Advocacy can mean many things both in regard to what and the how. The what for us is—working toward policies, funding, laws, regulations and other types of outcomes which advance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families (see our mission here ). On a simple level, the “how” means encouraging, pleading, urging, and providing justification. But it gets more complex when you apply the “how” to “where”. There is the administration of the state or federal government, the legislature, the courts, school committees, etc.
The advancements of our present age didn’t come easily and require vigilance and yes, advocacy. Further advocacy for our cause requires people –anyone who cares about disabilities and wishes to build a good life in the community. Services cost dollars, rights require laws and regulations and understanding takes public education. Much has been done, but there continues to be work to do. The Advocacy pages share areas in which we are most involved and tools. Our priorities evolve over time. This page provides an index of the section and government affairs headlines.
As we exit the “dog days of summer,” it may be a good time to share the past fiscal year’s advocacy work prepared by our Government Affairs team. It’s a short digest and we invite you to dig deeper by looking at our website, including the Advocacy Page which includes the State Budget, Bill Priorities and Policy Issues.
We don’t review here our federal level advocacy where we’ve worked to prevent elimination or cuts to the government programs which are critical to our constituents and state. We’ve remained active through The Arc’s national leadership.
Legislators of the Year: This year, Representative Denise Garlick is The Arc’s legislator of the year. Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery, she represents Dover, Needham, and parts of Medfield in the state legislature. Senator James Eldridge is the MDDC legislator of the year. Chair of the Committee on Financial Services, his seat is known as Middlesex and Worcester.
Budget: We made headway on multiple Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and MassHealth line items. In addition to full funding for those Turning 22 this year (students transitioning to adult services), we received increases totaling $42 million for residential, day/employment, family support, autism children, and transportation. The AFC program at MassHealth received a $2 million rate restoration over 2018 funding. Although the new funding does not meet all unmet needs, the growth will have an impact for many families.
Policy – Legislation: We had eight (8) high priority bills. The Senate passed the Abuse Registry, also known as Nicky’s Law, during the formal session, and we hope that the bill will pass the full legislature in the fall. Other priority bills which passed through two committees into consideration include Operation House Call; Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment (MAICEI); Dental Access; and Criminal Justice Training in Autism. One or all of these could pass during informal sessions.
Policy – Administration: Among many developments and touchstones, two major policy events overshadow the rest. MassHealth changed how individuals access their health care through private health entities throughout the state. At various points, we educated our constituents with fact sheets, webinars, and other means. This continues to be something we are tracking as it affected 1 million citizens and thousands of those we serve. DDS filed new federal waiver renewals for “Home and Community Based Services” – these renewals underlie the state’s services for most of our adult constituents. Other activities included continuing our collaborative Supporting Families Campaign; advancing more personalized choice in services; advocating for changes in the Adult Family/Foster Care program; and beginning a plan to address the significant shortage of workers in our field.
In closing, let’s not forget the participation of others, whether it be the thousands of emails sent from our action center site; the 100-plus legislators who were active on bills or budgets; and/or Governor Charlie Baker, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, Senator Karen Spilka, and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders who attended our annual legislative reception joined by hundreds of guests.
It was a year of accomplishment and participation, which we need to continue again this year if we are to succeed!
Leo V. Sarkissian
On Tuesday, July 24, The Arc of Massachusetts Director of Government Affairs Maura Sullivan and Cheryl Ryan Chan sat down with Boston 25 News’ Heather Hegedus to discuss the latest advancements of our priority legislation, Nicky’s Law!
Be sure to check out this important segment below and spread the word about Nicky’s Law!
Today is one of those good days. Yesterday afternoon, we celebrated the positive news from the State House’s Conference Committee led by Chairs Jeffrey Sanchez and Karen Spilka. The conferees gave us the highest funding possible from the two versions of the budget released earlier this session. At 7:57 pm last night, Mike Moore’s office gave us word that the Senate had passed Nicky’s Law – a registry bill which will prevent staff who have abused adults in the Dept. of Developmental Services (DDS) program or service to work in another DDS setting.
Yes, pretty good news.
These outcomes also demonstrate how collaborative our General Court can be. We’ll use the Registry bill or Nicky’s Law as an example. From the beginning, the bill has had the significant efforts from the Senate, the House, and the Administration. It is an essential disability rights bill. Lead sponsors Mike Moore and Linda Dean Campbell have worked together on ensuring similar bills through most of this legislative session.
Chair Kay Khan worked with House and Senate members on her committee to address early revisions in the House bill, giving it a strong endorsement. As the bill was going through one more set of changes over the past few weeks, Sen. Moore reached out to Sen. Pat O’Connor, who had sponsored another bill while still supporting Nicky’s Law. Sen. Moore accepted some changes from Sen. O’Connor’s bill as well as input from others. Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka and staff made the changes needed to gain passage.
As we go back to the House, the leadership from the Speaker, his leadership team, and continued collaboration will be essential. Even before Senate passage, Children, Families and Disabilities Chair Kay Khan was working with sponsor Linda Dean Campbell and Ways and Means to review the changes in the bill.
This is a bill where the branches have had a shared vision and investment. Its time has come. We hope to have another good day soon this month. Stay tuned.
To read more on the Conference Committee budget, visit our State Budget page.
Leo V. Sarkissian
The Arc of Massachusetts celebrates the release of the Massachusetts Conference Committee Budget. We are grateful to the members of the Conference Committee who not only recognized the importance of the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Family Support and Day and Employment Services, but also funded the higher numbers in the line items for Transportation and the Autism Children’s Waiver. In each DDS line item included in conference, the committee funded the higher amount.
Two other priority areas of funding included Adult Foster Care and Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative. The Conference Committee funded each of these line items at the higher dollar amount. The chart below highlights the details.
This budget acknowledges the challenges for individuals with I/DD and autism, their families and the important programs and services that support them.