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.

Another Perspective on Why FINDS Matters: On the Front Lines

FINDS report coverAs Project & Information Specialist with The Arc, I get the opportunity to hear from people all over the country on a daily basis about the challenges people with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families face in their attempt to obtain services and supports for their loved one. For the past 15 years, I have heard from parents, grandparents, siblings, other relatives, friends, professionals and advocates from all walks of life, and the same recurring theme is boiled down into one question: We’ve tried that…NOW WHAT?

These worn-out, desperate individuals have turned everywhere they could think of looking for basic services for their loved one and have either 1) never been able to access them, or 2) the services were recently stopped due to lack of funding. Families often call our office as a last resort, and that’s why we work tirelessly to make sure their voices are heard. In fact, The Arc recently published The FINDS Survey (a report on Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports) which explains the current challenges families are facing, and gives the individuals with intellectual disabilities and family members themselves the opportunity to share their own dreams and hopes for the future, and clearly state where our nation falls short in providing basic supports and services.

For example, we found that more than 75% of families can’t find afterschool care, non-institutional community services, trained reliable home care providers, summer, residential, respite and other services. This makes it incredibly hard, if not impossible, for families to support their loved one to become as independent as possible in the community. Also of concern, 62% of families report that services are being cut in the community, limiting or eliminating access to community life altogether.

The FINDS Survey validates that although great strides have been made in the areas of education, employment and inclusion in the community, there are still significant ways our country is falling short in providing the tools and resources families need. You can take a stand today! Learn more about The Arc’s call to action in the FINDS report and find out how, together, we can work to achieve better lives for people with intellectual disabilities and their families!

Why FINDS Matters

FINDS report coverOn June 14, 2011 at our press conference announcing the release of our report, Still in the Shadows with Their Future Uncertain, The Arc’s long time friend and colleague, Dr. K. Charlie Lakin, offered the following remarks about the importance of this research. Charlie has now moved on from his position at the University of Minnesota to take the helm at the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services. His comments at the press conference are well worth thinking about, and are as follows:

“Over my 25 or so years of association with The Arc as a member of various boards at the local, state and national level and as Chair of the Research Committee, one overarching idea has been that The Arc should always be a leader in the movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) – the first and foremost authority on the issues that concern those individuals. And, the first rule of leadership is to always listen carefully to the source of one’s authority. The Arc’s moral authority is derived directly from listening to and reflecting in its actions the will of those in whose name it exists. It is individuals with I/DD and their family members who founded The Arc, who currently sustain The Arc and who are the future of The Arc. They are The Arc.

“In that regard, it was important, even essential that The Arc engaged those primary stakeholders in providing the valuable information contained in the FINDS (Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports) survey and summary report. . . . Advice is sometimes given that if one is not prepared to deal with the answer, then one shouldn’t ask the question. In asking the questions of this survey The Arc has challenged to respond not only in its advocacy, but also in service delivery. The Arc has committed itself to lead by its own example. It will become an organization to which the sizable majority people with developmental disabilities who want real work can turn to obtain real work. It will be an organization to which the majority of people who want support to live in their own homes or in homes with their family members can turn for in-home support. It will commit itself to divesting of the segregated vocational and congregate residential programs operating under its new, progressive logo. And as it has for 60 years it will continue to take the message of people with disabilities and their families to places of power to assure that the promises made to people with disabilities are promises kept.”

I invite you to dig into the data starting first with the FINDS report, Still in the Shadows with Their Future Uncertain, and then into the technical report and data tables if you are so inclined. Consider what it means for you and the people you care about and consider joining the movement or finding out more about what The Arc is doing for people with I/DD.

Groundbreaking FINDS Report Picked up by National Media

Peter Berns and Lauren Potter

The Arc CEO Peter Berns and Glee actress Lauren Potter

The Arc recently released the results of its groundbreaking Families and Individual Needs for Disability Support (FINDS) survey and media across the country have been covering the startling statistics.  A major goal for this project has been to raise awareness of The Arc and the urgent unmet needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), and the media has responded by reporting  findings from the survey to the general public and highlighting the work of local chapters.

We know that while we have come a long way in promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD, there is still much more work to be done.  Throughout our efforts to bring about greater awareness, two findings from the survey have struck a nerve – one-third of parents and caregivers (potentially 1 million families) reported that they are on waiting lists for government funded services, with the average wait more than five years.  And in this recession, 62 percent of caregivers reported a decrease in services for their family member with a disability, leaving them financially vulnerable.

On the morning of June 14, we released Still in the Shadows with Their Future Uncertain, our report on the FINDS data. The Arc’s CEO Peter V. Berns and Lauren Potter, star of the hit FOX show “Glee,” participated in more than twenty television and radio interviews in top media markets across the nation, including Boston and Greensboro, NC.  Peter and Lauren shared the findings of the report and talked about what needs to be done to improve the lives of people with I/DD.  Following these interviews, The Arc hosted a press conference at the National Press Club to officially unveil the report, and the national newswire Reuters quickly ran a story.  Throughout the day, media continued to pick up on the report, interviewing local Arc executive directors and self-advocates, like Jamie Liban and Katherine Olson from The Arc of Virginia who did an in-studio interview at WTVR in Richmond.

The FINDS survey continues to have momentum, as Health & Home Report, one of the longest running syndicated video magazines on television, will begin airing on July 1st one of the television interviews with Peter and Lauren.  Health & Home Report is hosted by an award winning reporter and anchor, Laura DeAngelis, and has gained a loyal following because of its useful consumer tips and interesting stories.  The show is distributed to 20 broadcast stations and 91 cable systems across the country, reaching an audience between 3 to 4 million.

We encourage you to read the FINDS survey report and spread the word about The Arc’s call-to-action to motivate 1 million Americans to join the movement for people with I/DD. Use this information to make the case to everyone you know that more needs to be done to help people with I/DD be fully included and participate in the community throughout their lifetimes. Build on the publicity generated by media coverage of the report and share this blog with your networks. Thank you!

New Survey Shows Urgent Unmet Needs for Disability Support

FINDS report coverThe Arc recently had the opportunity to measure the urgent, unmet needs of individuals and families living with I/DD and find out where our society is succeeding in offering them support and where we’re falling short. In conjunction with researchers at the University of Minnesota, we conducted an unprecedented survey of more than 5000 individuals with I/DD, their family members and caregivers covering a host of issues from education to housing to planning for the future and discovered that many with I/DD are unnecessarily living in the shadows of society for lack of support to meet their most basic needs.

This week, we released the top findings from that survey in a publication called Still in the Shadows with Their Future Uncertain and outlined the steps we need to take as individuals, as families, as advocates and as a country to address the most pressing needs. Here are just a few of the most dramatic findings from the survey that should inspire us to action.

  • 62% of caregivers report that the level of services for their family member with a mild or moderate disability is decreasing; 70% of families with severe disabilities report a decrease in services.
  • 72% of family respondents provide direct financial support to their family member with disabilities and 52% of families are paying for care out of their own income.
  • More than 80% of families reported not having enough retirement savings for their future as a result of using personal funds to compensate for the lack of services available to their loved one.

We invite you to read the full report available now and join us in our movement through the call to action outlined in the report. Or, find out more about how you can get involved with The Arc to help bring about positive change, offer opportunity and foster hope for people with I/DD everywhere.