#KnowMedicaid

 

As Google search results indicate, many more Americans have grown concerned about losing their (or a family member’s) Medicaid benefit. We at UCP are receiving an increasing number of inquiries about Medicaid and the services and supports it provides for many individuals with disabilities and their families.

 

Even without a pending health care bill in Congress, it can be overwhelming to navigate the process of accessing the funding and benefits necessary to receive the support needed so you or your loved one can live a life without limits. While there is no one way to simplify the process, there are ways to make it a bit easier. The tips and tricks below will help you in your conversations with Medicaid and other agencies.

 

When you’re done checking out our tips, you will also find a PDF guide with the contact information for Medicaid (and related agencies in all 50 states) at the bottom of this post.

 

Keep Records of All Conversations, and Be Sure to Seek Clarification When Necessary:

 

Whenever calling your state or any other entity) regarding services and supports, be sure to keep notes about your conversation including: who you speak with , what department they are in, what department they refer you to, and any other pertinent details.

 

This is really important in the case that there is any confusion or conflicting information during the process , because you will be able to provide past information about what you were told and when.

 

It is also a great idea to ask the person you are speaking to to follow up with an email, if possible; that way you are able to see their summary of the conversation, and open up a dialogue that may help in the future should there be any misunderstandings.

 

Remember That State and Federal Agencies Are Not Identical:

 

When working with Medicaid, or any other government program or agency, it is important to be aware of the difference between the agency in your state, and the federal agencies in Washington, DC.

 

While agencies can be connected, the state agency handles state programs and issues and the federal agency counterpart handles national ones. When getting information about services and supports, it is vital to differentiate between what is available and provided by your state, and what might also be available on the national level.

 

This is also key because these differences affect how programs are funded, and may alter the process required to become eligible. Sometimes programs may be jointly run on the state and national level, but it is still important to be aware of when you’re talking to, or about, your individual state versus when you’re looking at things on a national level.

 

Not All States Run Programs the Same Way, (or a Call Agencies by the Same Name):

 

Another reason it is important to be aware of the difference between state and federal programming is because the way programs, such as Medicaid, are administered can vary significantly from state to state.

 

Therefore, be sure to investigate how things are run in your specific state, and not go off of the experiences of an individual who may live someplace else. A program that is provided through the Department of Health and Human Services in one state may be provided through the Department of Welfare in another.

 

Before getting discouraged and thinking something doesn’t exist, always remember to try a different name or department, because you never know what it might fall under in your state.

 

Always Ask for Other Options:

 

Just because one program, grant, or service is not an option for you, doesn’t mean there isn’t something out there that can help with your situation. Even if you find out that the program you are looking into will not work (or be available) based on for your situation,, be sure to ask the person you’re speaking with if they know of any other programs that may be able to help.

 

When considering your options, it is also important to remember that different programs have different eligibility requirements. So, be sure to provide as much information as possible to determine if you are eligible for a specific program.

 

Obtaining services through Medicaid (or other agencies) is rarely a simple process, but we hope that these tips– as well as our guide of various state offices involved in the administration of services and supports for individuals with disabilities– will make your journey a bit easier.
Do you have any other tips or tricks you would like to add to the list? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #KnowMedicaid. To learn more about Medicaid in your state, check out our resource guide.

What You Need to Know About College as a Student with a Disability

The transition from high school to college can be both a scary and exciting time for every student. College is a whole new world, and unlike anything most students have yet experienced.

 

Before heading off to college, students have questions and concerns about their future. Most students probably wonder about their major, whether they will like the school they have chosen, and what their new friends will be like, but for students with disabilities, the questions can often be a little more complicated.

 

Students with disabilities may wonder about accommodations, accessibility, services and supports, and getting help with everyday needs. And these questions may not be easy to answer.

 

As someone who’s a former college student, and an individual with a disability, I wanted to share some of the things that I wish I had known freshman year in hopes that it may make your transition a little bit easier.

 

Self Advocacy Is Key:

Growing up, it was typically the responsibility of your parents, teachers, or other administrators to make sure you got the accommodations and supports you needed to be successful in school. But, in college, it becomes primarily your responsibility.

