By Steve Suroviec, President and CEO
Foundational to ACHIEVA’s existence is its commitment to advocacy. In addition to individual advocacy, “systems advocacy” keeps state and federal laws, public policy, and government funding for important disability programs moving forward. Over the past month, ACHIEVA has done systems advocacy on a number of issues facing the disability community.
Shayne Roos, Senior Vice President of ACHIEVA Support, was invited to present on “barriers to employment” facing people with disabilities before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor hearing. Shayne shared ACHIEVA’s experience with its decision to close its sheltered workshops, and ACHIEVA’s success helping people with disabilities get and keep competitive jobs in the community was discussed with Members of Congress attending the hearing. At ACHIEVA, we’re proud of Shayne and our decision to end the use of subminimum wage certificates.
On another employment issue, the state’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) announced it plans to start a waiting list for its services due to budgetary issues. OVR helps people with disabilities secure and maintain employment, and finding a waiting list instead of needed job assistance will adversely impact many Pennsylvanians with disabilities. ACHIEVA submitted comments to the state urging them to suspend their Home and Community-Based Services Medicaid Waiver rule that requires waiver participants to be referred to OVR before the waiver will pay for employment services. If all referrals are going to be placed on an OVR waiting list, then the waiver should start covering employment services immediately. ACHIEVA was quoted in this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about the issue.
Finally, ACHIEVA’s Nancy Murray (President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh) rightly pushed back on statements made during a recent hearing of the PA House Human Services Committee that suggested if state institution residents could live in the community they would already be there. Nancy’s letter to the editor corrects the record - as such outdated thinking simply perpetuates unnecessary segregation and isolation. It’s sad that in 2019 there are still elected officials serving in Harrisburg that think people need to be institutionalized just because they have an intellectual disability. To urge your state representative and senator to finally close Pennsylvania’s remaining four state institutions, please click here.
ACHIEVA embraces its systems advocacy mission. Please let us know if you’d like to get involved. As always, please feel free to contact me with constructive comments and questions to email@example.com.