West Virginia, National Disability Advocacy Groups File Complaints Alleging Systemic Disability Discrimination in Kanawha County Schools

Washington, DC – Local and national disability advocacy organizations have filed three complaints with the West Virginia Department of Education alleging widespread failures by Kanawha County Schools (KCS) to educate children with disabilities, including autism, intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health concerns, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Specifically, the groups assert that KCS—the public school district serving Charleston, West Virginia’s state capital, and its environs—has failed to provide behavioral and academic supports to students with disabilities and are instead segregating them into separate schools and classrooms, or sending them home because KCS schools will not educate them. The advocates—Disability Rights of West Virginia, Mountain State Justice, The Arc, and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, along with the global law firm Latham & Watkins LLP—allege that KCS has violated federal laws protecting students with disabilities.

“Students with disabilities and behavioral support needs can thrive in school, graduate with diplomas, and transition to successful adulthood provided they receive the appropriate supports to which they are entitled under federal law. It is critical that KCS take responsibility for teaching all of its students, not just some,” said Jeremiah Underhill, Legal Director of Disability Rights of West Virginia.

As described in the complaints, scores of children with disabilities enrolled in KCS have been separated unnecessarily from mainstream classrooms in their schools. Instead, the students are segregated for years in separate classrooms where they interact only with other students with disabilities, and receive an inferior education; placed on “homebound” status where they may only receive a few hours of tutoring each week; or suspended or even expelled from school for behaviors that are caused by their disabilities. The students are not receiving critical behavioral supports that can help them be successful in the general education classroom with their classmates without disabilities.

“It is heartbreaking to see KCS undermine the great potential of students with disabilities by failing to provide necessary supports and, ultimately, removing them from the classroom, causing them to miss vital instructional time and fall farther and farther behind academically and socially,” said Lewis Bossing, Senior Staff Attorney with the Bazelon Center.

Specifically, the complaints allege that KCS is: 1) violating the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by failing to provide children with disabilities with the special education they need to receive a “free appropriate public education” in the least restrictive environment; and 2) violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) by failing to educate children with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, and denying them equal educational opportunity.

“We are seeing KCS discipline students with disabilities with months-long homebound placements, out-of-school suspensions, and segregated placements in classrooms that resemble storage facilities rather than places of learning for ‘infractions’ as minor as touching another student with a plastic fork or refusing to get off the playground slide at the end of recess. Students are receiving behavior plans that take the form of rote checklists rather than the individualized guidance documents the IDEA requires to adequately support children to succeed in school,” said Shira Wakschlag, The Arc’s Director of Legal Advocacy & Associate General Counsel.

In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court held unanimously in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1 that the “IDEA demands more.” Specifically, the Court provided a new and more demanding standard for what schools must do to adequately educate students with disabilities, requiring that school districts provide “an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances” and provide students with disabilities the opportunity to meet “challenging objectives” with “appropriately ambitious” special education. For virtually all children, this means receiving instruction and services in the general education classroom, with appropriate supports, alongside students without disabilities. In addition, in 1999 in Olmstead v. L.C., the Court held that the ADA prohibits the needless isolation or segregation of people with disabilities. The ADA applies to public schools, which cannot unnecessarily segregate students with disabilities, nor deny them equal opportunities.

“We have long fought for students with disabilities throughout West Virginia to be educated in their neighborhood schools with appropriate services and supports. KCS’s systemic failures to support students with disabilities in the least restrictive, most integrated setting cannot be justified in light of recent and longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” said Lydia Milnes, an attorney with Mountain State Justice. “KCS must do much more to ensure that all its students with disabilities receive the education they need and to which they are entitled.”

“By failing to adhere to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, Kanawha County Schools is diminishing the ability of our clients to secure the education to which they are entitled by law,” said Michael Faris, Latham & Watkins partner. “We look forward to ensuring that the law is upheld.”

About Disability Rights of West Virginia

Disability Rights of West Virginia (DRWV) is the federally mandated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities in West Virginia. DRWV protects and advocates for the human and legal rights of persons with disabilities. To learn more, visit https://www.drofwv.org/.

About Mountain State Justice

Mountain State Justice is a non-profit legal services firm dedicated to redressing entrenched and emerging systemic social, political, and economic imbalances of power for underserved West Virginians, through legal advocacy and community empowerment offered regardless of ability to pay. To learn more, visit https://mountainstatejustice.org/.

