The Arc on Government Shutdown: Programs People with Disabilities Rely on In Limbo

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to Congress reaching a stalemate on funding the federal government, and consequently, shutting down the federal government’s non-essential operations:

“The Arc is dismayed that Congress has failed to complete action on the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bills, resulting in a shutdown of the federal government. This action will have a detrimental impact on people with disabilities who rely on federal programs and services. Furthermore, programs with strong bipartisan support, such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program, need to be extended now or children will begin losing vital health insurance coverage.

“In addition, the issues with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program must be addressed as promised to provide pathways to legal status or citizenship; this stalemate will affect people with disabilities along with others who have made their homes in the US since childhood.

“The Arc urges Congress to fulfill its legislative responsibilities and continue to fund the federal government including the critical programs that people with I/DD rely on to live and work in the community. This shutdown leaves us in limbo,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

 

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and

protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Work Requirements for Medicaid Don’t Work for People with Disabilities

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to the Trump Administration’s issuance of guidance about how states can include in their Section 1115 waiver proposals requirements some recipients of Medicaid work to receive coverage.

“The Arc opposes this reversal of long standing CMS policy.  The Arc is also deeply concerned that critical policies we have long supported, such as Medicaid buy in programs, habilitative services, and supported employment services, are now being used to justify policies that would allow states to create barriers to Medicaid eligibility.

“Cutting off Medicaid won’t help anyone to work. Medicaid provides vital health care access that is a key ingredient for potential to be a part of the workforce.  Many people with serious health conditions require access to health care services to treat those health conditions and to maintain their health and function.  Furthermore, Medicaid specifically covers services, such as attendant care, that are critical to enable people with significant disabilities to have basic needs met, to get to and from work, and to do their jobs. Requiring individuals to work to qualify for these programs would create a situation in which people cannot access the services they need to work without working – setting up an impossible standard.

“The notion that this guidance excludes all people with disabilities is misleading. The protections the guidance claims to provide to people with disabilities are inadequate and will likely not protect the rights of people with disabilities.

“This is a bad policy, and we encourage the Administration to rescind it,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Civil Rights, Housing, and Community Development Organizations Call on HUD to Maintain a Critical Fair Housing Tool and Not to Roll Back the Promise of the Fair Housing Act

Washington, DC – 76 national civil rights, faith-based, affordable housing and other organizations have voiced their strong opposition to HUD’s sudden and short-sighted decision to effectively suspend the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation.

Nearly 50 years ago, Congress adopted the Fair Housing Act, landmark legislation necessary to end discrimination in housing and eliminate the barriers created by segregation.  The AFFH regulation —designed with considerable public input and piloted extensively — was adopted in 2015 and was a critical and long overdue step in carrying out Congress’ intent. It provided jurisdictions with a roadmap and tools for compliance and included measures for accountability.  Without warning, HUD has decided effectively to suspend the regulation, leaving local jurisdictions confused, giving local residents less voice in important decisions about their communities, and reinstating an approach to fair housing that the Government Accountability Office found to be ineffective and poorly administered.

“HUD’s effective suspension of the rule does nothing to help local governments fulfill their fair housing responsibilities to create equitable, healthy communities and provide access to housing without discrimination,” says Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO for PolicyLink.  “It is the wrong move, particularly at a time when housing needs are so severe and housing and community development resources are so scarce.  And by taking this step, HUD is abrogating its duty to carry out the mission Congress assigned it 50 years ago.”

“Americans strongly believe that a zip code should not determine a child’s future, and that everyone – regardless of their race or national origin, the language they speak, or whether they have children or have a disability – should have access to the opportunities they need to succeed,” said Shanna L. Smith, president and CEO for the National Fair Housing Alliance.  “But we are falling short of achieving that goal.  Actions taken over many years by HUD, other government agencies and the private sector have left us more segregated than we were 100 years ago.  That has led to concentrated poverty and weaker communities and undermines our prosperity.  We need HUD to enforce this important rule, not suspend it.”

