3 State Chapters Making a Difference – Let’s hear it for Alabama, Illinois and Virginia!

Being part of the community and living as independently as possible are among the most important values and goals shared by people with disabilities, their families, and advocates.  Chapters of The Arc across the country are on the front lines of pushing for inclusion and advocating for these important rights in their communities.  And we want to share the progress that is being made in Alabama, Illinois and Virginia.

Alabama

The Arc of Alabama’s tireless work led to a huge victory for its state at the end of 2011. Working with other statewide I/DD organizations, the W.D. Partlow Developmental Center in Tuscaloosa, the home of thousands of individuals with I/DD over the years, officially closed on December 28. With the closure of Partlow, Alabama becomes the first state in the southeast and one of only 13 states in the country to no longer operate large public institutions.

“We are delighted about the closure of Partlow. We share the credit for this great accomplishment with People First of Alabama and others, but I can say it would not have happened without The Arc,” said Tom Holmes, Executive Director of The Arc of Alabama.

December’s closing meant the last 150 residents of Partlow were moved to community homes throughout the state.  Partlow, which opened in 1923, was costing approximately $42 million a year to operate.

“Most of the families come back and say that they did not realize that their family members would be so much happier living in the community. That is just wonderful for us to hear,” said Tom Holmes.

To learn more about the closure of Partlow read about it in The Tuscaloosa News.

Illinois

Governor Pat Quinn’s announcement of his plan to rebalance the state’s approach to providing long term services and supports for individuals with I/DD means change for thousands of individuals in Illinois. The Governor’s Active Community Care Transition (ACCT) plan will increase the number of individuals with I/DD living in community settings across the state.

“This historic change in public policy embraces freedom, independence and choice. Our current system is antiquated. Only two states warehouse more people in institutions than Illinois and 13 states have closed all public institutions. More than 30 national studies show that community living provides the most safe and effective care. Yet Illinois ranks last in the nation in the number of available community settings,” said Tony Paulauski, Executive Director of The Arc of Illinois.

The Arc of Illinois has been an integral partner in moving the state toward a community based system. Over the last few months the Governor’s office has been in constant contact with The Arc of Illinois’ Executive Director Tony Paulauski and other members of The Arc.

During the first phase of the plan, residents from the Jacksonville Developmental Center (JDC) in Jacksonville, IL and from the Tinley Park Mental Health Center (MHC) in Tinley Park, IL will be transitioned to community settings and the facilities will be closed. Read more about the first of these closures.

Also, check out The Arc of Illinois website for updates on the transition.

Virginia

Last month, the Department of Justice reached a settlement agreement with Virginia requiring the state to provide community-based services through Medicaid waivers and family supports for more than 5,000 individuals with I/DD. The agreement means that Virginia will no longer be heavily reliant on large, expensive, public institutions. The state will be able to focus on individualized and cost effective community based services that allow individuals to live independent lives and participate in the community.

“The Arc of Virginia applauds Governor McDonnell and his administration for taking this important step in the right direction.  We salute DOJ’s leadership on making this a successful effort that will result in thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities being afforded the opportunity to live “A Life Like Yours” in the community.   This landmark agreement will be long remembered as a historic moment in the ID/DD civil rights movement,” said Jamie Liban, Executive Director of The Arc of Virginia.

The state must create 4,170 new waiver slots for people currently residing in the state’s five Training Centers (about 1,000 individuals), people with intellectual disabilities who are on the state’s “urgent” waiting list for waiver services, people with ID who are under 22 and live in facilities other than the training centers, people with DD who are on the state’s waiting list for waiver services and for people with DD who are under 22 and live in facilities other than the training centers. The state also will create an individual and family support program for 1,000 individuals with I/DD most at risk of institutional placement.

Detailed plans for helping individuals transition from institutional settings to community settings and establishing a quality and risk management system are outlined in the agreement. An independent reviewer will oversee the settlement agreement for the court which retains jurisdiction.

View The Arc’s full statement in response to this agreement.

