal guidelines
  • Fails to use protocols that would reduce unnecessary costs
  • Incentivizes long trips, raising costs and diverting funds that could be used to expand service elsewhere
Metro Access is not a perk to people with disabilities, it is a lifeline that affects people's health, safety and quality of life. A well-run Access system makes King County inclusive.

After reviewing the audit and feedback from 800 users, some members of a community advisory group formed by Metro Access flagged the following:

  • The request for proposal goal appears to be contractor consolidation, not rider satisfaction or safety. For instance, nowhere do the RFP goals cite the need for improved scheduling and on-time performance
  • Excessive trip lengths are out of ADA compliance, and reporting trip length will NOT be a key performance indicator
  • On-time performance is out of compliance with Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) standards. Vulnerable populations use Access and while there is a penalty for low on-time performance, given the rider population the bar has been set too low; it puts 6,750 riders at risk, each month.
  • The scheduling system is ineffective and leaves vulnerable people stranded
  • The cost-plus payment system creates an incentive for inefficient service.
  • There is inadequate investigation of complaints and inadequate oversight of contractors. Problems with oversight were also flagged in a 2009 audit, showing precedent for failing to fix underlying structural problems
The problems with the RFP process are especially concerning in light of extensive customer feedback and input from a community advisory group. Eight hundred people shared their experiences through a survey. Key problems have been identified, and the community has worked with Metro in good faith to improve service and resolve safety and ADA compliance issues.

Because of this, advocates are calling for an independent Metro Access review board that includes consumers with disabilities, family members, a consultant with extensive knowledge of other para transit systems, a representative with background in ADA compliance, and Metro management.

We encourage users of Metro Access and other transit advocates to contact the King County Council and ask for changes that address underlying structural issues. When Access fails to deliver, people are left isolated and excluded from community life.

Send an email!

INSTRUCTIONS: Please edit the message to reflect your position. A personal story will make it stronger. Emails should be sent to: Council member Rod Dembowski, Chair, King County Transportation Committee, at rod.dembowski@kingcounty.gov.
You may also want to send an email to your council representative. You can find your King County district here: http://www.kingcounty.gov/council/councilmembers/find_district.aspx

----- Sample messaging -------

Dear Council member Dembowski,

Lives depend on Metro Access, and ongoing structural problems with service must be addressed.

If you are unable to drive in King County, you can quickly become isolated and cut off. Metro Access is a lifeline to the 34,000 people with developmental disabilities in King County. It helps all people live, work and play in the community.

But when service is undependable, people who rely on it can lose their job or miss important appointments. They can be left in unsafe situations, or exposed to bad weather.

Metro Access serves a vulnerable population with few transit options. It needs to set a high bar and it must be ADA compliant.
  1. Please pause the Request for Proposals process and address structural changes needed to ensure rider safety and compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  2. Please establish an independent Metro Access review board that includes consumers with disabilities, family members, a consultant with extensive knowledge of other para transit systems, a representative with background in ADA compliance, and Metro management. 
Thank you,



--------



Friday, July 14, 2017

Disability advocates scream SOS

Share with The Arc why "Medicaid Matters to Me"


UPDATED July 17:  
Would you trade $202 billion for $8 billion?

According to analysis by the Community Living Policy Center at the University of California San Francisco, that's what one change to the Better Care Reconciliation Act amounts to.

The Arc of the United States has put out another call to action following the latest proposals from the U.S. Senate to change federal law about health coverage and cuts to Medicaid.


They'd like you to send your story via email to The Arc's national offices. The Arc will then print out the emails and hand-deliver them. (Send your story to jorwic@thearc.org. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR STATE IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF THE EMAIL.) Emails must be received by midnight Wednesday to be printed.

The latest push is in response to a revised Better Care Reconciliation Act shared Thursday. A vote is expected next week. But attempts to alleviate some of the harmful effects have come up short. Way short.

For instance, with Medicaid capped, big cuts are expected to Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), sometimes also referred to as "waiver services" because people apply for them instead of institutional care. These include everything from assisted technology, to ABA therapy, to employment support and residential care, to respite for caregivers.

If you (or someone you know) get services through the state Developmental Disabilities Administration, they are likely Home and Community Based Services and they are in danger of being cut. Nationally, 10 million people rely on this Medicaid program to live in the community.

In response to concern about cuts to community supports for people with disabilities, Senate leadership proposed offering a new HCBS demonstration program. Thing is, it is budgeted at $8 billion total. It would replace only about 4 percent of the potential $202 billion in reduced expenditures.

