Immunization Month – Not Just for Kids

August has been recognized by the CDC as National Immunization Month. During this month they are striving to inform individuals about the importance of immunizations, not only for children, but throughout an individual’s lifespan as well. The week of August 24 – 30, designated Not Just For Kids, specifically tries to reach out to adults about maintaining their health with proper immunizations. Immunizations are especially recommended for those adults with chronic conditions (for example asthma), diabetes or heart disease, which studies have proven to all be more prevalent in individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Many individuals with IDD may live in a residential housing program with other peers or attend a day program – this increases their daily exposure to other individual’s germs and bacteria making it even more important that they keep up to date with necessary immunizations.

For an individual with IDD that already has many other chronic conditions present contracting the flu, pneumonia, whooping cough, etc. can be very hard to fight off as well as being a large financial strain if hospitalization, follow up medications, etc. is required.

One vaccine that is most commonly discussed for adults is the Influenza, or flu, vaccine. It’s recommended to get a flu vaccine every year to build immunity against the illness. The other highly recommended vaccination is the Td (tetanus) shot, which is recommended every ten years for adults (starting after the age of about 19 years old). To avoid getting the tetanus bacteria it is also recommended to make sure to thoroughly clean all wounds and cuts to get all dirt and bacteria out. This will also help to reduce the chances of getting any other bacterial infections as well.

Other vaccines can help prevent against certain cancers, Hepatitis A & B, measles, mumps, and pertussis (also called whooping cough). In past years there has been an increase in the outbreaks of whooping cough in the US. In just the state of Wisconsin they reported over 7,000 cases of whooping cough from 2011 to 2013 and 48,000 cases nationwide in 2012. It is unsure what has recently caused this increase, but making sure that everyone is up-to-date on all recommended vaccinations will help to reduce future outbreaks.

Vaccinations are not the same for everyone. They can depend on an individual’s age, occupation, genetics, potential exposure to harmful diseases and germs, and other pre-existing health conditions the individual may have. So next time you’re at the doctor make sure to talk to him/her about which vaccinations are recommended for the ones you care for and make sure to keep them up to date in the future.

Autism CARES Is Law

The Arc celebrates the enactment of the “Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2014.” This law reauthorizes the Combating Autism Act of 2011 for five years and makes a number of improvements to it. President Obama signed the legislation into law on August 8, 2014.

Since its original enactment in 2006, the law has significantly advanced the science and practice in the disability field by increasing the number, scope, pace, and coordination of research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training efforts. Among its many notable achievements are an increase in the proportion of infants screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), an increase in the proportion of children diagnosed by the age of three, and continuing improvements to decrease the time between diagnosis and intervention.

“Thanks to this law, health professionals are increasingly better able to serve people with ASD and other developmental disabilities. Greater public awareness and professional education on screening, diagnosis, and appropriate interventions promise to improve the quality of life for millions of Americans with disabilities,” said Peter V. Berns, The Arc’s CEO.

“The Arc commends the lead sponsors, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), for their leadership in advancing this bipartisan legislation. We also greatly appreciate the improvements that they made to the law – a name change that uses more respectful language, a designated ASD position in the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the law’s implementation, increased representation of self advocates and family members on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and requiring a report on the needs of transitioning youth,” said Berns.

For more information on the accomplishments of the prior legislation see, “Report to Congress on Activities Related to Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities Under the Combating Autism Act of 2006 and Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 (FY 2010-FY 2012)”.

The Arc to Host Los Angeles Theatrical Release of Award- Winning Short Film “Menschen”

The Arc will be sponsoring a limited engagement theatrical release of the award-winning short film Menschen in Los Angeles. This film directed by Sarah R. Lotfi and produced by Anastasia M. Cummings, showcases an often forgotten part of the Holocaust. During World War II, Nazi Germany had in place a non-voluntary euthanasia program called the Action T-4 program that targeted individuals with disabilities who Hitler deemed “life unworthy of life”.  According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, about 200,000 people with disabilities were murdered between 1940 and 1945 under this program. The film centers on a young man with a developmental disability who is taken under the wing of Austrian troops during World War II and the unlikely guardian that keeps him safe. The goal of Menschen is to show that individuals with disabilities are “life worthy of life”, a concept which embodies The Arc’s mission.

