As we roll into the New Year, we wanted to update you quickly on a few policy issues that wrapped up in the end of the year and will be on our radar throughout 2016:
Caregiving and Respite Care
The issue of caregiving, and providing resources and supports to those who receive and those who provide care is an issue we will continue to invest and pay attention to through 2016. To end the year, Congress showed support for Respite Care and Caregiving by passing the Lifespan Respite Care Act and providing increased funding for the National Caregiver Support Program. Included in the end of the year bill passed to fund the Federal Government was a provision that increased funding for the National Caregiver Support Program by $5 million and Lifespan Respite received an additional $1 million! This is real movement for supporting family caregivers. In the next months we’ll update you on what’s next for caregiving policy and programs and what you can do to help ensure these programs continue to grow.
In December, Congress passed and the President signed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which goes farther to assist students with disabilities, then No Child Left Behind did. The new bill incorporates data and new knowledge about how to most effectively teach students with disabilities so they can successfully graduate and become post high school career/college ready. It also ensures accommodations for assessments for students with disabilities; requires local education agencies to provide evidence-based interventions in schools with consistently underperforming subgroups (including students with disabilities), requires states to address how they improve conditions for learning including reducing incidents of bullying and harassment and overuse of discipline practices and reduce the use of aversive behavioral interventions (such as restraints and seclusion). Moreover, this new legislation significantly shifts authority to make very important education decision to the states and school districts. Throughout 2015, UCP participated in meetings, signed letters of support and worked with stakeholders to ensure the bill would strengthen provisions to ensure that all students have the opportunity to receive a quality education. This bill is one we do support. Now, over the course of 2016, we will be updating and reaching out to you to ensure that state level practices being put forward reflect what is best for those living with and impacted disabilities.
Complex Rehabilitation Technology
Coverage and reimbursement for Complex Rehabilitation Technologies is an issue that we’ve been working with you, and with others here in D.C. on for the past year. Specifically, we have been concerned about the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid implementing a provision to restrict access to complex and critical wheelchair components and accessories. The provision was set to go into effect on January 1, 2016. In a show of support for access to these critical technologies — Congress included in S. 2425, the “Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act” a one-year delay preventing CMS from implementing this restrictive provision!
While Congress did not include a permanent fix for the problem this one-year delay provides UCP, along with others in the community, the opportunity in 2016 to further our work on the wheelchair accessories issue and in establishing needed improvements overall for reimbursement of complex rehabilitation technology within Medicare and other health insurance programs. We will continue to update and talk to you over the course of the year on how to engage on this important issue!
In the next few weeks, each of the 50 states will be releasing their Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act plans for public review and comment. Last year, a new law called the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was passed. This new law is vital for the 1-in-5 Americans who have a disability, as it requires the entire workforce system to become accessible for people with disabilities.
Every state must create a Unified Integrated State Workforce Plan before March 2016. Once a state has completed their plan, they must publish it online. There is an opportunity for organizations to review their state plan and for public comment about the ways each respected plan can help people enter the workforce. This means a state plan that will be inclusive of the most integrated job opportunities for people with disabilities.
We are working with others in the community to create tools and guidance for our affiliates and individuals to submit comments and will circulate in the coming weeks.
March is National Developmental Disability Awareness Month
March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. We will be collaborating with other disability organizations to promote a social media campaign to highlight the many ways in which people with and without developmental disabilities come together to form strong, diverse communities. The goal will be to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life, as well as awareness to the barriers that people with disabilities still face in connecting to the communities in which they live.
Stay tuned for more information, including dates for webinars on how to become involved, tools for posting on social media and more information on how to engage and leverage this campaign!