“The administration’s abrupt decision to effectively suspend this critical regulation is misguided,” says Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  “The federal government, states and local communities have been required by law since 1968 to work to undo the segregated communities that federal housing policy created in the first place.  Suspending the tools that help communities meet that obligation, without any input from key stakeholders, is a step in the wrong direction.”

“The obligation of local governments to ‘affirmatively further fair housing’ is essential to fulfill the promises of the Fair Housing Act, particularly this year, the 50th Anniversary of this key civil rights law,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “HUD’s proposed suspension would roll back one of the law’s most critical tools to correct structural inequality and racial segregation and represents yet another attack by this Administration on communities of color across the country.”

“HUD’s decision to suspend a critical rule that has helped promote fair housing across the country is firm demonstration of Secretary Ben Carson’s hostility to fair enforcement and implementation of the Fair Housing Act,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “We will not stand by idly as HUD works to roll back the important gains that have been made to promote fair housing opportunities across the country.”

HUD’s announcement today is a serious loss for fair housing and puts the promise of making every neighborhood a community of opportunity further out of reach.  We call on HUD to reverse its decision, withdraw this notice, and move ahead with implementation and enforcement of this important fair housing rule.  And we call on Congress to provide policy and budgetary oversight of HUD to ensure it is delivering on the promise of fair and equitable housing.

For media inquiries, contact:

Jessica Brady, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, (202) 662-8600 x 8317, press@lawyerscommittee.org

Phoebe Plagens, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., 212.965.2235, pplagens@naacpldf.org

Jesse Meisenhelter, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, jmeisenhelter@ncrc.org, 202-464-2737

Debby Goldberg, National Fair Housing Alliance, Dgoldberg@nationafairhousing.org, 202-898-1661 or Jessica Aiwuyor, National Fair Housing Alliance, Jaiwuyor@nationalfairhousing.org, 202-898-1661

Renee Willis, National Housing Law Project, Media@nlihc.org, 202-662-1530

Lisa Marlow, National Low Income Housing Coalition, Lmarlow@nlihc.org, 202-662-1530

Milly Hawk Daniel, PolicyLink, Milly@policylink.org, 917-658-6468

 

This statement is issued on behalf of:

Action Center on Race and the Economy Institute

American Civil Liberties Union

Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living

Autism Society of America

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

California Reinvestment Coalition

CarsonWatch

Center for Popular Democracy

Center for Responsible Lending

Center for Social Innovation

Center for the Study of Social Policy

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Coalition on Human Needs

Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities Housing Task Force

Consumer Action

Consumer Federation of America

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)

Enterprise Community Parnters

Equal Justice Society

First Focus

FORGE, Inc.

GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality

Grounded Solutions Network

Housing Assistance Council

Impact Fund

Japanese American Citizens League

Lambda Legal

LatinoJustice PRLDEF

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)

Local Progress

LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors

Low Income Investment Fund

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)

National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders

National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

National Association of Human Rights Workers

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD)

National Community Reinvestment Coalition

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)

National Council of Churches

National Disabilty Rights Network

National Education Association

National Equality Action Team (NEAT)

National Fair Housing Alliance

National Health Care for the Homeless Council

National Housing Law Project

National Housing Trust

National Juvenile Justice Network

National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

National LGBTQ Task Force

National Low Income Housing Coalition

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Urban League

Paralyzed Veterans of America

PFLAG National

PolicyLink

Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign

Poverty & Race Research Action Council

Pride at Work

Prosperity Now

Public Advocates Inc.

Public Citizen

Smart Growth America

Technical Assistance Collaborative

The Arc of the United States

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Transgender Law Center

Treatment Communities of America

UnidosUS (formerly National Council of La Raza)

United Way Worldwide

Building Partnerships to Serve…

The time is always right to do what is right. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Engaging in community service is a win-win scenario. For community organizations, volunteers with disabilities represent a group of eager and active people who want to help improve their community. For disability organizations, supporting inclusive volunteering serves our mission to promote the inclusion of people with I/DD, and helps people with disabilities gain confidence and participate in their communities. In addition to volunteering being the right thing to do, supporting community service also helps chapters of The Arc develop community partnerships that can advance The Arc’s mission.

