Policy

2024 Public Policy Platform

Our Mission:

“The Arc Maryland works to create a world where children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) have and enjoy equal rights and opportunities.”

 

2024 Priorities

I.  Funding for Developmental Disabilities Services and Supports

A rate study completed over a year ago showed there is a marked difference between the state budget allocation for Developmental Disabilities services and the amount of funding that is actually needed to ensure a fair, equitable, accessible, and quality system of community-based services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families.

The Department of Health committed to “phasing in” the increased funding needed in the system over time, but this plan is unacceptable.  Full funding of the rates is needed now.  People with IDD have languished on the DDA Waiting Lists for years!  People with disabilities and their families should not suffer, waiting for the state to provide adequate funding for these critical services, and should not have to experience instability of the Direct Support Professional workforce; unable to obtain a Provider for their needed services due to Providers’ inability to recruit and retain needed healthcare workers.[1]

[1] https://assets.constituentvoice.net/ancor/The-State-of-Americas-Direct-Support-Workforce-Crisis-2022.pdf

II.    Access to Developmental Disabilities Services and Supports

 

Examine statutes, waiver components, regulations, policies, procedures, and funding to advocate for changes that improve equity and access for people with IDD, especially individuals who speak languages other than English and individuals who have certain healthcare needs/community direct nursing services.

We are working to ensure that funding levels and policies improve and support access to services and choices of people with complex needs to be supported in communities and settings of a person’s choice.  This includes a restoration of direct community-based nursing services and supports to the DDA waivers, to ensure people are not forced into institutions like nursing homes to get care that could be less costly and safely provided in the community.

Maryland is the most diverse state on the East Coast[2], however services and supports have not sufficiently evolved to ensure people who are Hispanic/Latino (another underserved group) have equitable access to communication, information about available resources, and access to needed services and supports.

We advocate for the inclusion of underserved populations in our systems of support throughout the state and a responsive Developmental Disabilities Administration related to outreach and support to underserved populations of people with IDD and their families.

[2] Maryland is now the most diverse state on the East Coast, even more so than DC: Census (msn.com), 8/13/21

III.    DDA Waiting List and Autism Waiver Registry

The End the Wait Act of 2022 requires the Maryland Department of Health to develop a plan to reduce the waiting lists for each of its waiver programs and the Autism Registry by 50% beginning in fiscal year 2024, and calls on the Governor to include an appropriation for service expansion in the annual state budget. 

We advocate for elimination of the DDA Waiting List and Autism Registry (Waiting List) through full funding for those determined eligible and in need of community services and supports. The DDA waiting list is so long that often it is a decade or more before a person on the list is able to access services. 

Research supports that early intervention is the key to the success of a child with autism, and dramatically reduces the likelihood that children will need extensive supports as they age. The Autism Waiver registry continues to be more than 6,000 children long. Children wait more than 8 years on the registry list before they are even evaluated to receive services. Some even age out of the program before they can access any services due to the excessive wait.

We want full funding for the End the Wait Act to be fully implemented as intended, and a change in the way in which children on the Autism Waiver are evaluated for eligibility to improve timeliness and access of needed services.

IV.    Transitioning Youth

We need continued commitment for the full funding of the Governor’s Transitioning Youth Initiative.  This is funding that is committed to ensure that youth with IDD in Maryland, who exit high school in the year after their 21st birthday, are able to transition seamlessly into adult day-time services and supports.  This is important so young adults with IDD have the supports they need for employment, life-long learning, and/or higher education.

Unfortunately, not all Local Education Agencies (LEAs) ensure families and students with IDD are involved in the transition process from the age of 14 as mandated by Federal law.  Not all families and people with IDD have access to reliable information for a seamless transition to adult life.  This needs to change.

We need meaningful high school opportunities for students with disabilities that train, prepare and educate students for successful transitions to adult life outside of school.  Families and people with IDD need meaningful community support coordination assistance and true choice of Provider-supported OR Self-Directed services, unhindered by policy and funding decisions that impact the availability of a Direct Support Professional workforce.

V.    Education and Children’s Services

Students with IDD should have equitable access to inclusive, quality, safe, free, and appropriate public education (preschool, primary, secondary, and post-secondary education) and receive appropriate accommodations to participate in all aspects of education.

Children with IDD should have meaningful access to neighborhood childcare, before and after school programs, and camps, regardless of the nature or level of their disability.  Policies, regulations, training, funding, and oversight should support this inclusion.

Training and education opportunities should be available to parents, along with opportunities for peer-to-peer/family-to-family connections for support and resource sharing.

Early childhood screening is important and should be available to families in childcare settings for earlier identification of disabilities and timely intervention.

We advocate for full funding of the Blueprint for Maryland’s future, and for implementation of law components, which commit increased pay for teachers, as well as additional special education practitioners and other enhancements to special education services and supports designed to ensure all Marylanders succeed in learning.

VI.  Employment

Marylanders with IDD must have opportunities for competitive, integrated employment.  In order to achieve and maintain employment, many individuals need quality community-based employment services and supports.  Some also need transportation assistance and behavioral support to succeed in employment.

We must examine DDA waiver service definitions, regulations, and policies to ensure that people with more significant disabilities and people who require individualized transportation support or live in areas of the state without access to community-based transportation have equal access to quality provider supports.

VII.    Access to Housing

We must work together to increase safe, affordable, and accessible housing so people with IDD can live in inclusive communities of their choice.

We advocate for DDA and other state departments to allocate resources to address housing support needs of people with IDD, and increase the number of accessible and affordable housing units throughout the state.

We advocate for enforcement and oversight of fair housing laws to end discrimination against people with IDD based on their source of income or perceived disabilities.

VIII.    Law Enforcement and Justice

We support police training efforts that reduce stigma, increase safety, and inspire relationships of acceptance and support for all Marylanders.  The Ethan Saylor Alliance for Self Advocates (The Alliance) was created in 2015, along with a requirement that police cadets receive training to effectively interact with individuals with IDD.  Since that time, funding for the work of the Alliance has stagnated.  To meet the need in the state for this training and awareness, we advocate for additional funding and support for the Alliance.

Additionally, we believe there are several measures that would improve interactions between people with IDD and First Responders.  People who have invisible disabilities such as many who have autism, and their families, have serious concerns about their safety, and the safety of their loved one at the hands of police.  We would like to see the creation of a voluntary 911-registry program for individuals, their parents or guardians to have the opportunity to provide information about a special need that is accessible to first responders during a call. 

We advocate for restorative practices in schools to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline for students with IDD, and disproportionately, black and brown students. 

We advocate for the acknowledgment of the rights of people with disabilities in the community.  We believe law enforcement and court personnel should receive specific training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

IX.    Civil Rights

The Arc wants the state to commit to a plan and timeline to close the remaining institution for people with IDD (Holly Center).  Further, we oppose the expansion of State Residential Centers (SRCs) and new admissions including respite care.

With consideration of the fact that some individuals in society require the assignment of a guardian to ensure health and safety for the person, The Arc advocates for the rights of individuals to have alternatives to guardianship fully explored and exhausted, whenever possible, prior to a guardianship assignment. Supported Decision Making is now law, and is a viable option for many to maintain independence and autonomy.

We advocate for individuals under guardianship to have information on what rights they maintain and what rights guardianship impacts, and would like our guardianship statutes to include the requirement of a periodic, thorough guardianship review for less restrictive alternatives.

We advocate for training for businesses on the ADA and ways in which businesses can be accommodating to all people, regardless of ability, and for the enforcement of the ADA and reasonable workplace accommodations.