Opportunities Require Advocacy by Kay Marcel
This year brings a unique opportunity for disability advocates. Instead of facing budget deficits the state is enjoying very good economic times with large budget surpluses. These surpluses can, and should, be used to increase home and community-based services, including Medicaid waiver services for the almost 15,000 people on the waiver waiting list for people with developmental disabilities.
However, obtaining funds from budget surpluses for a significant number of new waiver slots will require everyone who cares about people with disabilities and their families advocating together to deliver one message to Governor Blanco and state legislators. That message is:
"Louisiana must use its budget surpluses to address the growing waiting list for Medicaid waiver services. Funds for 1,500 additional New Opportunities Waiver (NOW) slots to address the long waiting list must be included in the state’s budget, and legislation to create a permanent, recurring source of funding for waiver services that is sufficient for the waiting list to move at a reasonable pace must be passed."
What can you do to be part of the change that must, and can, happen this year?
1. If you are not a member of LaCAN (Louisiana Citizens for Action Now), join now either by going to www.lacanadvocates.org and Sign Up for Email List; or calling 1-800-450-8108. LaCAN will organize many Advocacy Action Alerts in the coming months with specific messages to specific targets (Governor, legislators).
2. Plan now to attend the 2nd Annual Disability Rights Rally at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge on May 8th, 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Call Families Helping Families of Acadiana (984-3458 or 1-800-378-9854) to let them know you will attend and to ask about a free T-shirt and transportation to Baton Rouge. Join the thousands of advocates who will be there to let legislators know that:
- "A waiting list is NOT a service;
- "People are tired of waiting"; and,
- "It’s time" to reduce the waiting list.
In addition to funding for additional NOW waiver slots and legislation for a recurring funding source for NOW waiver slots, the following items are on LaCAN’s 2007 Legislative Agenda:
- Increased rates for Direct Support Professionals (respite workers, personal care attendants, etc.)
- Increased funding for Individual and Family Support to serve approximately 116 additional people at priority levels 1 and 2
- Funds for 142 additional cash subsidy slots to bring the waiting list in every region to July 1, 2001
- Funds to implement the Family Opportunity Act