In 2015 and 2016, The Arc of the Nature Coast in Hernando and Pasco counties, Florida, received MLK Day of Service* grants to provide food assistance to people in need in their community. To accomplish this mission, the chapter reached out to two groups often affected by lack of access to food: senior groups and youth groups. The result: two win-win scenarios.

 Serving Food and Building Friendships

Serving Food and Building FriendshipsThe Arc of Nature Coast partnered with Pasco Elderly Nutrition, which serves more than 800 senior citizens at three community centers in Pasco County through its Meals on Wheels program. To support this program, volunteers from The Arc Nature Coast deliver, prepare and serve food to people in need. More than this, volunteers have developed friendships with their fellow volunteers without disabilities as well as the senior citizens. In fact, after they volunteer, many volunteers with and without disabilities spend time playing cards and games at the senior centers.

Feeding the Hungry and Dancing the Night Away

Feeding the Hungry and Dancing the Night AwayThe Arc of Nature Coast partnered with the BETA Club from Fox Chapel Middle School in Spring Hill, Florida. The BETA club first got involved packaging produce for The Arc Nature Coast’s food delivery in January 2017. This club had such a good time that they began attending The Arc Nature Coast’s social events. BETA club members served food and drinks and helped clean up after events, and enjoyed dancing and socializing with people with I/DD. Recently, the BETA club received a national volunteer recognition award from the BETA National School of Merit for service with The Arc Nature Coast. To celebrate this awesome achievement, they invited The Arc of Nature Coast staff and people served by the chapter and their families to their dinner dance, and hired “PJ the DJ”, a local self-advocate, to provide the music for the evening.

Each partnership has been a win-win scenario for The Arc, the volunteers, and the partner organizations.

Per The Arc of Nature Coast’s Development Director, Nancy Stubbs, these volunteer programs and activities have led to social inclusion, friendships, and closer community connections for volunteers and between The Arc and partner organizations.

More than this, these opportunities have also raised the community’s awareness of the chapter. The Arc of Nature Coast has only recently expanded to Pasco County, Florida, and was “virtually unknown.”  Because of these partnerships and volunteer programs, The Arc of Nature Coast is making a name for itself and being known as a community leader and a server of people with I/DD in the area.

Congratulations to The Arc of Nature Coast for creating these great win-win scenarios! And, for more on inclusive volunteering and how to build partnerships that serve community needs and strengthen The Arc’s presence in the community, visit http://www.thearc.org/inclusive-volunteering.

*In 2015, The Arc was selected by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that leads the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, to plan and execute volunteer projects that unite Americans in service for the MLK Day of Service and throughout the year. To date, 16 chapters of The Arc around the country have organized inclusive volunteer service projects where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) volunteer alongside people without disabilities to provide food to people in their communities who are in need. In total, these projects have brought together over 1,000 volunteers to serve more than 14,000 people in need.

The Arc Responds to Senate Passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act “Each vote in favor of this bill was a vote against constituents with disabilities”

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to Senate passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

“Today both chambers of Congress rushed to pass an irresponsible tax plan. By reducing revenue by at least $1.5 trillion, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increases the pressure to cut Medicaid and other programs that are critical to the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Each vote in favor of this bill was a vote against constituents with disabilities and sets the wheels in motion to quite possibly go back in time to an era when people with disabilities had little opportunity to live a life of their choosing, in the community.

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was crafted behind closed doors and the final draft of this bill was only released publicly on Friday. The rush by the Senate to pass this bill mere hours after the House of Representatives vote makes it clear that the architects of this bill were trying to hide something from the American public.