The film stars Connor Long, an actor with Down syndrome. Long, learned German for his role, and spent extensive time learning about this part of history in preparation for the filming of the movie. His work was rewarded when he was honored as Best Actor, during the Filmstock Film Festival in 2013.

“The Arc is honored to be sponsoring the Los Angeles theatrical release of Menschen, a film that sheds light on a part of history that is too often hidden. Sarah Lotfi deserves much admiration for choosing to share this important part of the Holocaust that impacted thousands of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We are also thrilled to be supporting the work of Connor Long, the phenomenal actor who brought this story to life. Connor represents everything The Arc stands for, and we hope that his success as an actor inspires other individuals who have dreams of the lime light, and that his performance challenges the entertainment industry to create more dramatic roles for individuals with disabilities.” -  Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc

“As an individual I grew up watching The Arc play an active role in the advocacy of my brother and sister whose lives are very much impacted by their disabilities. As a filmmaker it is a beautiful thing to partner with that same organization and work together to give Menschen its Los Angeles theatrical release. For me the underlying message of the film champions the value of life and some challenges of disability that are relevant to this day.” -Sarah R. Lotfi

“We feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to work alongside an organization like The Arc that passionately champions the quality of life for individuals who otherwise would not have advocacy. This is a very special partnership to share our film Menschen, whose message truly coincides with the mission statement of The Arc.” – Anastasia M. Cummings

“I am so happy that The Arc of Los Angeles and Orange Counties is able to be a part of this theatrical release.  A dark part of history is exposed in this film, and it is important for audiences to understand the suffering that hundreds of thousands of individuals with disabilities faced during this time. I am grateful to the director and producers for telling this story, and of course to Connor for his hard work in making this film a success.” – Kevin MacDonald, CEO, The Arc of Los Angeles and Orange Counties

This theatrical release will make Menschen eligible for consideration during award season. Screenings will be held at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre, on August 15th, 16th, and 17th, at 11AM and 12PM. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased online. After each screening, a Q&A will be held with Sarah Lofti and Anastasia M. Cummings.

60th Anniversary Marks Milestone for The Arc of New Mexico

How Diversity is Strength at The Arc of New Mexico

There were many reasons to celebrate at The Arc of New Mexico State Annual Conference in June. Balloons and a bedecked cake displaying “60 years” were visible reminders of how far they’ve come.

Randy Costales, Executive Director of The Arc of New Mexico, says that in a state with a variety of cultures, languages, and backgrounds, it can be difficult to meet the needs of each community. Although New Mexico has only one local chapter The Arc of New Mexico has established Statewide Advocacy Network that includes the local chapter, a southern office and several home offices throughout the state. Over time he has found that opening several home offices throughout the state helps cut costs and provide better services.

“We have to be able to respond to the needs of all the citizens of New Mexico that have I/DD regardless of their age, ethnicity, or background,” said Costales.

The Southern New Mexico office was established 15 years ago to provide services to Dona Ana County, one of the poorest counties in New Mexico. A majority of the population is Hispanic and all staff are bilingual. A key to the success of this office is having employees from the area who can understand the needs of that region. Other offices have been established in Santa Fe, Silver City and soon in Roswell.

In another region of the state The Arc of New Mexico provides funding to The Arc of San Juan County, near the Navajo Nation, to provide advocacy. Advocate Dolores Harden, an employee of the local chapter, is known for her ability to relate with the people she serves on a personal level. Harden, who has two sons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), visits and serves individuals and families at their homes and is also involved in a self-determination program for people with Down syndrome. Costales says that her work has been integral to The Arc’s success in New Mexico.

“She is a quiet, unassuming woman who is one of the most effective advocates I’ve ever seen,” said Costales. “Because of her, we have reached more people.”

Thanks to the Isabel Gonzales Trust established in 2010, The Arc of New Mexico is able to provide special services and support for individuals with Down syndrome and their families. The Arc of New Mexico has used funds to provide person centered planning for people with Down syndrome and their families as well as stipends to attend national and state conferences.

“We’re very appreciative of the partnership with the national office,” said Costales of this joint venture of The Arc of New Mexico and The Arc’s national office.

There are many areas of the country with diverse populations and thanks to a grant from the MetLife Foundation, The Arc is launching a new diversity initiative to make programs and services more accessible to those diverse communities. The Arc’s national staff looks forward to learning from chapters with rich diversity like The Arc of Mexico, and hopes other chapters will find inspiration from all this state chapter has accomplished.