 

Self-advocacy is always important but becomes especially essential when navigating college. College is often the first time students have lived away from home, and it is important to remember that you are your own best advocate: there are lots of supports in place to help you be successful, but you have to be proactive and reach out so that the people around you know what you may, or may not need.

 

Most schools have Offices or Departments of Disability Services in place to help students with disabilities get the accommodations they need, such as note-taking support, extra time on exams, or any other reasonable academic accommodation, but nobody from the office is going to seek you out, especially if they don’t even know you’re there.

 

Make a point to become familiar with the services and supports that exist on your campus. Talk to the disability support staff to work on a plan for your accommodations to help ensure success from day one. You are in college now and, like your peers without disabilities, there are still people there to help you, but for the most part, you are in the driver’s seat now!

 

The Laws Are Different:

K-12 education for students with disabilities is mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), this means that students with disabilities are entitled to public education and that it is the responsibility of the school to see that all students are getting an appropriate education. Colleges don’t fall under IDEA, and therefore, are not required to make accommodations to the same degree as the public school system.

 

In college, students with disabilities are protected from discrimination, such as inaccessibility of buildings, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Schools must provide reasonable accommodations such as notetakers or extra time on exams, but they don’t have any obligation to modify coursework to accommodate students with disabilities or provide additional supports such as assistance with personal care or activities of daily living to ensure a student is successful.

So, if you are, for example, a wheelchair user who needs help to get in and out of bed or perform other daily activities, the ADA requires your school to provide you with an accessible dorm room, but there is no legal obligation to provide you with an assistant or other types of personal care support.

 

This is important to know because it means that you will need to set up the supports you need on your own before you head off to school. Some schools have programs to help students with personal care needs, but this is not a requirement for all schools. Look into what your school offers to figure out what kind of supports may be available.

 

For more information about the difference in laws governing K-12 education and college check out the resources below:

 

https://umaine.edu/disability/accommodations-high-school-vs-college/

 

https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transitionguide.html

 

https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/auxaids.html

 

 

It’s Okay to Reach out for Help and Support:

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or struggling more than you thought you would, there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Mental and emotional well-being is just as important as physical health, and academic support.

 

Most colleges have a variety of services to support students from health centers, to counseling and other mental health services, and wellness programs, in addition to academic supports. Take advantage of the support and community that exists around you, and don’t be afraid to reach out.

 

Additionally, there are lots of groups and activities on college campuses, and many colleges even have organizations run by and for students with disabilities. These organizations may or may not be support oriented. Many of them may just be social groups, or groups focused on advocacy and activism.

 

Whether or not they are disability focused, student organizations and extracurricular activities can be another great place to find support in college.

 

 

Transition Is Not One-Size-Fits-All:

Everybody is unique, which means that everyone’s experience in transitioning from high school to what comes after will look, feel, and be, very different. Whether you’re planning to go to school far away, attend college close to home, or do something else after high school, it’s important to remember there is no right way to transition from high school to beyond.

 

Whatever you decide to do after high school graduation, focus on making sure that it’s the right option for you, rather than worrying about whether it’s what other people expect.

 

For more information you need to know,  check out the topics below:

What You Need to Know About Preventative Care and Disability
What You Need to Know About Sexual and Reproductive Health and Disability

Transition Is…

 

Sometimes, unexpected or scary but also real and exciting

 

There are specialty clinics and hospitals throughout the country to address the unique needs of children with disabilities like cerebral palsy, but the same is not true for adults. Once people with disabilities reach the age of 18 or 21 they often have to stop seeing their pediatric providers, only to find there is no adult provider to take their place.

 

This is a major issue that affects young adults and adults with disabilities throughout the country, and contributes to a range of health inequalities and other issues. As we have addressed before, transitioning from pediatric care to adult care can be particularly difficult if your new doctor has little to no familiarity with disability.

 

Adults with disabilities need access to the same care as other adults, but they also need providers who are familiar with the unique needs that may come along with disability, and that is when young adults with disabilities can feel as though they’ve entered a void. However, one UCP affiliate is working to bridge that gap in a particularly creative and comprehensive way.

 

UCP of Minnesota/Gillette Specialty Children’s Hospital is the home of Gillette Lifetime, a clinic for patients with lifelong disabilities such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida who are ages 16 or older.

