A Lifeline for Vernon

Don't Cut Our Lifeline Logo

We constantly talk about how Medicaid is a lifeline for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), but sometimes we need a reminder of what that actually means.

Medicaid provides individuals with significant disabilities who generally don’t have access to employer-based or other private coverage access to health insurance and programs that help them live independently in the community.  For many families a Medicaid waiver is the difference between their loved one living in an institution or remaining at home, surrounded by friends and family.

Please take a moment to read about Colena Jones and her son Vernon.

To learn more about how Medicaid is a lifeline for Vernon and so many others, visit our Don’t Cut Our Lifeline page on our website.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Q&A with T.J. Sutcliffe

This month, The Arc’s blog will feature a Q & A with members of The Arc’s national office staff to help raise awareness of issues important to the I/DD community during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. T.J. Sutcliffe is a policy advocate for The Arc working to promote and protect the rights of individuals with I/DD through positive public policy.

Don't Cut Our Lifeline LogoQ. T.J., you work on the front lines in Washington, D.C. helping to shape public policy to meet the needs of people with I/DD. Why is it important to take advantage of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March to get involved in public policy?

“When a Member of Congress hears directly from a constituent with a disability … it can make the issue real in a way that statistics just can’t.”

A. Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is the perfect time for people with I/DD, their families, and friends to get involved in public policy. Right now, the U.S. Congress is starting to look at Federal funding for next year, and we know that funding is going to be very tight. It’s a great time to speak up early in the process, and let Congress know that programs like Medicaid are a lifeline for people with I/DD and their families, and must be sustained. Also, a huge part of awareness is telling our stories – and the stories of people with I/DD and their families are incredibly powerful. When a Member of Congress hears directly from a constituent with a disability, a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a neighbor it can make the issue real in a way that statistics just can’t. So don’t wait. Check out The Arc’s “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline” Medicaid toolkit and visit The Arc’s Action Center to find out how you can get involved.

The Arc Welcomes Iowa’s Tyler Smothers, “Achieve with us” Contest Winner, to Washington, DC to Advocate on Capitol Hill

Tyler SmothersWashington, DC – This week, The Arc of the United States will welcome Tyler Smothers, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Washington, DC to meet with members of the Iowa Congressional delegation.

In August, The Arc announced that Tyler was the winner of the first ever “Achieve with us” social media contest. The contest invited individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to share their stories of achievement. Out of 119 contestants garnering more than 25,000 votes, Tyler was selected for his impressive achievements in his community, which had been devastated by floods in 2008.

Tyler was very involved with his local chapter, The Arc of East Central Iowa, where he participated in day programs, social events, and interacted in his community.  As downtown Cedar Rapids succumbed to flood waters, and the chapter’s office sustained major damage, Tyler saw the need to help his community get back on its feet.  So he became the driving force behind The Arc of East Central Iowa’s annual bike riding fundraiser “Tour de Flood.” Putting aside his wheelchair and using an adaptive bike, Tyler leads the ride, and every year since, has raised an impressive amount of funds for his chapter.  In fact, in the first year of the ride, Tyler set a goal of raising $2,000 – he far exceeded that amount, bringing in $18,000.  The 4th annual “Tour de Flood” took place on September 18.

As the winner of the contest, Tyler and his mother received a two day trip to Washington, DC. Tyler will be in Washington, DC from November 1-3, meeting with The Arc’s National staff in addition to members of his Congressional delegation. He is scheduled to meet with Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Chuck Grassley, and Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA-2) to share his story of achievement. When asked what he will discuss when he comes to Washington, Tyler said, “I am going to tell them living with a disability is challenging.”

Tyler’s meetings on Capitol Hill come at a critical juncture in budget negotiations, where programs that people with I/DD rely on could be on the table for cuts.  The Arc is in the midst of an advocacy campaign, called “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline,” to protect Medicaid.

“Tyler exemplifies what The Arc stands for and we are honored to host him and his family during their trip to Washington, DC. Tyler is an inspiration to his friends and neighbors in Iowa, and this week, he will take his message to leaders in Washington to demonstrate why in particular the Medicaid lifeline is so important,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Why FINDS Matters – An Addition to Your Advocacy Toolkit

FINDS report coverThe Arc’s amazing network of advocates has been working tirelessly to ensure that Medicaid does not suffer budget cuts with the “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline Campaign.” From the debt ceiling negotiations earlier this summer to current outreach to Members of Congress to ensure that individuals who rely on Medicaid do not lose essential services, our advocates have been busy this summer!

