An open letter to elected officials regarding the effect of Covid-19 on those with disabilities and their caregivers...
March 24, 2020
Dear Senator Mike Braun, Senator Todd Young, Representative Pete Visclosky, Governor Eric Holcomb, Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch, Senator Ed Charbonneau, and Senator Ed Soliday,
This current public health crisis caused by COVID-19 could potentially break the systems that society has in place for all of us. This pandemic is illustrating how fragile the system is, and underscores the value of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and how essential they are to our healthcare system in serving those with intellectual and developmental disabilities nationwide. Agencies providing services to adults with disabilities are in crisis. In Indiana, there are more than 70 Medicaid-funded service providers, like Opportunity Enterprises. In order to practice social distancing, OE and many other providers are temporarily closing their group setting programs.
This is leaving thousands of Hoosiers with disabilities in their home settings 24-hours a day – which is exactly where this vulnerable population should be. However, many of these individuals cannot care for their daily needs independently, so the need for in-home care provided by Direct Support Professionals has increased dramatically. These providers were already struggling with a nationwide shortage of DSPs and now the issue is exasperated. The funding for these disability service providers continues to decline, as the needs of the people they serve continue to rise.
Current legislation for COVID-19 relief packages is ambiguous as to how it will support these providers. Lack of funding during this critical time could result in many disability service providers being unable to serve our society’s most vulnerable.
I urge you to include Medicaid-funded community supports in COVID-19 packages.
In-home community-based programs will be critical to treat infected patients and slow the spread of COVID-19. To learn more about how you can help advocate to ensure that our nation is caring for those with disabilities visit the American Network of Community Options and Resources at ancor.org. To learn more about Opportunity Enterprises visit oppent.org.
SAMPLE LETTER TO LEGISLATOR FOR SELF-ADVOCATES
(sourced from Stone Belt, Bloomington, IN)
City, State, ZIP]
The Honorable [Representative or Senator Name]
Indianapolis, IN, ZIP]
Dear [Representative or Senator] Last Name:
I am writing today, because I live in your district, and I’m a voter. I know that as a part of your job as an Indiana legislator, you have to decide how to spend the state’s money, and you need ideas from your voters. I’m a person with a disability, and though you might not always hear very much from people like me, I want you to know we have a voice and we need your help.
First, let me tell you a little bit about where I live and what I do. [Fill in information here about where you live (for example: group home, supported living apartment, with your family) and who you live with. Then tell the legislator a little bit about what you do (for example: work, arts programs, bowling, music, shopping) Then explain who helps you do those things and how they help you. (For example: My staff worker at (your provider’s name) helps us cook our dinner, and we all help do the cleaning. They give me my medicine, help me with my banking, and do the grocery shopping. And when I go to art class or to work, my (your provider’s name) staff person helps me get ready and drives me where I need to go.)]
I’m concerned because a lot of people need direct support professionals (DSPs) like the ones I work with at (your provider’s name), but there aren’t enough of them. Part of the problem seems to be that DSPs don’t get paid very much. The money they get paid with comes from Medicaid and providers like (your provider’s name) have had state budget cuts. I’m worried that my provider may need to cut some of our services. If that happens, I may have fewer choices about what I can do and where I can live.
You can help us when you vote for the budget this year. Please make sure that people with disabilities don’t lose tax dollars that go to support disability programs, services and supports.
Thank you for your help and for your service.
[Your first and last name]
Become an advocate on behalf of individuals with disabilities and Opportunity Enterprises
Here are some ways to advocate:
Invite friends to OE events. See the list of upcoming events.
Speak well of those with disabilities. Here are some guidelines.
Display a Disability Awareness poster at your office or school. Download one here.
Contact your legislator in support of individuals with disabilities and the staff that serve them. Click here to download a complete guide.
Advocate on Social Media
Here are some ways to advocate:
Advocate on a State Level
For more information on state legislation concerning individuals with disabilities, follow and subscribe to the INARF newsletter.