With 60 years of experience, the organization looks to the future of service for individuals with I/DD in New Mexico. Lessons from the past will ensure many future successes and growth for this powerful chapter of The Arc.

“What I love about my job is the diversity of the people we serve,” said Costales. “Each county and community is different.”

Eruption Athletics – An Innovative Approach to Making Fitness Fun

Eruption AthleticsThe Arc recently paired up with the dynamic duo of Chris Engler and Joe Jelinski, the co-owners of Eruption Athletics, to present at the National Down Syndrome Congress Conference. Together, The Arc and EA, presented 3 health and fitness sessions – 1 to the general conference and 2 interactive fitness sessions with their Youth and Adult conference for self-advocates.

Eruption Athletics (EA) was created in 2009 to help prepare individuals competing in Special Olympics’ games. Since then the organization has evolved into an adapted fitness facility designed specifically for individuals with disabilities to come to work out and learn more about health and fitness. Located just outside Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, EA first partnered with The Arc’s Achieva Chapter to help do fitness sessions at their free health assessment events as part of the HealthMeet project.

Joe and Chris help empower their clients with the knowledge of how to be physically active to build strength and endurance while preventing injuries. They provide personal one-on-one or group training sessions. Their program instills in their clients an attitude that there is nothing they can’t do because of their disability and shows them that exercises just need to be modified or adjusted to fit each individual’s specific needs. Spend two minutes in a room with Joe and Chris and you’ll know why they have a dedicated following of clients that continue to come back. Their bright colored clothing matches their high energy vibe and excitement that they bring to each training session.

Individuals that come to their classes are not only becoming more physically active they are also developing socially and cognitively. The group sessions with peers masks working out by providing a fun, social, and supportive environment that makes individuals actually look forward to exercising! It gives them a place to go each week to see old friends, meet new ones, and be part of a group that encourages each person to fulfill their own potential without comparison to others in the program. Their innovative approach to physical activity is helping to improve their clients physically and mentally by not only building muscle, but also self-confidence through proven results.

EA has recently released their new patented Eruption Athletics “Volcano PADD”. The PADD along with the accompanying instruction manuals that vary from beginner to advanced makes exercising easier, fun, and more accessible for individuals with disabilities. To learn more about EA’s Volcano PADD, contact Eruption Athletics.

This isn’t the last you’ll be seeing of Eruption Athletics though. They will be joining us in October down in New Orleans for The Arc’s National Convention. Joe and Chris will be combining forces with the HealthMeet project again to provide morning fitness sessions – so make sure to find out what all the hype is about and join us in New Orleans for our energizing sessions to get your day started right (and make some new friends in the process!).

Social Security Trustees Release 2014 Report

The Social Security Trustees have released their annual report on the current and projected financial status of the Social Security trust funds. Similar to 2013, the 2014 findings show that Social Security is fully solvent until 2033, but faces a moderate long-term shortfall. In 2013, Social Security took in roughly $32 billion more than it paid out. Its reserves were $2.76 trillion in 2013, and are projected to grow to $2.9 trillion at the beginning of 2020. If Congress does not act before 2033, the reserves would be drawn down, and revenue coming into the Trust Funds would cover about 77 percent of scheduled benefits. The 2014 Trustees Report also continues to project that the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund by itself can pay all scheduled benefits until 2016. If Congress takes no action before 2016, the Trustees project that the DI trust fund will be able to pay about 81 percent of scheduled benefits.

As noted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and the National Academy of Social Insurance, the long-term growth in DI has been predicted since the mid-1990s and is largely due to demographic factors. The U.S. population and the number of workers insured for DI (particularly, women) have grown over the last several decades, and the baby boomers are now in their high disability years.

Traditionally, Congress has reallocated payroll tax revenues between the OASI and DI trust funds to address projected shortfalls. According to the Social Security Chief Actuary as summarized by the CBPP, a modest reallocation of the total OASDI payroll tax, enacted prior to 2016, would allow both programs to pay full scheduled benefits through 2033 — their current combined depletion date. After that, modest increases in revenue can ensure the long-term solvency of the Social Security system for generations to come.

The Arc strongly supports these types of adjustments to ensure the short- and long-term solvency of the trust funds, so that Social Security can remain a lifeline for people with disabilities and their families for generations.

