Saturday, October 15, 2016

VOR and YOU : Fighting for a full range of services and against "one-size-fits-all"

VOR is a national organization advocating for a full range of services and residential options to meet the needs of people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD). This is from the VOR Weekly News Update from October 14, 2016, providing information on some of the issues that VOR has been following in recent months. The VOR Weekly News Update is one of the benefits of membership in VOR.

VOR and YOU -  Background on Connecticut and Ohio, Sheltered Workshops

Over the past weeks, VOR has printed several stories on changes to the DD Services system in Connecticut, on our concerns regarding a lawsuit in Ohio, and on protecting sheltered workshops. Many of you understand these stories, and why we take the positions we do, but for those who need it, I'd like to provide a little background. 

In Connecticut, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) covers all services in the state, both private and state-run. There are few ICF-level beds [Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual disabilities] in the private facilities. Most are in congregate care facilities operated by the state, including Southbury Training School, and five regional centers. Two of these regional centers are slated to be shut down by January, 2017. 

Admissions to the state's ICF's have been closed since the mid-1990's, and the forces of "one-size-fits-all" have been working hard to move everyone to the community.

But it doesn't stop there. The governor has recently declared a budget emergency, and decided that one large chunk of cutbacks will come by cutting services to CT's most vulnerable. Over the past ten years, one way the DDS has managed to persuade people to exit ICF's has been to transfer staff and peers from a state-run ICF to a state-run group home, keeping people together along with their unionized caregivers, many of whom have been with them for more than a decade. Now the state wants to privatize the homes, remove the caregivers and replace them with workers who are paid less, who many claim are not as well trained and more likely to leave within a year or two. Needless to say, families feel the state has betrayed them. VOR supports the families who want to maintain a full range of residential options, and we ask the Governor to look elsewhere to balance the state's budget.

In Ohio, it's not a matter of public vs. private facilities. The majority of ICF's in the state are private, and Ohio has a strong system of ICF level care. Unfortunately, it has not met the needs of those on the waiting lists who would prefer to live in HCBS waiver group homes. Now, the forces of "one-sizism" are working to grow the group home system at the expense of the people living in ICF's, rather than trying to provide appropriate levels of service to all people with I/DD as needed. They have filed a lawsuit that is remarkably similar to the Ligas case from a few years back that took place in Illinois. Many VOR supporters remember that one. It lasted for years, and required a lot of time, money, and resources from people who wanted to keep ICF-level services viable in Illinois. The suit was finally settled a few years ago, with a victory for our side. 

This new lawsuit, Ball v. Kasich, looks as though the same people have moved a few hundred miles to try to do the same thing to the good people of Ohio, only this time they hope not to make the same mistakes they made in Illinois. VOR supports the families of Ohio who wish to protect the vital services that protect and provide for their loved ones. [See the website for the Ohio Disability Advocacy Alliance]

This brings us to sheltered workshops. Most VOR members do not have loved ones who participate in sheltered workshops. Why should we care? This isn't our issue.

Well, VOR doesn't fight on an issue by issue basis. We fight for principles. The principle that defines maintaining sheltered workshops is similar to the principle of fighting for a full range of residential services. One size does not fit all. We support a full range of employment options, providing meaningful activity and services and measured compensation for all levels. We support competitive employment, employment training and recruitment services, and sheltered workshops and farms and hope that these outlets are available to each and every person according to their level of ability and comfort. 

I hope this explains a little more about us, about who we are and why we do what we do. I hope this helps you to see the connections between the stories we present in our Weekly Updates.

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