“This year the disability rights community has endured ongoing Congressional attacks that could have jeopardized the health and well-being of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. And now, thanks to the enormous revenue losses that will be created by this bill, we must prepare to protect critical programs like Medicaid which will likely be on the chopping block in 2018. We are grateful to the Members of Congress who stood up for their constituents with disabilities by opposing this bill and we look to them as our greatest allies as our fight continues. While this bill must return to the House of Representatives once more, it is expected to be signed into law. Passage of this bill will not change the resolve of The Arc’s network. As we have shown time and time again, we are a force to be reckoned with. We will remain active in our opposition to attacks on the basic rights and health of people with disabilities and their families,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc Responds to House of Representatives Passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – Services and Supports for People with Disabilities at Risk

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to House passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

“Once again the House of Representatives has taken a dangerous step towards cutting the services and supports that people with disabilities rely on to be a part of their community. This year we’ve endured ongoing Congressional attacks on critical programs for people with disabilities. And now, thanks to the enormous revenue losses created by this bill, we will prepare to protect critical programs like Medicaid which will likely be on the chopping block in 2018.

“This version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is the result of a conference between the Senate and House of Representatives, was only released publicly on Friday evening. With the Senate rushing to vote on this bill less than 24 hours after the House passage, it seems that Congress is trying to hide something from the American public.

“This bill is the latest attack from Congress on the health and wellbeing of their constituents with disabilities.  Now we turn to the Senate, our last line of defense. We implore Senators to do the right thing and oppose this bill. We continue to encourage disability advocates across the country to reach out to their Senators to voice their concern about this bill, but emphasize that time is of the essence.  The disability community has fought against threats to vital programs and won several times this year, and we are not backing down when it comes to irresponsible tax policy like this,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, ignores concerns that constituents with disabilities across the country have been raising to their Members of Congress for weeks. The Arc’s longstanding position on tax policy is that it should raise sufficient revenues to finance essential programs that help people with disabilities to live and work in the community. The Arc also supports tax policy that is fair and reduces income inequality as people with disabilities are twice as likely to experience poverty. This legislation fails to meet either standard.

Additionally, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate will result in 13 million fewer Americans with health coverage, including those with disabilities, and will increase premiums for people buying insurance on the health insurance exchange.

About The Arc

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of more than 665 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

What Does Giving Back Mean to You?

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to
serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace.
A soul generated by love.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Inclusive volunteering programs give people with I/DD an opportunity that is special
and often rare—a way to give and not just receive community service.

Too often, people with disabilities are considered only to be the recipients rather than the givers of service. Thus, people with disabilities are not often given the opportunity to contribute to their community. By offering inclusive service opportunities, the MLK Day of Service project* gives people with disabilities the ability to give back, and counteracts this stereotype.

We asked volunteers at 2017 MLK Day of Service projects at The Arc of Luzerne County in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, and at TARC in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to describe what serving others means to them.

Giving Others a Fresh Start

Volunteers with and without disabilities at The Arc of Luzerne County provided food assistance to people in need in their community through the Commission on Economic Opportunity, a local food bank. Volunteers worked to help gather, package, and distribute food to seniors, children, and families in need in Pennsylvania.

For Jay Sterling, a volunteer with The Arc of Luzerne, providing food assistance was an opportunity to help others overcome a struggle his family had growing up. “It’s important to help with the food prep [at my local food pantry] because when I was little we didn’t have much money like some families today. It feels terrible to grow up poor.”

For volunteer Diane Williams, helping people get the food they need is an opportunity to make sure children, do not go hungry. “It makes me happy that I am helping because I have two children, and I like to think that if children need food they’re getting it.”

Practicing Our Civic Duty

MLK VolunteeringIn February, volunteers with and without disabilities from TARC, the University of Tulsa’s True Blue Neighbors program, the Bridges Foundation, and A New Leaf came together to prepare meals for those in need in Oklahoma.

President of Tulsa People First Sean Lewis, who participated in the event, considers the importance of giving back to his community:

“I think it is very important as citizens and self-advocates that we show we care about the needs of people around us by getting outside our own routines and giving our time and energy to the Martin Luther King projects. Food supplied by the Tulsa Food Bank helps put food on the table for families that otherwise might have none. I was very happy to serve in whatever way I was able to such a good cause and project.”

