Still no budget in sight…
Published Feb. 16, 2012
February 10, 2012
Little is known about what the Senate and House budget proposals will contain in cuts to services for people with developmental disabilities, or anyone else. We are still hearing that no proposals will be released until after the revenue forecast is released on February 16th. In addition, the revenue bills being proposed do not seem to be moving, especially since they will require a two-thirds vote in order to pass. Legislators are talking about sending a revenue package to voters, as that would only take a majority vote, but no agreement has been reached on what the revenue package should contain. Even if a package were sent to voters in April, there is no guarantee that it would pass. There is even the possibility that the Legislature could adjourn on March 9th with no supplemental budget in place. They could wait until after voters have their say on a revenue package in an initiative in April, then come back in May for a special session to finalize an all cuts budget or one that can take into account additional revenue (if approved by voters). Time is running short as the legislative session ends on March 9th. Calls for advocates to act will need to be sent with very little notice, making your voice more important than ever before!
Don’t Cut Our Lifeline! Advocacy Day for Medicaid services.
Last week at Advocacy Day was focused on Medicaid services and the Don’t Cut Our Lifeline campaign to save them. Medicaid services such as Medicaid Personal Care (MPC), Home and Community Based Services Waivers (which include employment and residential services), prescription drugs and dental services are all on the chopping block. In addition, a thousand families could lose all of their respite services, (from the Individual and Family Services or IFS program) taking the one small thing that keeps them from having to place their loved one out of their home. This would add 1,000 people to the huge wait list for services that we already have, as 13,600 people already qualify for services from the Division of Developmental Disabilities, but get nothing.
We had two speakers at that Advocacy Day who shared some very important information. Debbie Roberts talked about MPC services and the fact that no one yet knows what the proposed changes to eligibility that are being suggested would mean; no idea of how many would lose services or have their hours reduced. An important change has already happened though. As of February 7th DSHS used emergency rulemaking to eliminate add-on hours for off-site laundry or shopping that is more than 45 minutes away. It also reduced hours through a shared benefit (meal preparation, housework and essential shopping) adjustment. This change meant a loss of services for 1,300 clients. SEIU 775 filed a lawsuit on February 1st to stop this change from being implemented, as it did not give proper notice or allow public comment. We will keep you posted on the outcome of this.
The other information you should be aware of came from Gail Kreiger who works for the Health Care Authority (HCA). She reminded us that all Medicaid services are administered through HCA now. Although DDD still does the assessments that determine the number of hours you qualify for, HCA actually administers all the Medicaid programs. In addition, as of July 1, 2012 all children who are on Medicaid will be in a managed care plan. That means you will need to sign up for a provider and you will get your services from the providers in that company. It would be good for families to start talking to their doctors now, to ensure that they get signed up with one of the managed care providers that the state has contracted with.
Employment services gets its Advocacy Day.
This week supported employment services were the topic of conversation. Over a hundred advocates descended on Olympia to let legislators know how important their employment services are to them. It was important to educate law makers about the benefit of having a job to people with developmental disabilities (as proclaimed by the “Payday” candy bars delivered to each legislator), but also to show the benefit of those jobs to the state. For every $1 spent on employment services, the state gets a return of $1.46!
The added surprise for some Advocacy Day attendees was being able to sit in the gallery overlooking the Senate floor and watch SB 6384 be passed unanimously by the Senators. After the bill had passed, the Senate recognized advocates for their work by Senators on the floor giving them a standing ovation!
Keep reminding legislators that in a time when we need to be creating jobs, cutting these lifeline services would mean that the adult who loses their job supports could lose their job, their employment support staff would lose their job, employment agencies could go out of business and so on. The same is true for residential supports. People with supported living services provided through their waiver could be left homeless, their providers would be out of a job, agencies could go out of business, etc. In a time when they want to create jobs, they would be destroying jobs!
To see the budget side-by-side go to www.arcwa.org/takeaction then click on Budget Information. The chart currently shows the Governor’s budget proposal, but House and Senate proposals should be out soon.
