2017 Spring Appeal
Advocacy – both personal and systemic – leads to positive results for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Let me tell you how The Arc of Massachusetts does both and how you can get involved.
Daniel Becker – a leader in the Arc movement and a key figure in The Arc of Massachusetts from the 1980s until his passing in 2010 – espoused the benefits of advocating on both levels. It is critical, he said, for families to tell their stories and to fight for laws, funding, and services at the State House. But so too is making sure that your family member has what they need to thrive.
A fierce advocate for his son Michael (photo to the right), he trained parents to speak up, whether they were convincing legislators to increase funding or they were negotiating with school administrators. The skills are transferrable, he would say.
I recently heard a story of a mother who has an 11 year-old son with multiple diagnoses. She reminded me of Dan.
“Even though Kyle is still young,” she told us, “we have always been aware and focused on what comes after age 22. We relentlessly advocate for him and take care of his medical needs. At times it feels like a full time job. The Arc and other supporting organizations give me hope, confidence, and a feeling of belonging. We are not the only ones taking this challenging journey; there is help along the way.”
The Arc of Massachusetts also advocates relentlessly, seeking to enhance the lives of the 200,000 people in the state who have autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or other I/DD.
Since our founding more than 60 years ago, we have taken this battle to the State House,
to Capitol Hill, and beyond; this past year has been no different. The Arc continued to strengthen our relationship with administration officials and legislators and built relationships with 20 new State Representatives and Senators. We kept issues important to the disability community at the forefront and hosted meetings with administration leaders to meet families with disabilities and human service agencies.
This approach pays off.
For example, in January, Governor Charlie Baker released his proposed budget for 2018. It reflects a landmark policy change: Turning 22 finally would be fully funded with the $24 million it needs. Since 2010, the number of students turning 22 has increased by 53% to nearly 1,000 per year; the funding formula, however, has not been updated since the early 2000s! We are advocating strongly for this budget and encouraging legislators to embrace it.
This would not have happened without The Arc’s continued pressure and the support of thousands of concerned Massachusetts residents like you.
During Fiscal Year 2016, we played a key role in stopping harmful funding reductions in MassHealth and in the Personal Care Assistant and Adult Family Care programs. Through advocacy, the Department of Developmental Services’ budget gained $38 million in community Purchase of Service funding and nearly $46 million overall. We also secured the single largest increase in Family Support from a sitting governor in two decades through our leadership in the Supporting Families Campaign.
In addition, we partnered with – and will continue to do so – The Arc of the United States to prevent draconian changes to Medicaid and Social Security.
Systemic advocacy. It is making a difference, but it does not happen without people like you making it possible. You can keep this advocacy strong by giving to The Arc of Massachusetts today.
As I mentioned earlier, empowering people with I/DD and their families to be personal advocates is equally important.
The Arc of Massachusetts offers several programs to help families and self-advocates be more effective in their own advocacy. The Arc hosts more than 20 low-cost webinars each year. They feature expert presenters, who address urgent, real-life topics with which families with disabilities struggle. Participants can develop the tools they need to find the best services for their loved one.
Our SUPPORTbrokers program helps people with disabilities achieve their vision by assisting them with planning for the future, education, and advocacy. Families often find that they need a bit more support in obtaining government services or developing a plan; SUPPORTbrokers can bridge the gap.
Plus, the biennial Transition Conference – which will be held again on November 4, 2017 – makes sure that self-advocates, families, and educators are prepared for Turning 22 and the move to adult services.
These services and programs help thousands of families across Massachusetts not just manage or get by, but to thrive. I hope that your own family or loved one is among them.
The Arc of Massachusetts can’t do this important work without you. People like Kyle and thousands of others need you to show your support.
You can take two steps right now to make a lasting difference. First, give a gift to The Arc of Massachusetts to make our work possible. Then, join our email list to keep informed about ways that you can advocate, both personally and systemically. Just visit www.arcmass.org and click on the subscribe button.
Only with your commitment and generosity will people with intellectual and developmental disabilities get the services and supports that they need and deserve.
Your dedication makes all the difference. Please consider making a gift today.
Leo V. Sarkissian