A Blueprint for Change

Blueprint for Change Report Cover by The Arc of Indiana

Earlier this year, The Arc of Indiana embarked on a broad-based campaign to create change in Indiana’s systems for serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Starting with the creation of a Big Minds Group made up of leaders in the field, and continuing with Pathways Forums held throughout Indiana to gather input from individuals with I/DD and their families, their efforts led to the formation of the Indiana Response Team to develop goals and take action. All of those elements of the campaign have come together in The Arc of Indiana’s Blueprint for Change.

The Blueprint for Change is a thorough report which takes a fresh and sometimes hard look at current systems in Indiana then lays out a bold action plan for creating change in how individuals and families receive services. The Arc of Indiana is actively distributing this blueprint online and sending out hard copies upon request. They recently distributed copies to attendees at their annual state conference and provided additional copies to local chapters throughout the state so those chapters could lead the way in taking action in their communities. Check out the Blueprint for Change online or contact The Arc of Indiana at 1-800-382-9100 for more information.

Exciting News in Nevada!

The Arc in NevadaThe Arc is happy to announce the launch of the “Growing a Grassroots Advocacy Movement” project in Nevada! This exciting new opportunity is being funded by the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. The Arc in Nevada will work to develop long-term capacity for advocates to have input and impact on issues of importance to people with developmental disabilities and their families.

With the launch of this new program, The Arc will have a statewide presence in Nevada for the first time since the mid-nineties.  The project will train individuals with developmental disabilities and family members on how to impact disability policy at the local, regional and state levels, culminating in a grassroots campaign.

The training, called Partners Plus, will be conducted across the state, targeting graduates of previous Nevada Partners in Policymaking classes.  This project will work to train people with disabilities and their families (parents, siblings, grandparents, other family members), primarily those who have previously completed the original Partner in Policymaking classes.  Participants from The Arc in Nevada’s programs will develop a legislative advocacy platform with specific actions during the 2013 Nevada legislative session.  In an effort to develop lasting impact of the trainings,  some participants will work  to train others in their local communities, involving advocates at all levels  in the execution of the legislative platform and advocacy agenda.

In addition to the Partners Plus program, The Arc in Nevada will expand efforts to support individuals with I/DD and their families through new chapter recruitment, grassroots advocacy development, and collaborative efforts with communities across Nevada.

This project will be staffed by a new member of The Arc team, Nicole Schomberg. Nicole has expertise in advocate engagement and community outreach. Most recently, Nicole worked to coordinate previous Partners in Policymaking programs in the state.  Additionally, Nicole is a parent of a child with developmental disabilities, and has extensive experience working with families and self-advocates in Nevada. If you are in Nevada and interested in participating in The Arc’s project contact Nicole at: schomberg@thearc.org.

Family Served by The Arc of Jackson County Gets Extreme Home Makeover

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition LogoThe McPhail family from Medford in southern Oregon, are set to receive an Extreme Home Makeover from the popular ABC show of the same name to help their sons, Sawyer and Thatcher, who have autism. A third son, Crew, does not have autism. The family is served by the Families for Community program, a parent-driven group advocating for the full inclusion of all children, which is part of The Arc of Jackson County. The episode is currently scheduled to air Friday, October 28 (please check local listings).

Parents C.J. and Lindsay McPhail were interviewed on the building site by The Dove, a local Christian broadcaster, and thanked Emilie Sampson, the program director for Families for Community, along with her husband Matt, for nominating them for the show. Watch the full interview here.

Although they couldn’t reveal details of the special features built into the home until the program airs, Lindsey McPhail would say that “It’s set up to make our life easier in even the tiniest aspects. It’s going to make me a better mom.” In addition to the challenges of three growing boys, two with special needs, the McPhails contended with mold and asbestos problems along with old wiring and a lack of heat in part of their former home.

Of the new house, C.J. McPhail said “this home is a hug. It’s a home that when you walk into it just gives you a hug with all of the love that went into it.”

Along with praising all of the community volunteers and various nonprofit groups the family is involved in, the McPhails had high praise for the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition team. “They care about the cause and spreading awareness of autism. They’re truly amazing people, it’s not an act,” said C.J.