Hearing personal stories from individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families has helped make Members of Congress stop seeing Medicaid as just another entitlement program and see it as an important lifeline for millions of Americans. While these stories have helped to enlighten elected officials, many still don’t see the true scope of what Medicaid means to families across the country. This is where The Arc’s FINDS (The Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports) Survey can help.

Have you read the report on The FINDS survey yet? You should. The startling results provide supporting data for the “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline” campaign. With over 5,000 parents, siblings, children, grandparents and relatives of individuals with I/DD surveyed, the results can’t be ignored. Most telling was the insight from caregivers about how they provide for the supports for their loved ones with I/DD:

  • Fifty-two percent of families use Medicaid funds to pay for long term care services and supports, primarily through the Medicaid HCBS Waiver program
  • People with severe I/DD were more likely to have reported getting supports from a family member paid through the HCBS Waiver program (59%), while people with mild I/DD were more likely to have received supports from a family member paid out of personal or family sources (56%), most often the personal income of a parent, family member or other caregiver
  • Nearly two-thirds of family caregivers (62%) are paying for some care out of pocket. Family caregivers struggle to find afterschool care (80%), reliable home care providers (84%) and community-based care (82%)

The challenges facing family caregivers also provide support for the “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline” campaign:

  • Overall, 62% report experiencing decreases in services and 32% were waiting for government funded services, most for more than 5 years
  • More than 40% of family caregivers reported the person with I/DD had unmet support needs during the last year for running errands or seeing a doctor (48%), managing finances (46%), transportation (45%) and household management (41%)

Many of you are living the reality behind these data points. The survey is a powerful tool you can use to get that point across to Members of Congress or others who can help the millions of families and individuals who depend on Medicaid. Find more information about how the FINDS results support the “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline” campaign, then find out more about what you can do to help here.

Possible Medicaid Cuts and What You Can Do

Don't Cut Our Lifeline LogoRight now, Congress and the President are debating how to cut federal spending to bring down the deficit. Unfortunately – and almost unbelievably – people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are prime among those who may bear the brunt of many of the proposed funding cuts and policy changes.

There are many proposals being discussed in Washington to balance the budget. What they have in common is that Medicaid spending would need to be dramatically cut in a short period of time. They include:

  • Block Granting Medicaid: This policy, which was passed in the House’s 2012 Budget Resolution, would give states a fixed amount of money for health care and long term services and would likely remove requirements for how the states spend the money. Funding and services could evaporate, as financially strapped states took aim at programs without powerful constituencies and tightened eligibility for other programs.
  • Spending Caps: These would set an overall limit on federal spending that is well below current levels and would likely result in a Medicaid block grant (see above). Both houses of Congress may vote this week on a measure that could ultimately force such drastic cuts to occur.

Cuts to Medicaid are on the table in all of these proposals, directly or indirectly, and that alone requires us to act! Time is short.

What would these cuts mean for people with disabilities? There would be no guarantee of services. People with disabilities could be denied:

  • Health insurance coverage
  • Home and community based services

What can we do?

We expect Congress to vote on legislation to cut the deficit before the end of July, and we don’t know yet what that will mean for Medicaid. Now is the time to tell your Senators and Representative what Medicaid means to you and your loved ones and friends with I/DD, and tell them “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!”

Please call your Senators and Representatives as soon as possible. Enter your zip code to get their phone numbers.

What should I say?

  • The budget cannot be balanced on the backs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Deep cuts in Medicaid cannot be tolerated – including block grants and spending caps that impact Medicaid.
  • Medicaid and programs that serve low-income people must be exempt from deficit reduction plans.
  • Share your story! There is nothing more powerful than sharing your personal experience, so please tell your elected official about your support service needs.
  • Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!

Don’t Cut Clare’s Lifeline

On Wednesday, July 6th, the O’Brien family from Waycross, Georgia joined The Arc and other families that would be affected by Medicaid cuts in a meeting with key staff at the White House. The purpose of the meeting was for the White House to hear how Medicaid cuts would affect each family’s circumstances as President Obama continues to engage in deficit reduction talks.