About The Arc

The Arc is the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families. In partnership with its network of 650 chapters across the country, The Arc works to promote and protect the rights of people with I/DD to live, work, and learn in the community free from discrimination. To learn more, visit www.thearc.org.

About The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law is a national legal advocacy organization protecting and advancing the rights of people with mental disabilities. The Center promotes laws and policies that enable adults and children with mental disabilities to live independently in their own homes, schools, and communities, and to enjoy the same opportunities that everyone else does. To learn more, visit www.bazelon.org.

About Latham & Watkins LLP

Latham & Watkins LLP is global law firm with more than 2,700 lawyers located in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. For more information, please visit its website at www.lw.com.

The Arc to Host Environmental Risk Reduction Program

Washington, DC – The Arc is pleased to announce that it will host Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks), a collaborative of leading scientists, health professionals and children’s and environmental advocates that works to disseminate scientific information and raise awareness of the risks pregnant women and children face from chemicals and pollutants that harm brain development, and to eliminate disproportionate exposures to children of color and children in low-income communities.

Project TENDR was established in 2014 to address the unacceptably high-risk children in America face for disorders that affect the brain. Widespread exposures to toxic chemicals in our air, water, food, soil, and consumer products can increase children’s risks for cognitive and behavioral impairment, as well as specific disorders such as autism and ADHD. Although these complex disorders have multiple causes—environmental, genetic, and social—the contribution of toxic chemicals to these disorders can be prevented.  In its first five years, the project has developed a first-of-its kind scientific consensus statement which received coverage by the New York Times, CNN, NPR and hundreds of other media outlets; sponsored Congressional briefings; facilitated sign-on letters from scientists and health professionals on federal policy issues; and provided scientific evidence to state legislatures.

“The Arc is honored to host this unique initiative as it carries on our tradition of supporting research and advocacy. Every day, we are learning more about the harmful and lasting effects of environmental exposures on developing brains, many of which contribute to intellectual and developmental disabilities. Investigating the causes, avoiding those that are preventable, and limiting negative effects of conditions that cause intellectual and developmental disabilities will contribute to individual and family quality of life. Sadly, we also know that the service system for people with I/DD has never adequately met demand so we must do everything we can to prevent the harmful exposures in the environment that contribute to I/DD as well as fight for the supports and services needed by people with disabilities to live a full and inclusive life,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

Project TENDR is co-directed by Maureen Swanson, The Arc and Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor at the MIND Institute at UC Davis. It is funded by grants from the John Merck Fund, Ceres Trust, Passport Foundation, the Pediatric Epilepsy Research Foundation, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and other foundations.

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 600 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.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

Amended Budget Proposal Saves Special Olympics – But Not All the Other Disability Program Cuts

Washington, DC – This week, President Trump sent to Congress an amended budget proposal which included money for Special Olympics, reversing an attempt to cut the funding. However, many other cuts that could impact the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are still in the President’s budget request.

“Funding for the important work of Special Olympics has broad support in Congress and amongst the public. But so does funding for a host of other programs that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to thrive in the community.

“It’s not too late for the President to go further and reverse course on his proposal to cut Medicaid, the core program providing access to health care and home and community-based services for people with disabilities. Or his plan to impose work requirements to be eligible for the program. Or any of the other cuts proposed that could impact access to job training, maternal and child health, or caregiver support, to name a few.

“What we invest in reflects our values as a society. There’s a lot at stake for people with disabilities in the budget process in Washington, and there’s still time to make the right investments that keep up the progress we’ve made in access to services and supports across the lifespan, “said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc is particularly concerned about the proposed cuts to Medicaid, which come in the same form as those included in the 2017 proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cut and cap the Medicaid program. Congress rejected this in 2017, but the Administration proposed budget includes replacing both the Medicaid expansion and ACA subsidies with a block grant, and converting the rest of Medicaid into a per capita cap which would deeply cut the program and cap the amount of funding available. The end result of these proposals being put in place would be less money for states, restrictions on eligibility, cuts to services, and growing waiting lists.

The Arc has compiled information about the Administration’s budget request as it pertains to programs that provide services and supports for people with I/DD and their families.