 

Kathy Lindstrom, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, at the Lifetime Clinic, says it grew out of an unmet need in the community.  Lifetime Clinic’s Transition Program started as, “a grassroots movement put together based on patient needs. “

 

Kathy Lindstrom Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, at the Lifetime Clinic

Kathy Lindstrom Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, at the Lifetime Clinic

 

 

Easier, with the right resources and support

 

The services at Gillette Lifetime Transition Clinic merge medical needs with the unique psychological and social needs of transition-aged young adults with disabilities. As Lindstrom explains “everything seems to change when patients reach the late teenage years; it’s not just medical, but in all aspects of their lives.”

 

Lindstrom says, “Legal decision making becomes an issue, [so does vocational] planning, post high school planning and discussions about future living arrangements.  Parents are bogged down with meeting the challenges of daily life, and sometimes it can be hard to develop a vision for the future… and so transition sneaks up on families.”

 

Parental involvement in the process often shifts at this stage, so it’s also important to prepare both parents and young adults for this change.

 

Transition is not a simple process that happens overnight, or automatically, on a patient’s 18th birthday. Lindstrom understands that it can be hard for patients to come to the clinic for the first time, as many of them have had the same providers for their entire lives, and it can be hard to let go.

 

Lifetime makes this transition a little bit easier by allowing patients to transfer some care to adult providers, while continuing to collaborate with other specialty providers for other aspects for a period.

 

During their first visit to the clinic, patients meet with Lindstrom and her colleagues to discuss transition, and outline the issues that are most important to them. These appointments are conversations, not exams, and take place in a conference room, as opposed to an exam room. The appointment gives patients, and their families, an opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns they may have, and to get a feel for the services available at Lifetime.

 

 

About choices, and coordination

 

Lifetime is focused on specialty medical needs, and is not a primary care facility. Lindstrom offers the following advice to any individuals with disabilities looking for primary care providers:

 

  • Meet with the family Primary Care Provider (PCP) and talk about the potential of becoming a patient. If the doctor already sees the rest of the family, they might be a good start for patients with disabilities as well. She encourages patients to integrate into their family’s practice whenever feasible.

 

  • Arrange an advanced meeting with the PCP and see how accessible the facility is before becoming a patient in the practice.

 

  • If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Lindstrom cautions that you may not click with the first provider you meet with, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find somebody who works for you.

 

  • Your insurance will affect your options for a PCP, so remember to check first to make sure your preferred provider is covered!

 

Lindstrom also encourages primary care providers to connect with a patient’s specialty care providers. Gillette operates a telehealth triage line for all patients and their providers, regardless of age. If a primary care provider is unsure of how to treat a patient, they can reach out and communicate with other members of the patient’s care team.

 

In addition to medical care, Gillette Lifetime supports patients with the social aspects of transition such as recreation, community integration and helps prepare them for changing relationships with their family and friends, even giving them space to talk about the potential of romantic relationships.

 

Transition is difficult for every young adult, but when you have a disability, you may not know where to go, and you may have a unique set of questions that you feel like no one can answer, which is why transition clinics like Gillette Lifetime’s Transition Clinic are so important.

 

Learning more

 

There are several clinics that specialize in current medical recommendations for young adults with cerebral palsy throughout the country.

 

If you are located outside of Minnesota or the Midwest, and would like to see if there is a transition clinic near you, please be sure to check out our latest guide on healthcare for adults with cerebral palsy and related disabilities for clinics and additional resources that may be helpful in the transition from pediatric to adult health care.

 

Patient with a practitioner at the Lifetime Clinic

UCP of Michigan Staff Invited to Attend Meeting Called by The Pope

Special thanks to Glenn Ashley, retired staff from UCP, for his assistance in working to help put this post together. 

UCP of Michigan’s Public Policy Specialist, Barb Valliere, was invited to attend the U.S. Regional Meeting of Popular Movements (RMOPM), which ran from February 16-19 in Modesto, CA.Part of international movements called by the Pope, the meeting in California brought together nearly 700 leaders from clergy members to grassroots leaders to provide input on a variety of social issues, including: job access and inclusion for people with disabilities, environmental issues, and racism. This meeting was the third in a series of international meetings (the previous two were held in Rome and Bolivia) aimed at bringing together members of the clergy and grassroots activists. For Barb, while the journey to California marked her first time on a plane, as Catholic woman with cerebral palsy it was an opportunity she could not pass up.