The Arc Calls on the Federal Government to Hire More People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Washington, DC – Yesterday, The Arc submitted comments to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) calling on the federal government to become a model employer of people with disabilities, including individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“While the last few years have seen some modest increases in the numbers of people with disabilities employed by the federal government, The Arc remains deeply concerned that many people with the most significant disabilities, including jobseekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are being left behind,” said Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.

Data obtained by The Arc from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reveal that in fiscal year 2012, the federal government employed only 813 non-seasonal, full time permanent employees with intellectual disability (ID), representing 0.044% of all federal employees.   Only 28 people, or 3/100ths of one-percent of total new hires, were people with ID.  That same year, the federal government employed only 118 part-time employees with ID.  Only 17 people with ID were hired as part-time employees, about 9/100ths of one-percent of new hires.

“While we are pleased that the EEOC is moving forward with strengthening federal regulations, the shockingly low rate of federal employment of people with intellectual disability is unacceptable. The Arc calls on the federal government to act immediately to remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities in the federal workforce, establish strong goals for hiring of people with disabilities, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and hold agencies accountable for meeting those goals.

“There is no need for OPM to wait for the EEOC to complete the rulemaking process before it takes action to address this problem.  OPM already has authority under existing law and under Executive Order 13548 to take action now,” Berns said.

Issued by President Obama on July 26, 2010, E.O. 13548, titled “Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities,” calls on the Federal Government to hire 100,000 people with disabilities over five years.

“As a first step, OPM should direct federal agencies to update and revise the “agency-specific plans for promoting employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities” required under the Executive Order so that they specifically address employment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. There are other steps that can be taken today.   The Federal Communications Commission has already embarked on an initiative to hire people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in that agency.  Other agencies should get started too.

“Across the United States, The Arc has nearly 700 state and local chapters in 49 states and DC that stand ready to assist the federal government in identifying people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are ready to work and whose abilities will be an asset to federal agencies. The federal government can and should be a model employer of people with disabilities. The Arc will continue to closely monitor annual reports on the federal employment of people with disabilities to ensure progress and accountability,” said Berns.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly reports that the percentage of working-age people with disabilities in the labor force is about one-third that of persons with no disability. On average, workers with disabilities face significant gaps in pay and compensation, compared to workers with no disability. Additionally, about one in three employment discrimination charges filed with the EEOC allege discrimination on the basis of disability (often, in combination with charges of other types of discrimination).

The Arc’s own research suggests that the employment picture for people with I/DD may be even bleaker. In 2010, The Arc conducted a national online survey, called the FINDS Survey, to obtain perceptions of people with I/DD and their families on a range of life-span issues. Over 5,000 people participated. Only 15% of FINDS survey respondents reported that their family member with an intellectual and/or developmental disability was employed.

Employment – Congress Reauthorizes Vital Workforce Programs

This summer has seen Congressional action on several critical issues for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). One long-awaited – and a top legislative priority for The Arc – was last week’s House passage of legislation to reauthorize vital workforce programs, including Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services under the Rehabilitation Act. The Arc applauds the bipartisan, bicameral leadership that led to this important reauthorization and the Members of Congress who voted in favor of the legislation.

On July 9th, the House of Representatives passed the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) by a vote of 415 to 6, with 11 abstaining. The House vote followed Senate passage in late June by a vote of 95-3. WIOA now goes to President Obama who is expected to sign the bill soon.

WIOA reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act for 6 years, from FY 2015 to FY 2020. The bill is a bipartisan, bicameral compromise between the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House in March of 2013, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in July of 2013. The proposal was develop by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative John Kline (R-MN), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Representative George Miller (D-CA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Representative Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX).

In general WIOA focuses VR outcomes on competitive, integrated employment and promotes greater emphasis on transition services for youth with disabilities. WIOA also provides increased emphasis on coordination between VR and other agencies including school systems; extends the initial time period for VR supported employment services (from 18 to 24 months); and modifies eligibility determination to promote access to VR by people with the most significant disabilities.

The provisions in WIOA related to VR services and the Rehabilitation Act are generally similar to proposals put forward by the Senate HELP Committee over the last several years, with some modifications and refinements that represent elements from the SKILLS Act. For example:

  • In one version of its discussion drafts, the Senate HELP Committee proposed moving the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) from the Department of Education to the Department of Labor. In contrast, under WIOA, RSA will stay at the Department of Education.
  • In an early version, the SKILLS Act had proposed consolidating many core workforce programs – including VR Supported Employment Services – into a single block-grant type structure, and giving states the option to further consolidate all VR services into that single state structure. The Arc strongly opposed this proposal. In contrast, WIOA does not include this sweeping consolidation; it permits some limited consolidations, but not of VR or Supported Employment Services.