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 600 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.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

The Arc Joins Appellate Court Amicus Brief Outlining Critical Importance of ACA for People with Disabilities

Washington, DC – The Arc has joined an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case Texas v. United States.  The brief supports the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and asks the Fifth Circuit to reverse a lower court ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas finding the law unconstitutional.

The brief outlines how the ACA has been essential to overcoming the disproportionate impact that America’s health care crisis has had on people with disabilities, and how it is uniquely difficult for people with disabilities to obtain affordable and adequate health insurance coverage despite depending on health care services more than those without disabilities.

“This phenomenon has resulted in the unjust reality that the individuals who need health care the most have the most challenging time obtaining it. Removing the ACA’s protections would reverse the gains that people with disabilities have realized since the ACA became law and return those with disabilities to a cruel reality in which affordable insurance lacks the breadth and depth of coverage for vital services and is difficult to obtain,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

Specifically, the brief explains how the ACA has expanded access to health insurance for people with disabilities by creating state-based marketplaces for private health insurance; expanding the scope and affordability of coverage by requiring health plans to offer certain essential benefits; prohibiting discrimination against individuals based on health status and exclusions on the basis of pre-existing conditions; and expanding eligibility for and the types of services covered by Medicaid. The brief argues that “declaring the ACA unconstitutional in its entirety will uniquely and extensively harm [the disability] community.”

“The ACA, which makes robust, affordable health care coverage possible for people with disabilities, is at risk in this lawsuit. We can’t go back to a time when people with disabilities and their families lived in fear of losing the coverage they had or went without access to the health care services that made life in the community possible. We remain committed to fighting for these rights for people with disabilities,” said Berns.

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 600 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.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

Special Olympics Saved – But What About All the Other Disability Program Cuts in President’s Budget?

Washington, DC – It’s budget season in Washington, DC, and there’s a lot at stake in the proposals for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). In the last few years, the Administration has consistently proposed cuts to programs that impact people with I/DD and their families. From home and community-based services in Medicaid, to imposing work requirements, to a planned and then scrapped attempt to slash funding for Special Olympics, this year’s budget request, if Congress were to enact legislation reflecting the President’s priorities, would be harmful to the lives of people with I/DD.

“If the Administration’s original budget request could cut $18 million from Special Olympics, which provides longstanding community benefit for thousands of people with disabilities, their families, and volunteers, then you should be asking yourself: what else is lurking in these proposals?

“Unfortunately, it’s the tip of the iceberg. The President’s budget proposes $2.7 trillion in cuts over 10 years. There are deep cuts to Medicaid on the table — the core program providing access to health care and home and community-based services for people with disabilities. The cuts come in the same form as those included in the 2017 proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cut and cap the Medicaid program. Congress rejected this in 2017, but the Administration proposed budget includes replacing both the Medicaid expansion and ACA subsidies with a block grant, and converting the rest of Medicaid into a per capita cap which would deeply cut the program and cap the amount of funding available. The end result of these proposals being put in place would be less money for states, restrictions on eligibility, cuts to services, and growing waiting lists.

“And once again, the budget proposes work requirements for Medicaid. Applying this policy would have devastating effects on health care coverage — particularly for people with complex health care needs, and likely many people with disabilities.

“What we invest in says a lot about our country and our values. We’ve come a long way in expanding disability rights and including people with disabilities in all aspects of the community, across the lifespan. We won’t go backwards and this budget request takes us in the wrong direction,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc has compiled information about the Administration’s budget request as it pertains to programs that provide services and supports for people with I/DD and their families.

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.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

The Arc Responds on Federal Court Ruling Striking Down Medicaid Work Requirements

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to the federal court ruling against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ approval of Medicaid waiver projects in Kentucky and Arkansas that include work requirements.

“We are glad that this ruling reaffirms what Medicaid is all about – health care for those who qualify, and access to services for millions of Americans with disabilities. Cutting off Medicaid won’t help anyone work. It’s a bad policy idea that just keeps coming back, and we encourage the Administration and leaders in the states considering work requirements to abandon it once and for all.