Ms. Valliere was one of three people invited from the Lansing, MI area to attend the meeting. Her invitation was a result of her leadership and work in community organizing efforts at the state and national levels. Initially, no one from the area was scheduled to speak, however, an issue with accessibility changed all of that. After requesting to be put in an accessible room, Barb was put in a room that was not accessible for her. The conference organizers were able to rectify the problem and accommodate her with another room. RMOPM asked her if she would like to address the entire assembly at dinner about the problem and her experience as person with a disability.


In her remarks to the assembly, she emphasized the importance of civil rights for people with disabilities. Attendees were reminded that when they plan events and invite people, to make sure to take care of their needs and have the event accessible to all, and to not assume that a space is accessible on word alone. She also encouraged other individuals with disabilities to advocate for yourself to ensure that your needs are met. Ms. Valliere made her point in community organizing fashion, encouraging event participants to move deeper into a  discussion on access and issues that affect the disability community.

 

Information for the blog was taken from movimientospopulares.org‘s press release.

Changing Spaces Aims to Bring Access and Dignity to a Universal Experience

Nobody should have to lay on the floor of a public restroom. While this may seem obvious for some, individuals with disabilities and their families are not always afforded another option. This is because they are frequently faced with bathrooms being unsanitary, cramped, and often inaccessible.

Society has acknowledged the urgency for coat and purse hangers in bathroom stalls to maintain the hygienic safety and convenience for the individual using the restroom, however, often it seems that the same thought has not been considered for some individuals with disabilities. Many times, their caregivers have to change individuals on bathroom floors because there is no other option: the only changing table in most bathrooms is meant for babies. This is not only unhygienic, but also undignified.

Even if toilets are deemed accessible, many times they do not have necessary items for many individuals such as a lift, changing table, or an accessible and supportive toilet. This may fully prevent some caregivers from being able to provide adequate toileting care. Common and important activities such as visiting family or traveling outside the home may become a truly daunting logistical challenge.

Individuals with disabilities and their caregivers are working at the state level in Georgia (Changing Spaces GA), and in other places across the world, to improve public restrooms so that they are accessible and dignified for all methods of toileting. Advocates have two very clear solutions: rather than only having baby-sized changing tables, adult-sized changing tables would be suitable for all age groups. Furthermore, a ceiling hoist would actually reduce the risk of injury when lifting people onto a table, and it does not take up any extra space in the stall (you can view the video from Changing Spaces GA here).

In a society where individuals with disabilities still experience many barriers, being able to change in a toilet stall with dignity should not be another problem that individuals have to face. Changing Spaces is more than a campaign for hygiene, it is about dignity for the individual and those who love them. It is also about providing individuals with disabilities and their caregivers access to a space that has just as much access as for anyone else, allowing them to live life more freely and without barriers; and most importantly, letting them be who they want to be.

To learn more, visit Changing Spaces GA or follow along with the discussion on social media using the hashtag #OFFTHEFLOOR.

Thoughts on the Future of Healthcare

This blog was written from the personal experience of UCP’s Winter Intern surrounding the future of healthcare. This post is intended to express their personal thoughts and experiences. 

On February 7, 2017, I had the opportunity to attend my first press conference as United Cerebral Palsy (UCP)’s programs and development intern. The conference was held by the Committee on Education & The Workforce at the U.S. Capitol. The speakers included several Members of Congress, as well as school nurses and parent advocates. The experience was unforgettable, marking the first time I actually got to witness what goes on behind the scenes of health policy.

As an aspiring primary care physician, health care policy has always meant more to me than simple legislation. When policy changes are made, it directly impacts how doctors can perform their care and how patients can access it. I think it is extremely important that people understand and take charge of their own health, and this is made possible through expansions in health education and health access. Being at the Capitol, and feeling immersed in the actual political process with regards to health, showed me how important it is to continue advocating for these goals– and for my future patients.

