Families, advocates, and people with intellectual and developmental across New York State are urging State legislators and Gov. Cuomo to include adequate funding in the New York State Budget to meet the critical need for supports and services for people with developmental disabilities.
Chapters of NYSARC, Inc., a statewide organization supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are working to bring to the public’s attention the difficulties families already encounter when trying to access services.
“Changes in government policy will only make the situation worse for families,” says Mike Doherty, executive director of the Chemung County Chapter of NYSARC. “In November 2014 bills that were approved by the State Senate and Assembly were sent to the Governor’s Office and seen as essential to address the growing waiting list of people living at home who need residential services and other supports. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed those bills.”
Jeannette Frank, executive director of the Schuyler County Chapter of NYSARC reiterated disappointment in the Governor’s vetoes.
“Many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live at home with their families and their parents are their primary caretaker,” Frank said. “As children age out of school the whole family loses support networks the school once provided. In order to receive support that continues into adulthood, the family needs to have their child with special needs qualify through the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities’ “Front Door”. Once qualified, the options being offered to families are being limited. Families are understandably under a lot of stress because of the speed at which the State is trying to transform the system.”
NYSARC officials are calling for more attention and resources for appropriate housing options, training and maintaining professional direct support staff, and expanded opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to lead a fulfilling life.
Tom and Nancy Ruda are parents who think outside the box and with two adult daughters who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, they have to.
Tom and Nancy’s oldest daughter Katie is 35 and lives with them at their home in Watkins Glen, NY. In addition to an intellectual disability, Katie has significant medical needs and relies on her parents for support. “She used to be able to cook for herself, but now she gets confused and I have to give her instructions on simple steps and tasks like how to boil potatoes,” Nancy said.
“I have to fill her medications and if we don’t help her, she’ll take the wrong one,” Tom added. Katie had been self-sufficient for years, but her parents recognize that her body is aging rapidly and her memory is fading.
The Arc of Schuyler is utilizing a $10,000 NYSARC Trust grant to support innovative recreational programs related to technology and the arts for the people it supports.
The Arc offers daily technology classes where people learn how to use iPads and apps for both education and recreation. People also attend WiFi Wednesday technology workshops to access the internet and learn how to use agency or personal tablets, laptops, and other devices. The purchase of additional iPads, apps, and adaptive equipment has created fun learning opportunities and allowed more people to be involved. Read More about this.
The Arc also offers arts programs through the Franklin Street Gallery in Watkins Glen. New equipment and supplies have expanded opportunities for participants to experiment with diverse art mediums, interact with new artist instructors, and share learning experiences in inclusive classes and workshops with members of the community.
NYSARC Trust Services Board approved a remainder fund grant of $10,000 per chapter to provide recreational opportunities for people they support. Remainder fund grants totaling $1,660,500 were awarded to support NYSARC guardianship programs statewide. A total of $2,207,880 in remainder grants were awarded in 2014 to support recreation and guardianship statewide.
The Arc of Schuyler was featured in the Winter 2014-15 issue of Apostrophe Magazine a nationally distributed publication that promotes inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The photos and stories in Apostrophe Magazine show people achieving independence, contributing to their communities, enjoying life. The article is below; you can also find it on pages 54-55 of the magazine.
New York Chapter of The Arc Helps Narrow Digital Divide
Computer technology and the Internet are critical tools to access information, employment, educational, social, and civic opportunities. Unfortunately, people with disabilities are too often left behind when it comes to access and education about advancing technology. The Arc of Schuyler in Watkins Glen and rural upstate New York recognized that for the people it supports to be wholly included in their communities, it needed to provide opportunities and appropriate supports and access for people to use technology.
The Arc of Schuyler is proud to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an annual campaign that takes place each October. The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities.
Volunteers from The Arc of Schuyler recently donated two hand painted rain barrels to community gardens in Montour Falls and Watkins Glen.
Both barrels were painted by people with developmental disabilities and college students during a workshop at The ARTS Experience, a festival celebrating inclusion and the arts at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Participants at the workshop learned about the environmental benefits of using rain barrels and painted several to be donated to community organizations in the region.
One of the barrels was gifted to the Schuyler County Cornell Cooperative Extension Teaching Garden at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities receiving supports through The Arc volunteer twice a week at the Teaching Garden, assisting Horticulture Program Educator, Roger Ort with planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting a variety of plant species.
