First Thursday: Use Anniversaries to Encourage Change

Mark Johnson always reminds me not to let anniversaries and other dates go by without a reminder and connection to the present. For example, this year marks the 15th anniversary of the Olmstead decision – arguably one of the most important Supreme Court decisions as it relates to people with disabilities. Even today, Georgia is witnessing its impact as the Department of Justice works with the State to close our state-funded institutions. I know there have been problems and not everything has gone as it should have, but it is the right movement for the people who lived there and those at risk of being placed there.

One of the other things Johnson suggested is that we use these anniversaries as a way to encourage change. Click to tweet this!

Can you ask the governor or legislature to reach a benchmark by a certain date? For instance, we should ask Governor Deal to make sure that funding for long term care and supports is at least 50% allocated to home and community based services by the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

According to a recent report by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, Georgia currently spends 45.5% of its funds on home and community based services, so a 4.5% increase in one year does not seem that difficult, especially in light of Georgia already closing its public institutions.

Many of the national associations for organizations like GCDD have come together to create a set of goals for United States policy. This comes as next year will mark not only the 25th anniversary of the ADA, but also the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Six by 2015 campaign has established the following goals:

1. Six million working age adults with disabilities will be part of in the American workforce
2. At least six states will elect to implement the Community First Choice Option so that their Medicaid recipients with disabilities have access to long-term services and supports in the community
3. At least six additional states have at least 60 percent of their students with disabilities graduating with a regular high school diploma
4. At least six states commit to supporting successful and outcome-based programs and strategies for high school transition services and closing the labor force participation gaps for youth and young adults with disabilities
5. At least six states commit to including people with disabilities as an explicit target population in all state public health programs
6. At least six states increase by 15 percent the proportion of children ages 0-3 who receive recommended developmental screening

I know these sound ambitious especially in our state where there are so many issues, but I think these may be some goals that we can all get together on and ask our elected officials to make a commitment that by the 20th anniversary of Olmstead, Georgia is a state where we have doubled the number of people with disabilities who are in the workforce; we have implemented the Community First Choice Act, at least 60% of students with disabilities graduate with a regular high school diploma; there are increased programs targeting the health of people with disabilities; and, that 15 percent of children ages 0-3 receive developmental screens.

How about it – are you with me? Can we ask candidates as they run for office if they will work to achieve these goals over the next five years? Let me hear from you.

Eric Jacobson
Executive Director, GCDD

Tags: Advocacy, First Thursday, Olmstead