Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What does it take to end discrimination?

RCIL provided testimony last week at the State Budget Hearing held in Utica by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi on Governor Cuomo’s proposed 2012 Budget. With an emphasis on reducing spending through Medicaid and other reforms, we focused on how legislation called the Integrated Services Bill,  could save the state approximately 3.4 billion by shifting individuals with disabilities from institutional settings to community-based life.  According to Donna Gillette, Policy Analyst at RCIL, “New York is still out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act that directs states to provide services in the least restrictive or most integrated setting appropriate to meet people’s needs.” The current Medicaid program still funds failed, outdated programs for individuals with disabilities in institutional settings.  The Medicaid Redesign Team created by Governor Cuomo has failed to require these practices to end.

RCIL has proposed the use of the Integrated Services Bill as the perfect tool for the state to implement the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision in New York and highlighted by Governor Cuomo in his State of the State address earlier this year. The Olmstead Decision was a landmark case that directed states to serve individuals with disabilities in ways that did not unnecessarily segregate them or institutionalize them. The Integrated Services Bill previously passed in the state’s Senate and Assembly, yet Governor Paterson vetoed the bill in 2008 because he believed a state council that was already working on these issues would propose their own legislation or action.  The Council, called the Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC), has failed to demonstrate true reform reiterating the need for the legislature and the Governor to pass the Bill now.

Assemblyman Brindisi has agreed to work with RCIL and the legislature to build support for the Bill in 2012 so that it will be reintroduced and sent to Governor Cuomo to be signed.  As Medicaid Reform in New York State moves disability populations to managed care, it is essential that we protect consumer-directed models of care within the new structure.  Without having legislation that gives people the choice of where to receive services and presumes that everyone can benefit from community life, segregation will continue.  This bill will provide the framework that is vital in assuring that providers who benefit from keeping people segregated, can no longer do so.  Recent investigative reporting in the New York Times has shown the rampant abuse and death of individuals with cognitive disabilities residing in institutional settings across the state.  There are 135,000 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities currently being served through the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, many of whom could and should be living in their own apartments or homes in the community.

The Integrated Services Bill would finally give people the choice they’ve never had to direct their lives and their futures. Without it, the equality we’ve been fighting for will remain elusive.  For more information on the bill and how to get involved in transforming the way government does business, contact Donna Gillette at extension 2981.

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