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.
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.
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.