Deirdre O’Brien has two children, including her 13-year-old daughter, Clare, who has significant intellectual disabilities. Clare also suffers from abdominal migraines, which are similar to traditional migraines but the pain is in the stomach and causes her to vomit continuously for days. Two years ago, Clare’s migraines became very severe, occurring nearly every two weeks. Her hemoglobin dropped severely, she missed a significant amount of school and her parents missed work to take care of her. During this period, the O’Brien family saw no alternative but for Deirdre to quit her job and stay at home in case her daughter became ill. The state of Georgia recognized Clare’s needs and she was granted a small Medicaid home and community based waiver, which allowed Deirdre to hire staff to help care for her daughter.

“Without Medicaid, our family’s life would revolve around illness, not health and happiness. Clare gets the care she needs from her family and from the staff paid for by Medicaid funds, and I can continue to work. Medicaid is a lifeline for us, and the White House needs to hear our story and the stories of the thousands of families like ours in Georgia,” said Deirdre O’Brien.

Take Action

Find out more on the potential cuts to Medicaid and The Arc’s Don’t Cut Our Lifeline campain. Take action and tell your elected officials “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!”

About the Video

This video was produced and edited for The Arc by INFOCUS NEWS, a supported employment program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The primary goal of “INFOCUS NEWS” is to provide employment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have been trained in various aspects of video news production; from writing news scripts, to anchoring/reporting stories, camera operation, video editing, lighting, sound engineering, and studio management.

Don’t Cut Graysen’s Lifeline

On Wednesday, July 6th, the Keaton family from Milton, West Virginia joined The Arc and other families that would be affected by Medicaid cuts in a meeting with key staff at the White House. The purpose of the meeting was for the White House to hear how Medicaid cuts would affect each family’s circumstances as President Obama continues to engage in deficit reduction talks.

Amanda and Greg Keaton are parents of 18-month-old Graysen, who has DiGeorge Syndrome. DiGeorge syndrome (22q11.2 deletion syndrome) is a disorder caused by a defect in chromosome 22, resulting in the poor development of several body systems. Graysen’s main medical conditions include two severe congenital heart defects – Tetralogy of Fallot and Pulmonary Atresia. In addition, Graysen has required a tracheostomy and ventilator support since 8 weeks old. Graysen spent his first six and a half months in the hospital, and his one year anniversary at home was June 21, 2011. In his young life, Graysen has suffered two strokes, undergone three open heart surgeries, a feeding tube placement, multiple heart catheterizations, and he hit the $1 million cap on his mother’s health insurance before he turned four months old. Graysen’s nursing care, specialized pediatric tube feedings, along with other important therapies and preventive medications and vaccines are covered by Medicaid through West Virginia’s Children with Disabilities Community Services Program.

“Drastic cuts in Medicaid would force me to quit my job to take care of Graysen, as I couldn’t afford the nursing care without it. Medicaid is our lifeline, and I’m going to urge the White House to keep the nation’s commitment to provide for the most vulnerable, like my son, so that he can continue to live with us and we can keep our jobs and our home,” said Amanda Keaton.

Take Action

Find out more on the potential cuts to Medicaid and The Arc’s Don’t Cut Our Lifeline campain. Take action and tell your elected officials “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!”

About the Video

This video was produced and edited for The Arc by INFOCUS NEWS, a supported employment program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The primary goal of “INFOCUS NEWS” is to provide employment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have been trained in various aspects of video news production; from writing news scripts, to anchoring/reporting stories, camera operation, video editing, lighting, sound engineering, and studio management.

Don’t Cut Bailey’s Lifeline

On Wednesday, July 6th, the Brandt family from Springfield, Virginia joined The Arc and other families that would be affected by Medicaid cuts in a meeting with key staff at the White House. The purpose of the meeting is for the White House to hear how Medicaid cuts would affect each family’s circumstances as President Obama continues to engage in deficit reduction talks.

Carrin and Mitchell Brandt are parents of 10-year-old Bailey, who has an intractable (uncontrolled) seizure disorder, cerebral palsy, a history of aspiration and significant global delays. Bailey needs assistance and support with all daily living and recreational activities, and Medicaid helps pay for it. She has a shunt, a G-tube, and uses a communication device. Bailey has had more than five seizures daily, and Medicaid paid for her brain surgery to remove her left hemisphere for better seizure control. Medicaid has paid for over fifteen seizure medications, one of which was over $1,000 for a one week supply. She has had orthopedic issues, including a hip displacement and a leg length discrepancy. When Bailey grows older, she will need Medicaid for long-term support needs, such as residential and day support.

