December 14, 2017
The State of Our States

With billions of federal budget deficit growth behind us including not paying for three wars, Congress is nevertheless negotiating a new tax cut. In last week's video blog, I asked: what did Congress accomplish with this vote of which the majority leadership is so proud? This week, I'd like to bring the point home by sharing the state of the states with the help of two news clips.

In Arkansas, Gov. Hutchinson trumpets reduction of the wait list for those with developmental disabilities and we thank him for it. But when you read closely, tobacco settlement money is the source for the Medicaid federal match (70.87%). Hopefully,  more permanent revenue will be found to help Arkansas maintain its efforts in providing disability services. Arkansas pays less than 30% in the end, given the federal reimbursement it will receive.

In Connecticut, newspapers report that Matthew, a teenage boy with autism and intellectual disabilities, was found dead due to "starvation, dehydration and child abuse." Child Advocate Sarah Eagan found that the Hartford Public Schools (in 2017) had "hundreds of children with disabilities who are chronically absent from school, including more than 150 children with significant or multiple disabilities." Matthew's case had been closed by children's protective services because they couldn't gain entry to the family's home.

In Massachusetts, we face revenue shortfalls that have resulted in deficiencies in funding services during 2018 at the Department of Developmental Services and elsewhere. It's not clear where the fall out will be, since most of the individual services have been approved through Medicaid, and they are subject to rates that are set by the Commonwealth.

The need is clear in our states and communities. Yet instead of scrutinizing government spending to address inefficiencies or fraud, we continue to hear calls to reduce revenue. Common folklore from some is that it won't hurt disability services. But given these stories and realities, we are hurting already. And if Congress moves ahead, we will have to face new painful realities.

The Arc will continue its fight and we need you to be with us.  The painful course that may lay ahead is not inevitable if we work together.

Leo V. Sarkissian
Executive Director  
Invest For a Better Financial Future
The Attainable Savings PlanSM offered by MEFA and managed by Fidelity helps Americans with disabilities begin saving and investing the tax-smart way. While some people prefer to use their account as an investment vehicle to help grow their savings, others use it to manage their monthly and day-to-day living expenses. Whether you're looking to invest your savings or spend from your account regularly, you can choose from a range of professionally managed portfolios that best match your investment objectives and risk tolerance. Choose the level you're comfortable with, from conservative to aggressive growth. Any earnings in the account grow tax deferred and, when used for qualified disability expenses, are federal income tax-free. Learn more at

Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC
900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917 

The Attainable Savings Plan is offered by the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority and managed by Fidelity Investments. Qualified ABLE Programs offered by other states may provide state tax benefits to their residents or taxpayers that are not available through the Attainable Savings Plan. If you are not a resident of Massachusetts, you should consider whether your home state offers its residents or taxpayers state tax advantages or benefits for investing in your home state's qualified ABLE program before making an investment in the Attainable Savings Plan.
Units of the portfolios are municipal fund securities and are subject to market fluctuation and volatility. You may have a gain or loss when you sell your units.
Please carefully consider the Attainable Savings Plan's investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses before investing. For this and other information, contact Fidelity for a free Disclosure Document or view one online. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.
AFC Makes All The Difference For People Like Joey
Joey hasn't let having autism and epilepsy get in the way of achievement. He works three jobs with the help of great services, a supportive job coach, and a lot of luck in finding good employers. Unfortunately, he does not receive funding for transportation, so his mother gave up her career to drive him six days a week. She worries that he'll never be able to live on his own, meaning that this situation will continue for the foreseeable future.
The Arc played a very active role in protecting the Adult Family/Foster Care Program (AFC). Earlier this year, MassHealth changed regulations and reduced AFC funding by 4%. It is the most cost-effective supported living option in the state. As the fiscal year ended in June, we had a commitment to review the impact of the regulatory changes and interpretation to ensure that those with intellectual and other mental disabilities were still eligible as before the new regulations were released. The Arc is proposing eligibility regulation changes consistent with Olmstead this year.

The Arc of Massachusetts can't do this important work without you. Only with your commitment and generosity will people with intellectual and developmental disabilities get the services and supports that they need and deserve. 

You make all the difference!

Transition to Adult Services Webinar
What Educators and School Administrators Need to Know
Wednesday, January 10, 2018 | 2:30 - 4:00 PM
Presented by Pat Pakos and Kerry Mahoney, The Arc of Massachusetts
Registration fee: $40 |  PLEASE NOTE TIME CHANGE

The transition of students leaving their schools can be difficult for themselves and their families. Educators and School Administrators can be helpful in making this transition seamless.  Participants will learn:  What are the basics to know about this transition?  What are the available services?  How are they organized?  What can Educators and School Administrators do to help? Register today!
WHAT'S TRENDING Whatstrending
Welcome Melanie McLaughlin, M. Ed!
Melanie Perkins McLaughlin joins The Arc of Massachusetts as a Policy Officer working on disability policy and legislative advocacy. She is an Emmy-award winning filmmaker with over 20 years experience in broadcast media production. As a former ward of the state of MA, her life's work has been as an advocate for social justice for marginalized children. She was the first Allen C. Crocker Fellow with the Massachusetts Developmental Disability Council and the Institute for Community Inclusion where she collaborated with the National Down Syndrome Society, creating 10 short films celebrating the lives of people with Down syndrome. In 2016, she received the Mass Down Syndrome Congress esteemed Crocker Award of Excellence for her work advancing the lives of people with Down syndrome.  Melanie was previously a family faculty member for The Arc of Massachusetts' Operation House Call, working with self-advocates and their families to teach doctors about life with disability at Tufts Medical.

Melanie is the mother of three children, two high school teenagers and one 3rd grader who also has Down syndrome. She may be reached at, or via (781) 891-6270 x112.
Sesame Street's Julia One Of TIME's Best Characters of 2017
Congratulations to Sesame Street's Julia the Muppet for being named #7 on TIME Magazine's Top Ten Fictional Characters of 2017 list! The adorable little girl Muppet was introduced in order to increase autism awareness among children everywhere.

To see her introduction in Sesame Street, check out the segment "Meet Julia."

You can also click here to see our own Maura Sullivan's interview with NBC Boston about what the introduction of Julia really means.
The Arc of Massachusetts Presentation at Northeast Arc
On December 4, The Arc's Maura Sullivan, Director of Government Affairs, and Julie Heffernan, Advocacy Alliance Coordinator presented to parents and professionals at Northeast Arc in Danvers. Maura spoke about The Arc's policy priorities and goals, and she walked the attendees through the bill and budget processes. Julie talked about storytelling and stressed the importance of using personal stories as testimony and tools for advocacy. Thank you to Northeast Arc, Family Support Director Louann Larson, and Family Resources Coordinator Melissa O'Neil for hosting this event!
Massachusetts Family Expectations Survey
The Massachusetts Partnership for Transition to Employment ( MPTE ) is working to improve employment outcomes for youth and young adults in our state, and one essential part of this work is better supporting families. Your input on this survey will tell us how we can better support families. There are no right or wrong answers; we just want to hear your perspective.
Your participation in the research is voluntary. All of the information collected in the survey will be anonymous. The survey will take about 10-15 minutes.  Please click here to complete this survey.
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