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.
On Friday, April 13, 2018, House of Representatives members submitted 1400 amendments to the recently released House Ways and Means Committee FY 19 budget. We have actively encouraged House members to sign on as cosponsors to seven of those amendments. These amendments ask that funding be increased for budget line items affecting supporting families services and supporting adult services. We encourage all to contact their representatives to sign onto to these amendments if their member has not already done so for each of the amendments.
The House budget debate is slated to begin on Monday, April 23, 2018 so your advocacy and action is timely this week. You can identify your representative by using this link. The main number at the state house is 617-722-2000 to reach all House of Representative members.
The Arc of Massachusetts (The Arc) celebrates the release of the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Budget announced by Chair Jeffrey Sánchez. Leo Sarkissian, Executive Director of The Arc, stated, “Chair Sánchez and the House Ways/Means Committee members not only recognized the importance of Turning 22 for graduating students with special needs, but have raised Family Support and Employment funding by a total of 2 Million dollars.”
Chair Sánchez confirmed the new formula for the 1000 plus students in need of adult services that was established for the first time last year. The Arc hopes that the formula will become a permanent fixture in the legislature’s budget, which has Gov. Baker’s support.
House Ways and Means added funds above the Governor’s request for three other key programs:
- Family support and respite care received $1 Million, which should assist 100-200 additional families
- Employment/day supports received another $1 Million to address unmet needs and transition to more social inclusive services
- Autism Children’s Waiver received almost $500,000 to reach more children in need
This budget again acknowledges the rise of the adult I/DD population, including those with autism who do not have an intellectual disability. There is still more work to be done –amendments will be announced for residential services and further increases in other community line items.
To learn more about this budget, find House Ways and Means on this page.
Governor Baker’s proposed budget for FY 2019 again keeps pace with the DDS Turning 22 program as more than 1,000 students graduate into adult services. In addition, a $5 Million increase is budgeted for Autism Omnibus which addresses those newly eligible with autism[i].
These increases carry forward the Governor’s commitment to support our young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including autism as they need adult services such as day and employment, transportation and housing. HHS Secretary Marylou Sudders commented on the investment, referring to “Turning 22 as a priority for the administration” in her conference call today with stakeholders.
Currently 1,463 individuals are on the DDS caseload for the Omnibus program and of those 763 are 22 years or older; many of these individuals are waiting for services.
The Arc’s priority areas for advocacy include gaps in the areas of Community Residential, Day and Employment, Family Support, DESE and Transportation line items. These line items did increase but didn’t meet The Arc’s full request for maintenance funding.
For example, the transition from sheltered work has not been fully addressed with the funds required. In residential services the challenges to provide inclusion along with health and safety concerns continue. Funding for staff training to assist complex needs of individuals with challenging behaviors and/or complex medical conditions is essential too.
Funding recap on Community Services gaps:
Great outcomes on T22 and Autism Omnibus. All increases noted are relative to 2018 projected spending:
- Adult Omnibus- up $5 mil to meet needs
- Turning 22 meets growth of class
- Transportation – is up $1.6 Mil but gap is still $2.6 mil
- Community Residential (10,000 served) is up $27 mil but a gap remains of $18 mil; State Operated homes is up $3 mil
- Day/Employment – is increased by $7.5 mil but the gap is still 11.5 mil; Over 10,000 individuals served plus 2,600 need Olmstead community inclusion funds
- Family Support/Respite- increase of $482K, leaving a gap of $6 mil; Over 10,000 families served with 9,000 in need
- DESE–DDS- level funded leaving a gap of 2.5 mil (helps prevent out of home placement)
- Autism Children – level funded leaving a gap of 1.5 mil
MassHealth – Services are entitlement in nature. We will continue to advocate for continuance of a substantial program and address gaps for those with I/DD in long term supports
Time for Active Citizenship
We need you to contact your legislators (representative and senator) on Beacon Hill for the issues you care about. This is a multi-step process over the next several months, so please stay connected and active.
You can see the budget chart on our State Budget page. A printable version of this analysis is also available here. A fact sheet with more information will be posted soon.
Leo V. Sarkissian
[i] Newly eligible includes adults with developmental disabilities who are diagnosed with autism, Prader-Willi and Smith-Magenis syndromes.
On July 7, the Conference Committee lowered state budget line items– including DDS — due to the continued uncertainty of state revenues. On July 17, Governor Charlie Baker vetoed an additional $320 million on top of the legislature’s reduction, including a cut of more than $7 million from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) budget. The impact of these reductions means uncertainty for many people. These decisions were also affected by the continued uncertainty caused by Capitol Hill policy makers. Although we believe that the legislature will override the Governor’s vetoes, we don’t know for certain and, of course, will advocate for further dollars given the needs of people who are served by the Department of Developmental Disabilities.
The Arc appreciates the minimal trimming of the line items that we have strongly advocated for, such as Turning 22 and Family Support.
On the MassHealth side, the budget does not protect the Adult Foster-Family Care (AFC) program. The slash will significantly affect services for this cost-effective LTSS (long term supports and services) program. The cuts of 6% and 3.7% must be absorbed in the provider’s delivery of services, not impact the caregiver stipend. This effectively increases the reduction, doubling it in many cases. We do expect legislative support in the fall to address the funding, and support ongoing negotiations regarding the relevance of the present regulations to mental conditions. The Senate is hosting a discussion on long term care in the near future in which The Arc will participate.
This compromise budget does not include the specific MassHealth reforms that were presented by the Governor in June. MassHealth reforms are being negotiated between the Governor and the Legislature at the present time and possibly into the fall.
To see the detailed dollar amounts per line item, please go here. Stay tuned for more updates and for our strategy ahead.