Bills of Interest – many have now died in their committees, some still move on.
The deadline for bills to get passed from their policy committee has now come and gone. Those that did not pass (or get exec’d) from their policy committee are now dead. This week the deadline for bills to pass out of their fiscal committee also passed. The bills that have made it this far now need to be passed on the floor of their House of Origin by this Tuesday at 5 pm or they will die (unless they are determined to be NTIB or Necessary To Implement the Budget).
SB 6162, concerning the Endangered Missing Persons Advisory, passed from its committee and is in Senate Rules where it waits to be sent to the Senate floor for a full vote. Then it will move to the House committees to go through the process on that side of the legislature. The EMPA is intended for use when a child or an adult is missing is believed to be in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, in combination with environmental or weather conditions, or is believed to be unable to return to safety without assistance. Safety in children’s products (SB 6120) is also waiting to be passed in the Senate and move to the House. This bill would have required companies that use the Tris chemical, a harmful flame retardant, to begin using one of the alternative chemicals that is not harmful to children. The bill lost a lot of its purpose when amended in Ways and Means, but advocates intend to keep working on it as it goes through the process in the House. SB 6157 creates a detention intake and risk assessment standards for juveniles with developmental disabilities and is also sitting in Senate Rules. The assessment for community residential providers (HB 2150) is waiting to go for a floor vote as well. SB 6384, an employment bill which allows people with a developmental disability to transition to community access after nine months in an employment program, if they choose to, passed the Senate and now moves on to the House. These bills, as well as some guardianship and vulnerable adult protection bills are still on their pathway to becoming law.
The Arc makes it easy for you to track bills and their status, as well as what hearings are happening during the week. You can always find the updated list at http://arcwa.org/takeaction and click on Budget Information and Bills of Interest or Legislative Hearings and Events.
Not only does the Bills of Interest document on our web site have bill numbers that are clickable links which take you to the Washington State Legislature page for that bill, the Legislature has also added a new feature to their bill pages in which you can click on a video link and it will take you to the TVW web site link for video of the hearings that have been held for that particular bill. In addition, you can sign up on the legislative page of the bill for the RSS feed. When you click on the RSS symbol it will sign you up to receive an email alert any time there is a change in the status of that bill.
What can you do now?
This year’s Independent Living Day Rally is Wednesday, February 22nd. This day provides the opportunity to help legislators understand the importance of funding services in our communities. Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities no longer want to be segregated, this is their day to educate lawmakers about why this is important to them. Providing these services in the community is also much less expensive than in our state institutions. The rally is sponsored by PAS-Port for Change (self advocates standing up for Personal Assistance Services).
For more information on Advocacy Day events visit http://arcwa.org/takeaction and click on Advocacy Day.
Stay connected during this critical time:
Read the Olympia Reporter for in-depth news happening in Olympia at http://arcwa.org/category/insider/C1
Subscribe to the Olympia Insider YouTube channel for video updates at http://arcwa.org/category/insider/C2
Sign up for Action Alerts at http://capwiz.com/arcwa/state/main/?state=WA This is The Arc of Washington’s Advocacy web page where you can view Action Alerts, learn the status of bills during session and much more.
Be sure to follow TheArcofWA on Twitter for quick updates texted to your cell phone. http://twitter.com/arcofwa
Become a fan of The Arc - Washington State on Facebook for interactive conversations and information.
“Like” the Don’t Cut Our Lifeline! Facebook page with discussions about all of the cuts proposed to Medicaid, both at state and federal levels.
Follow blog postings on Remarks from The Arc, read perspectives from various advocates on the issues of concern.
Get the Advocacy Partnership Project “News to Know” email newsletter. Email a request to join to Diana@arcwa.org.
Write Letters to the Editor of your local newspaper. The Arc makes this easy for you to do. Simply go to http://capwiz.com/arcwa/home and click on the “Media Guide” tab. Choose five newspapers to send to, then write your message and click send.
Questions? Need more information? Email me at Diana@arcwa.org.
Remember, change is being made by those who show up!