Once the episode airs and the family is authorized to share details about the house with the community, they plan on letting people tour their new home as a fundraising and awareness raising activity for the local nonprofits such as The Arc who they are associated with.

The Arc of Illinois, Making Headlines!

The Arc of Illinois has been advocating for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for 60 years. Right now, there is discussion in Illinois surrounding government-run institutions for individuals with I/DD. Governor Pat Quinn has the opportunity to improve the lives of people with I/DD in his state by moving away from institutions and toward community based care.

After a visit with the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board, the Executive Director of The Arc of Illinois Tony Paulauski shared today the results – an editorial that advocates for this shift. We are sure that many people will gain a better understanding about the challenges the I/DD community faces from this editorial.

The Arc of Indiana and Peter Berns Talk About The Arc’s New Brand

The Arc of Indiana Logo imageJust 14 days ago, The Arc launched a new brand. Many of our chapters have embraced the new look and feel, and generated lots of excitement around its official unveiling Match 1st.

Just one of those chapters is The Arc of Indiana. Be sure to check out the new look on its website, and listen to the interview Michelle Fischer did with The Arc’s CEO Peter Berns.

Berns talks about The Arc, its brand and the story behind our new look.

The Arc’s New Brand is Sweeping the Country

The Arc of New Jersey unveils a new lobby sign

The Arc of New Jersey unveils their new lobby sign featuring the new logo.

It’s an exciting time for The Arc’s national office as well as nearly 200 Chapters of The Arc nationwide that are rolling out our new brand identity in March. The Arc has already attracted considerable attention for the new brand through the efforts of our Chapters in their communities. The Arc of Baltimore, The Arc of Oakland County and The Arc of Anchorage are just a few Chapters who are sporting the new brand on their websites. And, those Chapters plus The Arc of Palm Beach County and The Arc of Atlantic County among others received favorable press upon announcing the new brand to the media. Many Chapters launched the brand in conjunction with the promotion of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month such as The Arc of York County and The Arc of the Mid South.

The Arc of New Jersey held an Open House attended by New Jersey State Senator Bob Smith and proudly showed off Sam Jenkins and the Adrian-Hage family who are the viral stars of The Arc’s new PSAs (check them out on our Website, www.thearc.org), and The Arc of the St. Johns kicked off a broad ad campaign in northeast Florida. Disability Scoop and Ability Magazine both covered the national announcement. And, our brand consultants, Corebrand, even attracted attention for us within the design industry with www.dexigner.com covering the work they did on our behalf.

The excitement is evident in the chatter here on the blog and our social media pages with supporters congratulating us on a bold step forward for the organization. This just goes to show what an organization can do when they rely on the strength of their collective voice. We’re proud to be able to unite hundreds of Chapters across the country and our army of supporters under the banner “Achieve with us!”

Want to get on the bandwagon? Donate, volunteer or join The Arc and help us make a difference in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Children Should Not be Budget Cuts, Minnesota Rallies to Keep Personal Care Assistance

The Arc of Minnesota Steve Larson image

The Arc of Minnesota's Steve Larson.

Hundreds of advocates descended on the State Capitol in St. Paul Minnesota to protest a “cuts only” approach to balancing the state budget. Most at stake are ongoing cuts to the state’s personal care assistance (PCA) program. “We have got to really look at what the impact is, not only fiscally, but on human life.”

Pat Mellenthin, Executive Director of The Arc of Minnesota is on the frontlines and urged lawmakers to look beyond the hard numbers.

“The PCA provides in-home care for people with disabilities to live independently,” she said. “I think we’ve got to really look at how we can get better at serving people who have needs – not just cutting for the sake of cutting, which helps no one and oftentimes cost us more in the long run.”

Minnesota’s assessment for eligibility went into effect last year and since then, more than 4,800 individuals had their PCA hours reduced and even eliminated. Come July 2011, stricter eligibility requirements will commence and an additional 2,200 individuals – mostly children – will face the elimination of their PCA support.