“If we lost Medicaid, it would jeopardize my husband’s small business, and one of us would have to give up our jobs. Bailey’s life and health could dramatically change, as she wouldn’t be able to participate in our community and continue to grow to be as independent as possible. We don’t want to ever see our daughter living in an institution, but without Medicaid, we don’t know what our future holds,” said Carrin Brandt.

Take Action

Find out more on the potential cuts to Medicaid and The Arc’s Don’t Cut Our Lifeline campain. Take action and tell your elected officials “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!”

About the Video

This video was produced and edited for The Arc by INFOCUS NEWS, a supported employment program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The primary goal of “INFOCUS NEWS” is to provide employment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have been trained in various aspects of video news production; from writing news scripts, to anchoring/reporting stories, camera operation, video editing, lighting, sound engineering, and studio management.

FINDS Survey Facts to Support “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline” Campaign

In 2010 The Arc conducted a national internet survey to capture the perspectives of people with intellectual and or developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their family caregivers. Much of the data supports The Arc’s Don’t Cut Our Lifeline campaign. The Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) survey focused on issues including educational, housing, employment and support needs of people with ID/DD and their families. More than 5,287 family respondents participated in the survey; of these, three-quarters shared their home with a person with ID/DD. Overall, 95 percent of respondents were parents, siblings, children, grandparents or other relatives of a person with ID/DD.

Family caregivers in 2010 reported substantial ongoing challenges to providing lifelong supports to family members with intellectual or developmental disabilities. People with ID/DD and their families face very real challenges to achieving their aspirations for the future, and decreasing benefits from Medicaid will only continue to hamper such aspirations and millions of lives.

Supports provided by Family Caregivers

  • Most family caregivers (58%) provide more than 40 hours of unpaid care per week and 40% provide more than 80 hours of unpaid care per week. This interferes with their work (71%) and causes physical (88%) and financial strain (81%).
  • Nearly two-thirds of family caregivers (62%) are paying for some care out of pocket. Family caregivers struggle to find afterschool care (80%), reliable home care providers (84%) and community-based care (82%).
  • They report paying for more services out of pocket (47%) and providing more support than they used to (41%).
  • Fifty-two percent (52%) of families use Medicaid funds to pay for long term care services and supports, primarily through the Medicaid HCBS Waiver program;
  • People with severe ID/DD were more likely to have reported getting supports from a family member paid through the HCBS Waiver program (59%), while people with mild ID/DD were more likely to have received supports from a family member paid out of personal or family sources (56%), most often the personal income of a parent, family member or other caregiver.

Challenges

  • Family caregivers report that 25% of the people with ID/DD had no source of
  • income. Only 15% of the people reported being employed.
  • Overall, 62% report experiencing decreases in services and 32% were waiting
  • for government funded services, most for more than 5 years.
  • 20% of family caregivers reported that someone in the family had to quit their job to support the person with ID/DD.
  • More than 40% of family caregivers reported the person with ID/DD had unmet support needs during the last year for running errands or seeing a doctor (48%), managing finances (46%), transportation (45%) and household management (41%).
  • 43% report that schools have cut back on services such as physical, occupational or speech therapies;
  • Nearly two-thirds of all family caregivers worry that the person they care for might have to go somewhere they don’t want to live.

Families of The Arc Meet with White House on Medicaid Funding as Budget Deal Nears

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, families from West Virginia, Texas, Georgia, and Virginia joined The Arc at a meeting with Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President and Special Advisor, John Carson, Deputy Assistant to the President, Jeff Crowley, Senior Advisor on Disability Policy, and Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President to discuss the impact on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) if deep Medicaid cuts are included in a budget deal. As President Obama continues to engage in deficit reduction talks, The Arc, the nation’s largest and oldest human rights organization for people with I/DD, and its members are calling on Congress and the White House to keep Medicaid and programs that support those with I/DD intact.

Medicaid provides a critical lifeline for people with I/DD. It provides assistance with living in the community, respite services, assistance with daily living such as help getting dressed, taking medication, preparing meals, managing money, and getting in and out of bed. Nationwide, state and federal Medicaid together provide over 75% of the funding for these services for people with I/DD. Medicaid is also the primary source of health insurance for people with I/DD and provides needed health care services such as prescription drugs, dental, physical therapy, speech therapy, prosthetic devices, wheelchairs and other health care services for eligible people. Private insurance is often unavailable or unaffordable for people with I/DD due to discrimination in health insurance, high unemployment, and other factors.

