Public Policy Priorities: Council Outlines 2016 Points of Emphasis

Public Policy means the laws, regulations and funding priorities that impact people’s lives.

One of the great things about living in a democracy is that we all have opportunities to impact public policy.

Each year, CCDD promotes Public Policy Priorities that reflect our commitment of ensuring people with disabilities have the opportunity to live full and rich lives.

These provide the focus of our work throughout the year. We invite you to join us in working on these priorities, too.

This year is an especially exciting time.

There are several new federal laws that provide opportunities for Kentucky to make systemic changes promoting inclusion in the community and workforce.

Understanding current and proposed changes related to disability policies gives us the chance to make our voices heard by policymakers about what is important to us and our families.

CCDD’s priorities for 2016 are:

Implement the ABLE Act (Achieving a Better Life Experience) in Kentucky.

  • In Kentucky, there are monetary limits on the amount individuals with disabilities can save without affecting critical benefits such as Medicaid.
  • The U.S. Congress passed the ABLE Act, giving states the opportunity to establish state programs allowing ABLE accounts that resemble education savings accounts (or “529 accounts”).
  • Legislation is being considered by the Kentucky General Assembly in 2016, so now is a great time to speak up about this issue.

Promote systemic changes that increase meaningful employment of individuals with developmental disabilities (DD) in integrated settings.

  • Too many people with disabilities in Kentucky are not working in real jobs of their choosing alongside both people with and without disabilities for at least minimum wage.
  • Day programs and sheltered workshops should not be long-term placements for anyone who could work for a real wage with appropriate supports.
  • With the new federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA), state agencies, community partners and advocates are ready to make real changes to the education and employment systems in the state to support more meaningful jobs for people with developmental disabilities.
  • Each year, Kentucky misses out on federal funding for the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and Office for the Blind because of a lack of state matching funds.
    It is imperative that Kentucky fully fund the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and Office for the Blind to ensure that they can provide employment supports to promote integrated, competitive employment for all Kentuckians.
  • The CCDD will work together with other state and national partners to achieve this goal by actively engaging in research, education and advocacy.

Ensure Medicaid Waivers promote better community living.

  • Medicaid Waiver programs are undergoing many changes. Policy makers and people who use these waivers may not fully understand the impact of the changes and/or how to have input on pending changes. Individuals and families, particularly those new to the waiver programs, need more consistent and accurate information.

    Two of the biggest concerns are:

  • Long Waiting Lists. More than 6,600 people are currently on waiting lists for Medicaid Waivers. Without waivers to help them access services in their communities, many people remain confined in institutions or in their homes without access to services that will allow them to participate in their communities.
  • Shifting Employment Costs to Individuals with Disabilities. The “Participant-Directed Option” enables individuals to have more control in their lives by directing certain aspects of their personal care. Unfortunately, employment-related costs are being shifted to individuals who choose the PDO model.
    Unless action is taken, 14,700 individuals with disabilities will be required to pay for employment-related costs (including three background checks, drug screening, TB screening & CPR/First Aid training).
    This cost (which can be over $700 per employee) will create barriers to using this option. Other models are both more restrictive and more expensive.
  • Though there are information manuals and training available for agency personnel, support brokers and case managers, many people are concerned that these resources are not being effectively utilized because there is limited mandated training.
    The CCDD is committed to working with other community partners to ensure that consumers are informed about services that allow them to live vital, self-determined lives in an inclusive community.

    Engage stakeholders to promote more equitable, inclusive education that will ensure a more meaningful exit from high school into postsecondary education and/or competitive, integrated employment.

  • Students exiting high school without traditional diplomas are limited in choices regarding post-secondary education and employment.
    Families may not always understand the impact of participating in alternate assessments.
  • The opportunity to participate in meaningful employment in an inclusive setting should be an option for all people with appropriate support.
    With the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), there is good momentum to improve outcomes for all students.
  • As discussion about School Choice in Kentucky gains momentum, it will be important to continue to ensure that all students have access to an appropriate education in an inclusive environment.
  • The CCDD will be actively involved with advocacy groups and agency partners in promoting opportunities for all students.

CCDD’s Policy Agenda will include the following emerging issues:

  • A lack of medical providers for adults with developmental disabilities.
  •  Issues related to appropriate services for people who are medically fragile.
  • Support research, education and legislation related to medical cannabis.