One of the stories that particularly touched me at the event was that of parent advocate Anna Crone. She spoke to the room about her daughter who was born with type 1 diabetes. Part of her treatment requires receiving daily insulin injections, and having her finger pricked up to 10 times a day to check her blood glucose levels. In 2012, before the ACA was fully implemented, Crone’s husband had lost his job and was attempting to shop for private insurance. However, he was unable to find anything due to the fact that most insurance companies denied coverage at any cost for those living with pre-existing conditions. He was eventually able to find a job and get back on private insurance, however the family said they felt a significant ease of mind knowing that their daughter would never fully lose coverage thanks to the ACA.

From this story, along with others, I began to truly understand the degree to which the ACA has impacted millions of Americans. As in the case of Anna’s husband, life may get in the way when one least expects it, and it is important to know that you or those you love will still be protected. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to better understand the complexities of our government; and, I know that this will serve to make me a better health advocate for not only individuals with disabilities, but for all.

UCP Celebrates the 17th Anniversary of The Olmstead Decision

 

The outcome of the Olmstead v. L.C. case began in Georgia where two women, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, saw constant segregation due to their intellectual disabilities. Their frequent trips to state mental hospitals brought attention to the fact that community support and personal choice for individuals with disabilities was lackluster, almost nonexistent. After being represented by an attorney at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Lois, and later Elaine, saw her position for removal of institutional bias being taken up to the U.S. Supreme Court for consideration.

It was found under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), that discrimination against an individual with disabilities was illegal, and that the behavior portrayed towards both Curtis and Wilson held both legal and moral conflict.

 

iStock_000012685951XSmall

Under the Olmstead decision, The Court stated that individuals with disabilities have rights that are inclusive of:

  • Prohibition in the segregation of individuals with disabilities in community living
  • The ability to receive services in integrated environments
    • Services received may be appropriate to individual needs
  • The ability to receive community based services rather than institutionally based ones, in the event that:
    • Community placement is the appropriate course of action
    • The individual in question does not oppose to the treatment being offered
    • The individual’s placement can be accommodated in a reasonable manner

 

As a section under the ADA, the Olmstead decision follows the anti-discriminatory nature that the ADA set many years ago. The ADA, which celebrates its 26th signing anniversary, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a number of areas that include transportation, employment, government activities, and more. According to the Olmstead decision, unjustified segregation would violate Title II of the ADA, which stated that individuals with disabilities may not be discriminated against when it came to State and local government provided public services. This gave individuals with disabilities the right to choose where they were to live, instead of having economic factors coerce them into making decisions they may not otherwise wish to make. The Olmstead decision tied together the anti-discriminatory nature of the ADA by not legally binding individuals with disabilities to be institutionalized, meaning that there legally cannot be a system that will inevitably end up with a majority of the disability community in institutions.

For individuals with disabilities, these acts held the power to allow them to work in traditional office environments, live in community settings that foster independent lifestyles, receive equal opportunities when it came to a variety of traditionally implemented services, and most importantly, have the right to decide where to live, without economic or legal influences.

Here at UCP, we appreciate the previously implemented and ongoing efforts for integration, habilitation, and opportunity for expansion for those who live with disabilities. Many of our affiliates provide services that both directly and indirectly relate to the Olmstead decision. For example, most of our affiliates offer community living based services. Outlined below are a sampling of specific services that follow ideals set by the Olmstead decision.

 

 

  • Within the UCP of Central Pennsylvania lies In-Home and Community Support Programs, which offer a variety of training and support to individuals with disabilities in the realm of opportunities that allow them to participate further in the community around them. These community integration and in-home habilitation programs allow for an individual to feel as though they can be cared for and supported throughout processes in any environment that they choose. It need not have to be an institution that can provide habilitation, but rather, it can occur within the home, simultaneously alongside community support options.

 

  • Through UCP of Central Arizona, the Summer Program, as an extension of the Day Treatment and Training for Kids and Teens Program, works on even further enhancement and training of social, community, cognitive, and communication skills for kids and teens. This program focuses on the individual needs of each child, and exposes each individual to real life scenarios in preparation for community integration. This program, along with many other of it’s kind, provides services of transportation to and from the individual’s home/school, making it clear that such services, again, are not contingent upon whether or not an individual is residing at home or within an institution. Usually, habilitation skills are not necessarily provided for children outside of an institution setting, however, as can be seen from such programs, not only is the child free to reside wherever he/she may desire, but he/she may also be provided with many character building and habilitation services that otherwise would confine them to institutions.

