Message from President & CEO Steve Suroviec

Thursday, March 29, 2018

I continue to be impressed with the hard work of our staff and volunteers to make our organization exceptional. What we do as an advocacy organization and service provider makes our organization unique, and efforts to raise the necessary financial resources to excel at both are constant. In March, ACHIEVA held another successful “Pittsburgh Promenade” – an annual fundraising event that’s been going on for over two decades. The generosity of so many individuals in the greater Pittsburgh region (individual cash donations, corporate sponsorships, auction items, and time given to make the event successful) is impressive to someone like me who hadn’t worked for an organization with such a generous network of supporters before joining ACHIEVA.

Those financial resources go in large measure towards ACHIEVA’s advocacy mission, which over the next several weeks will be having an impact in both Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. As we speak, the General Assembly is considering Governor Wolf’s budget proposal for state fiscal year 2018-19. The Office of Developmental Programs’ current-year rate increases and new service capacity for people on the waiting list will be annualized and a modest number of new people will be served from the emergency waiting list if the Governor’s proposal is adopted. A highlight of the proposal is the policy change that will give high school students with intellectual disabilities access home and community-based waiver services on day one following graduation. Heretofore, new funding hasn’t been available to graduates until several months pass after special education programming ends. This resulted in service-continuity disruptions for the young person and headaches for their families. With this proposed budget, the Wolf administration is funding two sets of graduates – the traditional group of 800 who will get services in the latter part of 2018 and a second group of 800 who will access services in June 2019. This is a positive development - the result of years of advocacy by many people, both inside and outside state government. The biggest disappointment in Governor Wolf’s budget is the absence of a rate increase - for a 10th straight year - for all early intervention providers serving children birth to age 3. The costs that go into delivering services (e.g., wages, health care benefits, fuel, etc.) have gone up significantly during that time yet government rates have stayed flat. The Wolf administration touts the importance of early childhood development, yet infants and toddlers with developmental delays continue to be excluded from appropriate attention in the budget.

During April 22 - 25, ACHIEVA’s advocacy attention turns to Washington, D.C. This is when the annual “Disability Policy Seminar” will be held by The Arc of the United States and several of its partners. ACHIEVA will be sending volunteers and staff to our nation’s capital to hear from experts about federal disability issues (e.g., Medicaid, Special Education, Employment, etc.) and then head to Capitol Hill to meet with U.S. Representatives and Senators to discuss the impact of those issues on people with disabilities and their families. Having a constant presence in both Harrisburg and Washington D.C. is one way ACHIEVA pursues its dual role of advocacy and service delivery.

As always, I welcome your feedback, questions, or suggestions – email me at ssuroviec@achieva.info.