For more on inclusive volunteering and how volunteering can help people fight stereotypes, practice their civic duty and give back to their community, visit http://www.thearc.org/inclusive-volunteering.

*In 2016, The Arc was selected by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that leads the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, to plan and execute volunteer projects that unite Americans in service for the MLK Day of Service and throughout the year. To date, 16 chapters of The Arc around the country have organized inclusive volunteer service projects where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) volunteer alongside people without disabilities to provide food to people in their communities who are in need. In total, these projects have brought together over 1,000 volunteers to serve more than 14,000 people in need.

#MeToo: Helping Women with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Talk Openly About Sexual Violence with Health Care Professionals

Sexual Violence Healthcare ProfessionalPrompted by recent news events, women everywhere are speaking up and sharing accounts of sexual violence. Social media feeds have been so inundated with tales of unwanted personal sexual encounters that it has sparked an online media campaign, punctuated by #MeToo. However, women with disabilities may face greater barriers to talking about their own experiences on social media or elsewhere. That’s why, before this hashtag went viral, The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability® (NCCJD®) and The Board Resource Center (BRC) teamed up to highlight the alarming rate of sexual assault among women with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Just this fall these two organizations, with the assistance of a one-year grant from The WITH Foundation, unveiled the Talk About Sexual Violence webpage that includes videos and other resources dedicated to building the capacity of health care professionals to empower female patients with I/DD to talk about and prevent sexual assault.

Research shows that nationally, 1 in 5 women without disabilities are sexually assaulted. However, women with disabilities face even grimmer statistics. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of violent victimization (which includes rape or sexual assault) of people with disabilities is more than three times higher than the rate for people without disabilities. A related survey conducted in 2012 found that out of over 7,000 respondents, only 37.3% of people with disabilities reported any type of victimization to authorities. Many societal factors have allowed this disturbing pattern to continue, including inexperience among health care professionals in broaching the topic of victimization in ways that are accessible and culturally competent for everyone.

Recognizing that health care professionals are in frontline positions to educate their patients about sexual violence, NCCJD® and BRC created easy-to-use resources to address this issue. The materials provide straightforward guidance on how to start a simple, direct and honest conversation with female patients about an all too common experience, and include two short videos: “How to Have the Conversation” and “Kecia Meets with Her Doctor”, available in both English and Spanish. Accompanying the videos are a variety of supplemental materials, including training and communication guides.

These resources are invaluable in the fight against sexual violence of women with I/DD, but the first line of defense is simply believing woman with I/DD when they disclose sexual assault, and listening to their experiences. The goal of The Arc’s Talk About Sexual Violence project is to support women with I/DD to be heard, believed, and supported by receiving prompt and effective medical care and healing services. Every woman deserves a safe environment to honestly admit “MeToo,” and to protect herself from sexual violence.

The Arc Awarded Grant from Anthem Foundation for Health and Fitness for All Project

Grant will support programming in Kentucky, Texas and Wisconsin

Washington, DC – The Arc is pleased to announce it has received nearly $88,000 of funding from the Anthem Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Anthem, Inc., to support the Health and Fitness for All project. The project’s training curriculum was developed by the University of Illinois at Chicago, and provides overall structured information on how to organize and start a tailored physical activity and health education program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The award will be used to conduct this health project at nine chapters certified in the HealthMatters curriculum at The Arc in Kentucky, Texas, and Wisconsin.

In 2016, The Arc received comparable funding for this initiative from the Anthem Foundation. The program resulted in roughly half of participants reporting a healthy blood pressure, along with 71% of participants revealing increased knowledge of healthy foods and healthy behaviors. Drawing on a very successful first year, the nine chapters will implement the 12-week program with a drive to increase results to approximately 225 participants at the following locations: The Arc of Kentucky, The Arc of Central Kentucky, The Arc of Barren County (KY), The Pointe Arc in Northern Kentucky, The Arc of San Antonio (TX), The Arc of Wisconsin, The Arc Greater Columbia County (WI), The Arc of Racine County, Inc. (WI) and The Arc Fond du Lac (WI).