The analysis comes from H. Stephen Kaye, Ph.D., with Community Living Policy Center at the University of California San Francisco. He wanted to know what kind of effect the cuts to Medicaid might have on home and community based services, so he applied them (on paper) retroactively. His findings:

"Over the nine years of caps, total HCBS spending would have been reduced below actual by between $72 billion and $98 billion. Adjusting for inflation to 2020-28 dollars, reductions would total between $149 and $202 billion." - Excerpt from 'The Potential Impact of the Better Care Reconciliation Act on Home and Community-Based Services Spending'


The U.S. Senate was set to the week of July 17 on the latest version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act. So far, leadership does not have votes and the plan could be revised, yet again.

The Arc continues to warn leaders that this legislation would be dangerous to people with disabilities and complex health needs. The latest version of the act:
  • Deconstructs, caps, and cuts Medicaid
  • Shifts billions of dollars in care costs to states and individuals
  • Allows waivers to eliminate the essential health care benefits
  • Allows waivers to disregard the prohibition to discriminate against pre-existing conditions
  • Eliminates incentive to provide home and community-based services 
  • Creates risk pools - segregating out people with high health care need - and increases premium costs
 -Ramona Hattendorf, Director of Advocacy, The Arc of King County



Friday, July 7, 2017

Our first Communty Change Champion!

We are thrilled to announce our first Community Change Champion - Jessica Renner!

The advocacy team at The Arc of King County teaches civic engagement and leadership skills and connects people to opportunities so they can be the change they want to see.

Jessica personifies this through her legislative advocacy, her community service on committees and boards, and the way she always pursues greatness.

As Eric Matthes,  our program coordinator for Community Change Champions, says: "Jessica speaks from the heart and understands things that make a difference."
Congratulations, Jessica!

Learn more about our civic engagement and leadership programs on our website, arcofkingcounty.org/advocacy

video

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Special education gets small bump in 2017-19 budget

The K-12 education part of the 2017-19 budget deal was released. In a surprise move, they bumped up the cap on special education funding from 12.7 percent of full-time enrollment (FTE) to 13.5 percent FTE.

Considering years of resistance to even looking at the cap, this is a significant shift and will increase funding for hundreds of students with disabilities.

However ... going off last year's list of districts over the cap, the change means just 30 additional districts will now have all of their students requiring special education covered; the remaining 90 districts -- including one of the state's largest, Spokane -- still fall short.


$300 million short ... additional $9.4 million in relief

For some context, in a 2015 amicus brief in the McCleary school funding lawsuit, the state superintendent's office reported school districts paid an additional $266 million in local funds to cover the full cost of special education that year. Another $40 million in relief came from the state's special education safety net, putting the state's basic education allocation for special education about $300 million short.

This proposed change in the cap funds an additional $9.4 million for special education next year. 

So ... a significant shift from refusing to consider or even discuss special education funding. But not a solution.

- Ramona Hattendorf, Director of Advocacy, The Arc of  King County

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Budget breakthrough?


Governor's office reports "Deal In Principle"

The Office of the Governor is reporting that House and Senate budget negotiators reached an agreement in principle on the 2017-2019 biennial operating budget. The negotiators and caucus leaders said they were confident that they would complete work on the budget and have a vote of the Legislature before the end of the day Friday, the final day of the fiscal year.

That would avoid a partial shutdown of state government.

More details will be available after the four legislative caucuses are briefed on the agreement.

Following are issues that appear to be in play, based on committee agendas. I highlighted bills of interest to promoting and protecting the rights of people with developmental disabilities or their families. - Ramona Hattendorf, Director of Advocacy, The Arc of King County


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

City urged to end subminimum wage exemptions

The Seattle Commission for People with DisAbilities unanimously urged the city to uphold its commitment to equal rights and protections for people with disabilities and end the exemptions that allow employers to pay workers with disabilities subminimum wages.



The Arc of King County commented in support of the commission's position. Nationally, our position is that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities should have the supports necessary to:
  • Find and keep community jobs based on their preferences, interests, and strengths;
  • Work alongside people without disabilities
  • Receive comparable wages
  • Be free from workplace discrimination.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The difference 2 cents can make ...

Proposed King County levy renewal could have a big impact on human services ... or be stretched thin


What does 2 cents mean? 

That's a question the King County Council and the Regional Policy Committee are grappling with. The council wants to put an expanded levy on the November ballet to benefit veterans, seniors, and human services. The planning commission wants to scale it back. But what looks like a modest reduction could have a big impact on an expanded list of vulnerable populations that the levy would support.

The original ask was a 12-cent levy rate for $1,000 of assessed value. For someone who owns a home worth $450,000 (the median in King County), that adds up to $54 a year.

An amendment that passed the Regional Policy Committee scales back the rate to 10 cents per $1,000. That brings the bill for a $450,000 home down to $45.

So for homeowners, the difference is modest. But the impact on services? That's another story.

That 2 cent reduction adds up to millions less for survivors of domestic violence -- or refugees, or people with developmental disabilities who are in danger of homelessness.


That two cents is the difference between reaching people who really need help, and stretching the money too thinly to have impact.