Choosing Between Vital Parts is a Losing Proposition for I/DD

When it comes to full lives for Oregonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities, we want it all.  As a member of the Oregon I/DD Coalition, OSSA helped to identify four top priorities for the 2015 legislative budgeting session.  These four priorities, together, represent a pathway to richer lives for Oregonians with I/DD.  The four priorities are:

  • DSP Wages: Raise the wage for Direct Support Professionals.
  • Brokerage and CDDP Workload Model Budget:  Fund workload model at proposed 95% equity for CDDPs and Brokerages.
  • Fairview Trust:  Keep the promise of community housing opportunities for people with IDD and restore the Fairview Trust.
  • Employment: Continue funding to improve employment outcomes for people with IDD.

These priorities are listed in no particular order, for one very important reason: we cannot possibly weight one over the other if we are truly in support of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Together, these elements of community employment, quality support professionals, community housing, and high-quality case management work together in a person’s life.  Each makes the other possible.

When I think about trying to prioritize our four adopted budget goals, it seems to me that I’d be choosing between the “neck” of the system (our case management force, connecting people to vital resources) or the “head” of the system (the resources people need to create full lives).  The head will not prosper without a neck; employment services, housing services, and provider organizations will not prosper without a strong case management force to navigate people to engage with them.  Likewise, the neck is pointless without a head; case management services are pointless without the employment, housing, and provider resources to which we can direct customers.  Choosing between vital parts is a losing proposition for the I/DD body.

(public domain source)

(public domain source)

Choosing between equally critical services, or offering one to be cut over another, is a non-starter for the OSSA.  However, this does not mean that OSSA is unwilling to engage in the process of tough decision-making, should it be required at DHS.  The Office of Developmental Disabilities has new, dedicated, and promising leadership in Director Lilia Teninty.  We do not ask her to make hard decisions in a vacuum, but instead are willing to provide important education on the impacts and ramifications of various options as they are considered.  We do not wish to instruct, but we are happy to support, the budgeting activities of ODDS.

OSSA sees an incredible opportunity at hand for the many components of the Oregon I/DD community to develop a strong, cohesive presence at the capitol.  Our strength is in the purity of our collective goal: to promote quality service and supports which respectfully further the rights, equality, justice, and inclusion for all Oregonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

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The Time for Advocacy is Now!

Distressing news out of the capitol: lawmakers may be looking to cut $140 million from human services in order to fund a budget “hole.”  The question is, what does a $140 million cut to human services look like?  Though plan hours are not likely to be cut, vulnerable areas include provider pay rates and Brokerage funding for Personal Agents.  Brokerage Personal Agents and direct support providers have worked to implement dozens of system changes over the past two years.  With these changes has come a lot of additional workload and responsibilities, which is already cutting into the bottom line: time spent with Brokerage customers.  Any reduction in funding is going to cut further into that time.

The sun is shining on lawmakers at Oregon's Capitol Building.

The sun is shining on lawmakers at Oregon’s Capitol Building.

Now is the perfect time to flex your advocacy muscles.  Advocacy is defined as “the act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy,” and if you’re a human, chances are you’ve been engaging in advocacy your entire life.  Some people are certainly more comfortable speaking their minds than others.  The trick to being a good advocate isn’t about becoming a perfect speaker, it’s about finding the right message for you.  When you find a cause or idea that is true to your heart and soul, you will find that the words flow much more easily.

How have your Brokerage services helped you to live the life that you choose?  Please call, email, or visit your state representatives and senators, and let them know how important your Brokerage services are to you!  For more information, check out the Oregon I/DD Coalition’s special bulletin on the current need for advocacy.  You can find your legislators, and see the list of legislators on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services, the joint committee in charge of making legislative budget recommendations.  You can also get talking points and more information about each of the Coalition’s four priorities: Employment, restoring the Fairview Housing Trust, raising DSP wages, and funding Brokerage and county case management at 95%.  Each of the four priorities were selected because they fund the cornerstones of a full and meaningful life in Oregon’s communities.
Even small cuts to the 95% Case Management funding mean losses for Brokerages from last biennium, at a time when workload has greatly increased.  Let your legislators know that overworked/underfunded PAs mean that you can’t get the services you want, when you want them.  Urge them to fund the Workload Model for Brokerages and counties at 95%!