“Leading a healthy lifestyle is difficult for everyone, including people with I/DD. The Arc is fortunate to have the generous support of the Anthem Foundation so we can continue to provide education and resources that will help people with I/DD make healthier decisions in their daily lives,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. According to the Centers for Disease Control, adults with disabilities have a 58% higher rate of obesity than adults without disabilities due to certain challenges individuals face with I/DD related to eating healthy, maintaining weight and being physically active. Nonetheless, since 2012, The Arc has continued to reach over 700 participants with the use of the HealthMatters curriculum and provided those with I/DD the tools and resources needed to lead healthier lives.

“We’re pleased to team with The Arc to continue to support their efforts to ensure all individuals, regardless of their abilities, have access to information that encourages a healthier lifestyle,” said Craig Samitt, MD, chief clinical officer at Anthem, Inc. “The results of their program are further evidence of the value they bring to the communities they serve to help create a healthier generations of Americans.”

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of more than 665 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

About Anthem Foundation

The Anthem Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Anthem, Inc. and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of Anthem, Inc. to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that Anthem, Inc. and its affiliated health plans serve. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These disease states and medical conditions include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s year-round Associate Giving program which provides a 50 percent match of associates’ pledges, as well as its Volunteer Time Off and Dollars for Doers community service programs. To learn more about the Anthem Foundation, please visit http://www.anthem.foundation and its blog at http://anthemfoundation.tumblr.com.

#HandsOff: Jake’s Story

###This is the first installment of a new series at The Arc Blog called #HandsOff. Each month, we will feature a story from individuals and families across The Arc’s network about their experiences with some of today’s key policy issues impacting people with disabilities. ###

Jake and Melinda

The author, Melinda, and her brother-in-law, Jake

My name is Melinda and I live in Monroe, North Carolina. I am terrified that the tax plan that Congress is pushing through will lead to cuts for critical programs that people with disabilities rely on. My brother-in-law, Jake, is 36-years-old and my reason for speaking out.

In 2005, my husband and I invited his 24-year-old brother, Jake, from Alabama to live with us in North Carolina in our home. Jake has an intellectual disability as well as some additional mental health issues. While he has significant challenges in daily living as well as academic skills, Jake has incredible working memory, is completely mobile, and articulates every want and need he has; he strives for full independence in the world.

Though we had just had our second child that year, my husband and I made a conscious decision to take on the role as the support system for Jake rather than continue to expand our family. We wanted to do whatever we could to help him lead an independent, meaningful life, something that did not always happen when he was living in his mother’s basement in Alabama. To accomplish this goal, which is ongoing and cyclical, we have spent the last twelve years learning the process of getting supports and services.

I knew nothing about Medicaid or how it could change the life of someone like Jake until we got him a coveted waiver spot for short-term support. Because of these supports, Jake is able to live by himself in a small apartment directly across the street from our house. He has full access to the community and the supports that he needs. My husband and I help to manage the people that work with Jake, but he is the one that drives his own services. He works every day on the goals he decided would help him towards independence: preparing his own meals, advocating his needs to his landlord and others, spending money within a budget, and maintaining his own living-space. Jake has also made meaningful connections with people in our broader community- people other than his family and support staff who look out for him and value his friendship and contributions.

My family structure is in balance because of Medicaid; without it, Jake’s world looks very different, and frankly, so does mine. My husband can continue working as a high school principal. I can continue working at my job as a clinical social worker and full-time advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our two teenaged daughters have the space they need to grow without always having to share time and attention with their uncle. Most importantly, Jake has the life he never thought was possible.

Clearly, our entire family would be greatly impacted if Jake lost his Medicaid services. The tax plans moving through Congress dramatically reduce the revenue that the federal government uses to pay for critical programs such as Medicaid. Act now by calling your Members of Congress to ask them to oppose this dangerous bill.

Jake and his family

Kevin, Melinda, Jake, Georgia, and Juliet Plue