Updates From The Arc:
In case you were unable to tune in, our very own Leo Sarkissian was on Bloomberg Radio’s Baystate Business Hour this past Thursday, December 28, 2017.
“Bloomberg Radio News Anchors Peter Barnes, Pat Carroll and Anne Mostue are joined by top names from local business and finance to medicine and politics, along with Bloomberg reporters covering the latest stories in Boston, the Bay State, and beyond. Today, we examined the many ramifications of the tax overhaul law with Leo Sarkissian, Executive Director of the non-profit Arc of Massachusetts.”
In November 2013, the Massachusetts “Blueprint for Success” was released. The plan changed day and employment services for our constituents served by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). The state moved away from sheltered work and segregated settings to more individualized employment and community-based day support for those who weren’t going to be able to work full-time independently or with intermittent assistance.
There were a number of success stories, including this one in 2015: I see a big change in my son. When asked a question, his answer is now usually … “I can do it” instead of a shrug of the shoulders or no reply at all. The plan had three major elements for change to work: planning by agencies and across agencies in reorganizing work and day services; staff training at all levels; and funding for the more individualized services.
The partnership across the field was extraordinary and agencies worked very hard on changes. DDS funded consulting and training, much of it from its existing budget. Part of the outcome is reflected in this website for agencies.
The third leg of change is adequate funding: $26.7 Million and little of that has been funded despite initial investments. One staff person to ten or twelve individuals doesn’t work in assisting people to obtain part-time jobs or community-based day experiences. During this past year, the DDS budget looked very strong and thankfully the governor and legislature stayed firm on Turning 22 funding for graduating adults.
But for many persons with disabilities, the Blueprint is unfulfilled as they sit in congregate settings with limited community exposure. In the summer, some employment funds were reduced due to a $600 Million state revenue shortfall. But now there is an additional 2% cut hanging over our field. We need to help policymakers and officials restore what is needed for adults to be integrated and receive assistance for productive work. The U.S. Department of Labor designated October Disability Employment Month – what better time is there to give adults hope an opportunity? Please join with us as we share ways you can participate this coming month!
Leo V. Sarkissian
Governor Charlie Baker has proclaimed September 10 – 16 Direct Support Professionals (DSP) Recognition Week. We expect that the US Senate also will issue a proclamation, which Senators Warren and Markey signed onto last year.
The proclamation reinforces the important role DSPs play across many fields, including our own. We still have work to do to raise their compensation. The turnover has reached 40% in some regions of our country. We also face turnover with community nursing as rates of pay in hospitals so far exceed the continuous nursing and visiting nurse rates that it makes it difficult to recruit community nurses.
Last week, Leo’s Labor Day blog focused on caregiving by families and staff. While caring is a simple and heroic act, caregiving requires a long-term commitment. The word heroic still applies, but so too do steadfast, devoted, and undaunted. And let’s not forget the satisfaction and fulfillment when you see those you support grow. You can see last week’s blog on our website here. Thank you for all you do!
Last week Governor Baker visited with The Arc and the Center of Hope Foundation to see the impact of Turning 22 funding. Check out the coverage from WCVB5 below – employees with disabilities are making a difference!
This week, Nicole Estaphan of WCVB stopped into Breaking Grounds Café to see what was brewing. She met the staff of Northeast Arc’s newest endeavor and experienced how the Café is making a difference in the community and in the lives of individuals with disabilities. She also learned how future legislation could affect those individuals. In addition to airing on WCVB, the story also aired on ABC affiliate stations in New York and Florida.
On Wednesday, May 10 Governor Charlie Baker launched the Massachusetts ABLE Act savings program. The ABLE Act allows persons with disabilities to save money without losing benefits such as Medicaid (MassHealth in our state) and SSI. Here are some key points to remember about the savings program:
- Eligibility requires that the onset of the disability occur prior to age 26 years
- The maximum to be saved is $14,000 a year in tax-deductible contributions
- There is a $100,000 cap in order to preserve SSI eligibility
- There can only be one ABLE account for an individual
- Money must be spent for qualified expenses
- Medicaid payback kicks in for any remaining dollars in the ABLE account upon the death of the beneficiary
The program gives a person with disabilities the opportunity to build investments for the long term. Anyone can donate to the account. Until ABLE, individuals faced a $2,000 cap for resources, which meant any private funding would have to come through a special needs trust account. This requires legal assistance, which is a barrier for some people. ABLE does not eliminate the value of or need for a special needs trust for those who use them now. You can save toward a car, equipment, housing expenses or other needs.
Qualified expenses include any expenses related to the eligible individual’s disability, including: education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health, prevention and wellness, financial management and administrative services, legal fees, expenses for oversight and monitoring, funeral and burial expenses.
To begin saving you can go to fidelity.com/attainable.
Watch WCVB’s Report:
Today, April 10, Sesame Street welcomed Julia to the neighborhood. This new puppet is making history on the show as the first character with autism. Through Julia, producers hope to make individuals with autism feel like they have someone they can relate to and to make others more understanding and comfortable around those with autism.
A few weeks back, NBC Boston stopped by The Arc of Massachusetts offices to interview Maura Sullivan, our Director of Government Affairs and discuss the importance of introducing a character with autism. Take a look:
Last month, Governor Charlie Baker visited Breaking Grounds Café in Peabody. Breaking Grounds is one of many innovative endeavors started by one of our chapters, Northeast Arc. Bernice Corpuz of CBS Radio captured some of the moments in her report.
Clips courtesy of CBS Radio
We are excited to share WBZ’s coverage of The Arc of South Norfolk’s ALEC program. This fourteen year old program provides training for first responders so that they have the tools to assist those with intellectual and developmental disabilities including autism. ALEC’s trainings have proven to be effective throughout Massachusetts.
On Saturday, February 18, 2017 our Executive Director, Leo Sarkissian returned to WBZ’s 4 Your Community to give an update on what is happening at The Arc of Massachusetts.