December 11, 2020
VOR Weekly News Update
VOR is a national non-profit organization that advocates for
high quality care and human rights for all people with
intellectual and developmental disabilities.
VOR promises to empower you to make and protect quality of life choices for individuals with developmental disabilities

Got An Extra Christmas Card? You Can Make Someone's Day With It!
Our friends at the Mt. St. Joseph Association are asking for people to reach out to their loved ones with a Christmas Greeting this year!
The residents of Mount St. Joseph Association have been on lock down due to the Pandemic. You can make the Christmas season brighter for them just by sending one of your extra Christmas cards! 

This is a simple and affordable way to spread holiday joy, love and cheer during a most unusual year! It is so easy anyone can do it! 

Write a positive message, draw a picture, or simply sign your name.

Draw a small heart in the lower left hand corner of the envelope so the staff knows it is for the Christmas Card Project!

Mail Your Holiday Love To: 

Mt. St. Joseph Association
24955 North US HWY 12
Lake Zurich, IL 60047-0131

This small act of love will make a big difference in the life of someone with different abilities and/or special needs. 

About Mount St. Joseph 
Mount St. Joseph is an intermediate care facility for intellectually disabled women in Lake Zurich, Illinois. Owned by the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, Mount St. Joseph provides a full range of medical care, therapy, and psychological services to its 115 residents. It is a not-for-profit facility.

The women who live at Mount St. Joseph range in age from 24 years to 94 years. The resident population is composed of all four intellectual disability categories: profound, severe, moderate, and mild. Physical disabilities range from severe to minor. As an intermediate care facility with 24-hour nursing and direct care staff, Mount St. Joseph meets the needs of all in a safe and nurturing environment. Individual care plans are designed to foster as much independence as possible. Mount St. Joseph is equipped to care for individuals throughout the stages of their lives, so residents can “age in place” without disruption.

Shopping for family and friends this year?

Consider a Gift Membership to VOR!
Shopping for the Holidays at Amazon?
Use Amazon Smile instead, and 0.5% of your purchase price will go to VOR!

  1. Just go to instead of the regular site, and sign in with your account credentials.
  2. Amazon should then give you a prompt to Select A Charity.
  3. Type into the search box: VOR - Elk Grove Village and click on the Select button.
  4. Now, bookmark the Amazon Smile page and paste it into your Bookmark Toolbar, so that every time you go to Amazon, you go through the SMILE portal.
National News:
COVID-19 Vaccine Should Go To Those With Developmental Disabilities First, Advocates Say
By Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop, December 7, 2020
People with developmental disabilities are not being adequately prioritized in plans to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, advocates say, even though they’re more likely to die from the virus.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield approved a recommendation from the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices earlier this month on how initial doses of forthcoming vaccines should be distributed. The shots are expected to be in short supply, so access will be limited.

Under the recommendations, vaccines will first go to health care workers as well as residents of long-term care facilities. The committee will meet again to determine who should be part of the next phases of the rollout.

While states are not required to follow the CDC guide for distributing COVID-19 vaccines, most are expected to. And that has disability advocates worried.

Research shows that people with developmental disabilities who contract COVID-19 face a two to 10 times greater risk of dying as compared to others. Given that, Shannon McCracken, vice president for government relations at the American Network of Community Options and Resources, or ANCOR, said people with developmental disabilities should be “explicitly included in the top priority tier.”

“We would certainly expect the message of increased mortality in people with IDD, especially those living in group settings, would resonate with public health officials at the local, state and federal level,” said McCracken whose group represents disability service providers across the nation.

Under the current CDC recommendations, some people with developmental disabilities could qualify for the first phase of vaccine distribution if they live in a long-term care facility. That’s likely to include residents of institutions.

New Program Aims To Train Doctors On Developmental Disabilities
By Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop, December 11, 2020
A new effort is underway to better prepare future doctors and other health care professionals to treat people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living has allocated $1.75 million over the next five years toward the initiative, which will bring together five universities to study existing trainings and develop materials and standardized practice experiences that can be incorporated into the curriculum for students in medical education.

The curriculum developed will first be implemented at the participating institutions — Rush University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, St. John Fisher College, Villanova University and the University of Minnesota — before ultimately being disseminated to 30 other schools with a goal of training more than 15,000 students across various health care fields.
The project, known as the Partnering to Transform Health Outcomes with Persons with Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities, or PATH-PWIDD, will involve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families at all stages.

“Multiple international and national agencies and organizations have issued calls to action to address the health inequities affecting those with (IDD),” said Suzanne Smeltzer of Villanova University who is a co-investigator on the project. “Improving the education of health care students about (IDD) is a major step in preparing future health care professionals to provide quality care to this population.”