For parents of children with special needs in Minnesota, the future is uncertain. Parent Betsy Davis adopted four special needs children and is in the process of adopting two others. Davis was confident and had been assured that her children would receive the services they needed, but last year, her two oldest sons’ PCA hours were cut by half.

Davis anticipates further cuts, saying “They’re taking money away from the most vulnerable children that we have to take care of, and that’s not the place to cut money; that’s not the place to make budgets balance. Children should not be budget cuts.”

Image courtesy of The Arc of Minnesota.

Transit Cuts in LA Hit People with I/DD

When The Arc Baton Rouge Executive Director Barry Meyer learned that the Baton Rouge Metro Council was considering a vote cutting services and raising prices, he was stunned. Meyer knew that cuts would severely impact people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Cuts to services and raised fares would hit those that relied on these services most.

The Capital Area Transit System (CATS) faces a $1.2 million budget shortfall.  After three decades of providing transportation to Baton Rouge, CATS said it has no choice but to cuts services and raise prices.

Advocates Make the Difference

Thanks to advocates like The Arc Baton Rouge and other citizens, CATS bus fares will not be increased and routes will not be eliminated in February.   While the service will continue for the short term, rejecting the money-saving measures means that the CATS bus system may shut down in October.

The Metro Council recently voted 7-5 in support of a motion to reject the service changes.  Meyer knew there would be hardship for those that rely on the bus, especially for employment, medical appointments and more.  When he first learned of the proposals, Meyer said, “I was thinking maybe as much as 20 percent, but the initial proposal was a 128 percent increase in current rates,” he said.

For those that depend on the CATS system, like Lynette Williams, a resident of Baton Rouge with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair, a change in fare and services would significantly change how she gets to work.

For Bobby Martin who works with Williams at Metro Enterprises in Baton Rouge, where he’s been employed for 38 years, says without CATS, he would lose his job.  Martin’s aide noted that, “Bobby’s parents are both in their 80’s and they can’t do his drive.”

Currently, a one-way ticket on CATS is $1.75 for individuals covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Under the new proposal, the price would be $4 for the same ticket.

The Arc of Indiana Assails Budget Cuts

Indiana State Capitol Building imageWith 2011 barely a month old, advocates in Indiana reeled from incoming reports that Indiana’s budget crunch has become so severe that some state workers suggested to families that they leave their family members with disabilities at homeless shelters.

While the Indiana Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services (BDDS) officially said this is not the agency’s policy, parents were told this was one option when families can no longer care for children at home and have not received Medicaid waivers that pay for services that support individuals living independently.

While news reports said that “there have been no confirmed cases of families dumping severely disabled people at homeless shelters because Indiana wouldn’t provide the care needed,” advocates received conflicting reports.  Kim Dodson, Associate Executive Director of The Arc of Indiana asserted that reports had been received of state workers in several BDDS’s eight regional offices steering families to take adults with disabilities to homeless shelters.

Funding at Risk Across the Country

From coast to coast, funding for basic services is at risk and thousands will continue to be hit hard.  Advocates know more budget cuts undermine the ability of an individual to make choices about where they live, work and enjoy the freedom to live independently.  As one disability advocate said, “the bottom line is that the more budget cuts we endure, the more our civil rights are reduced.”

Waiting lists for waivers in Indiana is 10 years and The Arc of Indiana has been vigilant in addressing the needs of thousands currently on the list.  In late 2010, The Arc of Indiana kicked off its next phase of the Pathways Campaign – a collaborative effort to redefine Indiana’s system of programs and services for people with developmental disabilities.

“With waiting lists now reaching over 20,000 people,” said John Dickerson, Executive Director of The Arc of Indiana, “the wait for too many families remains too long.”  In working for systems change through the Pathways Campaign, “we remain committed to advocating for and working with the state to move as many people as possible off waiting lists each month, and to providing Medicaid waivers to those facing emergency, crisis or an end to school aged residential programs.”

Recently, Dickerson was featured in PBS’ Need to Know addressing What Happens When Care Runs Out?  With thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities sitting on waiting lists, this has reached a crisis point in communities across the country.

Image courtesy of Flickr user nicholascollins.