“Imposing work requirements on Medicaid recipients isn’t going to help anyone become more self-sufficient.  If anything, it will do the exact opposite.  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 prove each month that they meet complicated work rules, or are exempt, just makes it harder for people to qualify for these programs and access the services they need to be employed.  The policy serves no purpose other than to remove people from the Medicaid roles,” 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.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

Trump Administration 2020 Budget Request: Old Ideas and Big Cuts

Today, the Trump Administration released a budget request that if passed by Congress, would put the lives of people with disabilities at risk. The proposal includes deep cuts to Medicaid, the core program providing access to health care and home and community-based services for people with disabilities. The cuts come in the same form as those included in the 2017 proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cut and cap the Medicaid program. Congress rejected this in 2017, but the Administration proposed budget includes replacing both the Medicaid expansion and ACA subsidies with a block grant, and converting the rest of Medicaid into a per capita cap which would deeply cut the program and cap the amount of funding available. If enacted, states would receive less federal support to administer Medicaid, resulting in restricting eligibility, cuts to services, and growing waiting lists. Furthermore, it would not adjust to changes in health care, drug costs, aging of the population, or emergencies.

Not only would both a block grant or per capita cap harm people with disabilities, but the proposal also includes applying controversial and harmful work requirements across the country. Arkansas is the first state in the nation to take health care coverage away from people who don’t meet a work requirement. In the first seven months of implementation, more than 1 in 5 people subject to the policy lost their health care coverage. Applying this policy nationally, as the budget proposal would do, would have devastating effects on health care coverage — particularly for people with complex health care needs, and likely many people with disabilities.

Rhode Island Advocate to Testify in Congress on Impact of Restraint and Seclusion on Son with Autism

On Wednesday, February 27, Rhode Island advocate Renee Smith will testify in Congress before the U.S. House Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education hearing on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.

The hearing is titled “Classrooms in Crisis: Examining the Inappropriate Use of Seclusion and Restraint Practices”, and Smith was invited to testify because of her now eight-year-old child’s traumatic experiences in school. When Dillon, who has autism spectrum disorder, was in kindergarten and first grade, he and his parents struggled with the school administration for proper, positive supports for him. Restraint and seclusion were repeatedly used to manage Dillon’s behavior, despite the fact that his parents knew other positive methods would lead to a better outcome, and positive reinforcement was a part of the documented individualized education program (IEP) for Dillon with the school.

Far too many times, Dillon was restrained and dragged into the “blue space” – a walled and padded area, with a small opening with a pad cover to keep a child from leaving the space. Again and again, situations escalated to the point where 9-1-1 was called, and if Dillon’s parents didn’t arrive before the ambulance, he would be taken alone to the hospital. The repeated trauma of restraint and seclusion, the threat of going to the hospital, and continued interruptions to his education were having a major impact on Dillon and his family.

“Dillon’s work avoidance, we now know, was in direct reaction to the restraint and seclusion he was experiencing. The more he was restrained and secluded, the less he was interested in school work, which resulted in more restraint and seclusion, a constant downward spiral. It broke my heart when Dillon told us that he no longer trusted any of the adults in that school. Without the school working with us to change this dynamic, we had to do something – we found another public school with a different approach,” said Smith.

Dillon started fresh at a new school, where the behavior program allows children to float between a special education classroom and a regular education classroom for work. There are several cool down spaces and one open space within the office of the school behaviorist. Teachers provide positive reinforcement in their classrooms and one-on-one with their students. Within only two weeks of the new placement, Dillon was in a regular education classroom 100% of the time with supports.

“At his old school, Dillon was trying to communicate that the strategies used were not working for him and not allowing him to develop coping skills for the future. Today, Dillon is doing really well. With the proper supports, he has blossomed as a student and enjoys school,” said Smith.

The Arc Rhode Island (RI) Family Advocacy Network (FAN) recruited Smith to bring this perspective to the halls of Congress. The Arc RI FAN is a newly created office that will lead state-level public policy activities as well as provide training, public awareness and education, and grassroots advocacy building to protect the rights of Rhode Islanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The Arc has tapped Joanna Scocchi, founder of Rhode Island Advocacy for Children, as the Director. The Arc RI FAN joins a network of more than 620 state and local chapters of The Arc that provide direct support services and advocate for the rights of people with I/DD around the country.

“Dillon’s experience is horrifying, yet it’s happening in schools across Rhode Island and across the country. Nationally, students with disabilities are roughly 20 times more likely than their peers without disabilities to be restrained and secluded. Our kids deserve better – the approach to their education and the environment in which they learn are key ingredients to their success,” said Scocchi.