Many details of how WIOA will operate in states will need to be worked out in new regulations and policies developed after passage of the bill. It is likely that the Departments of Labor and Education will work closely with other agencies, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Department of Justice, in developing regulatory and policy guidance.

Congress last reauthorized the Workforce Investment Act in 1998. Over the last few years, reauthorization of these workforce programs, including VR services under the Rehabilitation Act, has been a top priority for The Arc. The Arc advocated for many improvements now incorporated under WIOA, consistent with our past and current position statements on Employment, and joined with other national disability groups to express strong support following the announcement of the WIOA compromise this past May.

A one-page summary of WIOA can be found here.

The statement of managers, including a section-by-section summary of the legislation, can be found here.

A summary of key improvements WIOA makes to current workforce development programs can be found here.

 

The Arc Applauds Passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

The Arc released the following statement applauding the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  WIOA is a bipartisan, bicameral compromise between the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House of Representatives in March of 2013, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in July of 2013. The proposal was developed by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative John Kline (R-MN), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Representative George Miller (D-CA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Representative Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX).

“Everyone should have the opportunity to earn a competitive salary while contributing to their community, which is why we are thrilled with the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The Arc applauds the bill’s focus on integrated, competitive employment for individuals with disabilities, and on essential transition services for youth with disabilities who need them to attain and hold a job. We are grateful to the Members of Congress who developed and supported this important legislation and stood up for individuals with disabilities who want to work, but need additional supports to reach their career goals,” said, Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc joined with other national disability groups to express strong support for WIOA.  Congress last reauthorized the workforce investment programs under WIOA in 1998. Over the last few years, reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, including the vocational rehabilitation (VR) services under the Rehabilitation Act, has been a top priority for The Arc’s public policy agenda. The Arc advocated for many improvements to the system now incorporated under WIOA, consistent with its past and current position statements on Employment.

In general WIOA focuses vocational rehabilitation (VR) outcomes on competitive, integrated employment and promotes greater emphasis on transition services for youth with disabilities. WIOA also provides increased emphasis on coordination between VR and other agencies including school systems, extends the initial time period for VR supported employment services (from 18 to 24 months), and modifies eligibility determination to promote access to VR by people with the most significant disabilities.

Chapters of The Arc Selected for National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability’s “Pathways to Justice” Training Program

We are pleased to announce that five chapters of The Arc were selected to pilot implementation of The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability’s (NCCJD) “Pathways to Justice” Training Program. Through this program, chapters will help build the capacity of the criminal justice system to effectively identify, serve and protect people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), many of whom have “mild” disabilities that often go unnoticed among criminal justice professionals without appropriate training.

Each chapter will create and/or strengthen their current multidisciplinary team on criminal justice and disability issues (what NCCJD is referring to as “Disability Response Teams”) and gather roughly 50 trainees from law enforcement, victim advocacy and the legal profession for a one-day training on criminal justice issues. The selected chapters are listed below:

“When individuals with I/DD become involved in the criminal justice system as suspects or victims, they often face miscommunication, fear, confusion and prejudice. The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability plays a critical role in improving first response and communication between people with I/DD and the justice system nationally.

“Through NCCJD’s “Pathways to Justice” training program we are tapping into the most powerful resource The Arc possesses – our chapter network. The five chapters selected either have longstanding criminal justice programs or a commitment to building their capacity in providing such training, both of which are invaluable to achieving NCCJD’s overall goals. We look forward to working closely with each chapter and learning from their work. Through this collaborative effort NCCJD will become a national focal point for the collection and dissemination of resources and serve as a bridge between the justice and disability communities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Last year, The Arc was awarded a two-year grant for $400,000 by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to develop the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability.  This is the first national effort of its kind to bring together both victim and suspect/offender issues involving people with I/DD under one roof.  The goal of this project is to create a national clearinghouse for research, information, evaluation, training and technical assistance for justice and disability professionals and other advocates that will build their capacity to better identify and meet the needs of people with I/DD, whose disability often goes unrecognized, and who are overrepresented in the nation’s criminal justice system – both as victims and suspects/offenders