As part of its Eat Smart Move More program, The Arc of Schuyler’s Health and Wellness committee is partnering with local organizations and individuals to coordinate trainings and other opportunities that focus on nutrition and physical activity. The program engages people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who receive supports through The Arc and employees.
- The Arc has partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension for its Nutrition Educator to provide staff training in balanced nutrition, safe cooking, and healthy meal planning.
- The Nutrition Educator has also been conducting Eat Smart NY lessons in basic cooking, food safety skills, weight control, and physical activity at The Arc’s community residences for people receiving supports.
- The Nutrition Educator will teach “smart shopping” to a group that includes people with developmental disabilities who live independently in the community and Arc staff. The program educates shoppers on how to choose nutritious foods and plan healthy meals.
NEW! New York State has developed a “transformation agenda” that places a new emphasis on self-directed services and providing supports in the most integrated settings for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As you may know, many of the services that The Arc of Schuyler provides are certified through the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). A broad scope of programs will be affected by the State’s transformation plans, including vocational and residential services, daytime activity programs, and in home supports. Some service options will be expanded and others will be restricted.
Not for profit agencies that provide services for people with developmental disabilities are tasked with the challenge of maintaining appropriate services in inclusive settings within a restricted fiscal environment. Fortunately, The Arc of Schuyler is well-positioned as a chapter of NYSARC, Inc., a statewide organization dedicated to providing supports to people with developmental disabilities and their families. NYSARC chapters are working through these challenges together and discussing areas where partnerships can help us provide quality services at lower costs. We continue to be creative and progressive in our approaches. Our community partnerships and fundraising efforts are growing and giving our organization a broad base of support.
This is the first in a series of communications that you will receive from The Arc regarding OPWDD’s redesign of supports and services for people with developmental disabilities. Our intent in each communication is to focus on an area of the OPWDD’s transformation plan and suggest possible impacts on local service options and choices for people with developmental disabilities and their families.
Our first subject is the “Front Door,” a new requirement by the OPWDD for accessing supports. Anyone interested in beginning to receive services must start the process by calling a regional “Front Door” representative at OPWDD’s Regional Services Office, who will guide individuals and families through the eligibility determination process and explain Home and Community Based Services. Once the Front Door process is complete, the enrollee and family may choose who in the community to work with for services. The Arc of Schuyler plans to remain a provider of choice for people with developmental disabilities and their families, and supports will continue to be available.
What is the Transformation Agenda?
The Transformation Agenda is New York State’s plan to overhaul the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). The primary goals of the Transformation Agenda are to:
- Expand supported housing and community-based services, creating opportunities for people to move into the most integrated settings possible.
- Increase people’s knowledge about self-direction and use of self-directed services.
- Expand employment and meaningful opportunities.
The Transformation Agenda anticipates that these priorities will be met through the implementation of both innovative strategies and managed care. Managed care plans for people with developmental disabilities are under development and could be available in our area starting in 2015.
What is the Front Door?
The Front Door incorporates the principles of self-determination, which include a person having meaningful relationships, good health, personal growth, living in a home of his/her choice and fully participating in the community.
Self-determination in terms of the Front Door may mean that interested persons receiving supports could manage or co-manage their personal budget, supports and services, and staff. The level of responsibility and self-advocacy for one’s own needs will be different for each person. Assistance from a service coordinator at The Arc of Schuyler would be available.
What are key components of the Front Door?
- Initial contact for those who are new or seeking to modify existing services
- Determining eligibility for services
- Strengths assessment
- Identifying support needs
- Plan authorization and implementation
Who will use the Front Door?
For new enrollees, the Front Door encompasses interactions with the OPWDD Regional Office from the point of contact through service authorization.
Why a Front Door?
The purpose of the Front Door is to create a consistent approach for people with disabilities across the state to access, continue, or modify services. The intent is to:
- Improve the way people find out about OPWDD and their service options.
- Help people connect to the services that best address their needs.
- Give people as many opportunities as possible to direct their own supports and services.
- Build consistency in statewide application of policies and practices, experiences for people receiving supports, and communication.
- New people interested in services should call the Front Door Regional Services number: 855-679-3335
- To read the Transformation Agenda in full, please click the image below.