Supreme Court Reaffirms Commitment to Clinical Standards, Not Stereotypes, In Determining Intellectual Disability in Death Penalty Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a per curiam (published in the name of the Court rather than specific judges) opinion today reversing the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) and finding that Bobby Moore is a person with intellectual disability and his execution is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

“The Arc applauds the Court’s decision today which again embraces the standards-based approach in determining intellectual disability for which The Arc has long advocated. When it comes to matters of life and death, there is simply no room for courts to ground their determinations of intellectual disability in outmoded and baseless stereotypes. The Arc is grateful to the Court for taking a strong stance today to ensure that its precedent on this issue is properly interpreted in jurisdictions around the country,” said Marty Ford, Senior Advisor, The Arc.

This is the second time Mr. Moore has sought relief from the Supreme Court and won. In 2017, in the same case, the Court rejected Texas’ use of stereotypical and outdated factors—rather than well-established clinical standards—to determine intellectual disability in death penalty cases on the grounds that they “create an unacceptable risk that persons with intellectual disability will be executed.” The Court then sent the case back to the TCCA to determine whether Mr. Moore had intellectual disability in light of its opinion. Following the TCCA’s 2018 finding that he did not have intellectual disability, Mr. Moore again petitioned for Supreme Court review. Notably, the prosecutor in Mr. Moore’s case—the district attorney of Harris County—filed a brief in support of Mr. Moore noting that, in light of the Supreme Court’s 2017 opinion, Mr. Moore is an individual with intellectual disability who cannot be executed.

In its opinion today, the Court noted that “Moore has shown he is a person with intellectual disability” and that the most recent TCCA opinion must be reversed because it continued to exhibit “lay stereotypes” of people with intellectual disability despite the Supreme Court’s clear instruction to rely on well-established clinical standards instead. Chief Justice Roberts, in a concurring opinion, noted that while he still believes the original Moore opinion “lacked clarity,” “it is easy to see that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals misapplied it here…the court repeated the same errors that this Court previously condemned…” Justice Alito, joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch, dissented, noting that “The error in this litigation was not the state court’s decision on remand but our own failure to provide a coherent rule of decision in Moore.

The Arc filed amicus briefs on Mr. Moore’s behalf when he first went before the Supreme Court in 2016 and again when his case was remanded to the TCCA in 2017.

In its 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the special risk of wrongful execution faced by persons with intellectual disability and banned their execution as cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Subsequently, in Hall v. Florida (2014), the Court rejected an arbitrary cutoff for IQ scores in making the intellectual disability determination and emphasized the importance of courts consulting clinical standards in their analysis. The Court’s 2017 and 2019 decisions in Moore v. Texas have strengthened this precedent by emphasizing the need to rely on well-established clinical standards—rather than stereotypes—in making intellectual disability determinations in death penalty cases.

The Arc has deep sympathy for the family and friends of the victim in this case, and we supported appropriate punishment of all responsible parties. The Arc did not seek to eliminate punishment of Mr. Moore or others with disabilities, but rather, to ensure that justice is served and the rights of all parties are protected. The Arc is committed to seeking lawful outcomes for people with ID and will continue working to ensure that the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on this issue are abided by in jurisdictions across the country.

The Arc Responds to Three Month Extension of Money Follows the Person Passing Congress

Last week, the Medicaid Extenders Act of 2019 was signed by President Trump. A three-month funding extension for Money Follows the Person (MFP) was included in this bill. This program moves people with disabilities from institutions into the community by paying for programs not normally covered by Medicaid such as employment and housing services.

“Passage of this bill means individuals with disabilities who have been waiting to transition while funding for the MFP program was in danger, have the opportunity to move out of institutional settings and into the community. If the funding bill did not pass, MFP funds would have run out across the country. This is not only an investment in community-based services, but in the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It is a powerful testament to the value of this program that this legislation was passed so early this Congress, especially after the unsuccessful attempts to cut Medicaid by billions of dollars last Congress. This victory belongs to advocates nationwide who have been actively working to support people with disabilities to live in their communities.  We look forward to working with leaders in Congress who supported this legislation on a strategy for longer or permanent extension of MFP.” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.