 

In addition to skill specific programs, services such as Child Development, Respite Care, and Early Intervention are made available in a location of the individual’s choice, making it clear that community integration, and most of all, personal choice, is the priority when it comes to the creation and reformation of programs focused towards individuals with disabilities.

While disability rights and removal of bias and segregation from the disability community has seen great progress, there is much still much to be done.  On the 17th anniversary of the signing of the Olmstead decision, we at UCP wish to not only celebrate, but also take part in movements that further advocate for the rights that all individuals are entitled to.

We want to hear how the Olmstead decision has impacted your life! Share your stories using the hashtag #OlmsteadAction on social media.

Find out more information on the Administration for Community Living’s celebration of the Olmstead Anniversary here. 

Senate Passes National Family Caregiver Support Program

Earlier this week, the Senate passed the Older Americans Act (OAA). This bill contains the eligibility fix for the national family caregiver support program that will now include older relative caregivers (aged 55 and over) of their adult children with disabilities (aged 18-59).

The National Family Caregiver Support Program was the first federal program to recognize the needs of the nation’s family caregivers who provide the vast majority of long-term services and supports. This program not only funds respite, but individual counseling, support groups, and caregiver training for family caregivers, primarily for those who are caring for the aging population.iStock_000013039002Small

With the increasing number of Americans who are caregivers of their adult children with disabilities, we are thrilled to see this improvement in the program. There are over 800,000 caregivers of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) who are over the age of 60. This number is projected to grow substantially with the aging of the “baby boomer” generation. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are also living longer due to medical advances. As parents of these individuals age, they will require more support to be able to continue providing care to their adult children and avoiding costly and unwanted institutional placement.

More than at any other time, when Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security are being threatened, helping family caregivers to continue providing long-term services and supports is good public policy.

The National Family Caregiver Support Program and the Older Americans Act have been on our radar as they have direct impact for improving and securing a life with out limits for those living with disabilities and their families.

Call Your Member of Congress and tell them how thankful you are for the passage of the National Family Caregiver Support Program and the Older Americans Act!

To help guide your call, we have put together a list of talking points.

 

 

UCP Wants To Hear From YOU In 2016!

Happy New Year!

Get. Excited!

New Years is many things. For me, it is the time to remember successes of the past year and the time to get excited for the year to come. It’s all about…time. Counting down. Counting towards.

I’m Jennifer McCue, UCP’s Director of Advocacy. I’m new here to UCP – just a few months in. Before we talk about the new to come to UCP in 2016, let’s reflect quickly on what has happened in 2015. You can learn in detail here, but in a snapshot, here’s what happened: 

  • The 25th Anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act celebrated 25 years.
  • Congress passed a funding bill that included provisions to fund caregiving and respite care programs.
  • Provisions to cap reimbursement for complex rehab technologies were delayed for a year.
  • Education legislation was passed that includes improved provisions for the disability community.

In a year, where successes were few and far in between, it seems the needle may be moving. Consider me a skeptic, but while there is indeed reason to be excited and reason to be hopeful there is a greater reason and necessity to want more.

On the horizon for 2016 we have a Congressional election. Efforts are underway to implement education and reimbursement provisions along with housing reform and home and community based services, provisions for personal care attendants and caregivers are in motion and independent living efforts and activities are being put forward by the Administration for Community Living.

We are also going to create a platform here at UCP for you.  A place to be heard, a place for information, a place to connect, a place to tell your story and use it towards change.  A place for me to know you.

With all that is happening here in DC, and with you at home we will be sending you a series of communications to update and engage but also to ask you – what is important to YOU?  What would you like to see happen?  What NEW do you want to see this YEAR? You can tweet us (we’re @UCPNational) or tell us on Facebook using the hashtag #UCPNEWYEAR!

A lot is on the horizon and we will need you, your stories, your voices, and your support to make sure we are on the path towards a life without limits. We are counting on you.

So, tell me… what does UCP mean to you? 

Happy New Year!

Talk soon.

Legislative Update: January 2016

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 iStock_000012685951XSmall2016. 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. 

 

Education

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!

 

Workforce

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!