“The Arc had the opportunity to touch the hearts and minds of some of the most powerful people in government today, and our message was clear – don’t cut the lifeline for these families. Medicaid is crucial to the health, well-­being, and future of these families, and without it, they would be forced to quit their jobs or sacrifice much of the progress their children have made with support from Medicaid,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

About the Keatons of Milton, West Virginia:

Amanda and Greg Keaton are parents of 18-­month-­old Graysen, who has DiGeorge Syndrome. DiGeorge syndrome is a disorder caused by a defect in chromosome 22, resulting in the poor development of several body systems. Graysen’s main medical conditions include two severe congenital heart defects -­ Tetralogy of Fallot and Pulmonary Atresia. In addition, Graysen has required a tracheostomy and ventilator support since 8 weeks old. Graysen spent his first six and a half months in the hospital, and his one year anniversary at home was June 21, 2011. In his young life, Graysen has suffered two strokes, undergone three open heart surgeries, a feeding tube placement, multiple heart catheterizations, and he hit the $1 million cap on his mother’s health insurance before he turned four months old. Graysen’s nursing care, specialized pediatric tube feedings, along with other important therapies and preventive medications and vaccines are covered by Medicaid through West Virginia’s Children with Disabilities Community Services Program.

About the O’Briens of Waycross, Georgia:

Deirdre O’Brien has two children, including her 13-­year-­old daughter, Clare, who has significant intellectual disabilities. Clare also suffers from abdominal migraines, which are similar to traditional migraines but the pain is in the stomach and causes her to vomit continuously for days. Two years ago, Clare’s migraines became very severe, occurring nearly every two weeks. Her hemoglobin dropped severely, she missed a significant amount of school and her parents missed work to take care of her. During this period, the O’Brien family saw no alternative but for Deirdre to quit her job and stay at home in case her daughter became ill. The state of Georgia recognized Clare’s needs and she was granted a small Medicaid home and community based waiver, which allowed Deirdre to hire staff to help care for her daughter.

About the Rodriguezes of Tomball, Texas:

Natalie and Ruben are parents of 31-­year-­old TJ, who was born with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities. TJ needs assistance with everyday activities like bathing, brushing his teeth, getting dressed in the morning, communicating effectively, walking,
and preparing his meals. As he has gotten older, TJ’s mobility challenges have greatly increased along with his medical needs. Medicaid covers TJ’s neurologist, endocrinologist, rehabilitation specialist, occasional home care, speech therapist, orthopedic specialist, primary care, and his prescriptions. In addition, through TJ’s Medicaid Home and Community Services slot, which took nine years to receive, his parents have been able to make modifications to their home that allow TJ to live with them, like ramps and bathroom modifications.

About the Brandts of Springfield, Virginia:

Carrin and Mitchell Brandt are parents of 10-­year-­old Bailey, who has an intractable (uncontrolled) seizure disorder, cerebral palsy, a history of aspiration and significant global delays. Bailey needs assistance and support with all daily living and recreational activities, and Medicaid helps pay for it. She has a shunt, a G-­tube, and uses a communication device. Bailey has had more than five seizures daily, and Medicaid paid for her brain surgery to remove her left hemisphere for better seizure control. Medicaid has paid for over fifteen seizure medications, one of which was over $1,000 for a one week supply. She has had orthopedic issues, including a hip displacement and a leg length discrepancy. When Bailey grows older, she will need Medicaid for long-­term support needs, such as residential and day support.

The stories these families have shared with the White House dramatically illustrate the findings from the The Arc’s recently released report Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS). The FINDS survey of nearly 5,000 family respondents demonstrates that families across the country have similar experiences. For example:

  • One-­third of parents and caregivers reported that they are on waiting lists for government funded services, with the average wait more than five years.
  • One out of five families report that someone in the family had to quit a job to stay at home and support the needs of a family member.
  • Most family caregivers (58%) provide more than 40 hours of care per week (including 40% who provide more than 80 hours of care per week). This interferes with their work (71%) and causes physical (88%) and financial strain (81%).
  • Sixty two percent of caregivers reported a decrease in services for their family member with a disability.

“These statistics came to life at the White House today, as these families exemplify what it means to be on a waiting list for services for nine years, and what life looks like when parents face a choice between working and caring for their loved one,” said Marty Ford, The Arc’s public policy director.