New Fellowship to Develop Next Generation of Developmental Disability Nursing Experts

St. John Fisher College, PR Newswire, December 8, 2020

The Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing at St. John Fisher College will launch a new fellowship program to develop nursing thought leaders who support and promote the health and wellbeing of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Applications are now being accepted for the Golisano Fellowship in Intellectual and Developmental Disability Nursing, with the first cohort slated to begin in summer 2021. Participation in the fellowship program will be funded in full through the support of B. Thomas Golisano and the Golisano Foundation.

"The goal of this fellowship is to create nursing leaders in education, practice, and service who will advance inclusive practices, foster innovation, promote health, and support self-determination of patients with IDD," said Dr. Dianne Cooney Miner, founding director of the Golisano Institute. "We believe that a nursing workforce equipped with this expertise will help to close the health disparities gap that currently exists among people with IDD across the lifespan."

Over the course of the 12-month program, Golisano Fellows will engage in interprofessional collaboration and gain content knowledge in education, practice, policy, advocacy, and leadership and will complete an action-learning project focused on improving and promoting the health and well-being of individuals with IDD. Fellows will also receive individualized mentoring from international leaders in the field.

State News:
1.9 Million Texas Health Care Workers, Care Home Residents Get Priority for COVID Vaccine
By Raga Justin, Houston Chronicle, December 8, 2020
The first shipments of the highly anticipated Pfizer COVID vaccine are expected to arrive in Texas early next week, and the first two million or so doses are already spoken for.

Around 1.6 million health care workers and an additional 270,353 people who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be prioritized, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, which has released guidelines for vaccinating the state’s most exposed and vulnerable residents first.

Less than 250,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be shipped to around 100 hospitals in the state as early as the week of Dec. 14, depending on when the vaccine is authorized for use in the United States. The state has also partnered with HEB, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies to lessen the burden on local health authorities in administering shots.

If all goes well, the state expects to have a significant portion of health care workers and long
term residents vaccinated by Jan. 1, said State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, “which is really incredible, considering the magnitude of this.”

Among the broad spectrum of healthcare workers, some are prioritized depending on their level of risk. For example, hospital staff working directly with COVID-19 — including physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, custodial staff, and other clinical staff — are first up for the initial doses that could come early next week.

Next come long-term care staff and residents at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and state supported living centers, followed by other health care populations such as staff at outpatient and emergency clinics and pharmacies.

New York - Cuomo Plans More Cuts to State’s Overburdened Group Homes
By Ben Verde, am NY, December 10. 2020
Following a decade of budget cuts, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is proposing yet another round of slashes to service providers that care for New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the 2021 budget — a move that caregivers say will devastate them and the people they care for. 

In an effort to manage the budget shortfall spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, the state is asking the Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities to reduce its budget by 5 percent for the next fiscal year, the latest in a long history of cuts to services for developmentally disabled New Yorkers.

“Every year we’re fighting, social service funds are the first on the chopping block,” said Canarsie state Sen. Roxanne Persaud at a virtual rally on Dec. 8. “The people who are suffering the most are the first that we want to take funding from.”

These types of services have seen a multitude of cuts over the past decade, including a 6 percent budget cut to OPDD in 2012. In the last year alone, the agency has had to impose a 20 percent withhold on bills for state-paid services, and
change the system of billing for residential facilities, resulting in losses of $500 million for care providers throughout 2020, according to the New York City Family Advocacy Information Resource.

These cuts threaten to further devastate a social services network already straining under the weight of the pandemic, with many residents and employees of group homes falling ill during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York. Pandemic life has also been particularly challenging for developmentally disabled New Yorkers who do not live in group homes, as other services like day programs and special education services face similar threats. 

Caregivers predict any further cuts will result in closed group homes and day programs, a reduction in available beds, and higher operating costs.

New York - Disability Advocates Urge Cuomo to Reconsider Budget Cuts
By Kyle S. Mackie, WBFO-NPR, December 10, 2020
More than 1,000 people participated in a virtual statewide rally Wednesday calling on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reconsider budget cuts for services for people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) faces nearly half a billion dollars in funding cuts and other withholdings amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the statewide coalition New York Disability Advocates. Several rally speakers also said the cuts are just the latest offense following a decade of chronic underfunding.

Credit Screenshot by Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News
“We are asking the governor to reconsider the cuts to our programs, to our providers, and ultimately, to our loved ones,” said New York State Assemblywoman Melissa Miller of Long Island, who is the mother of a 21-year-old son with developmental disabilities. “It makes me so sad and frustrated that we need to do this year after year. Every year, it’s a question of, ‘What are they gonna cut?’”

NY State Assemblywoman Melissa Miller
OPWDD was hit by the across-the-board 20% withholding in state reimbursements Cuomo enacted earlier in the pandemic because of federal cuts, but the office also faces a proposed 5% budget cut for 2022. An additional $238 million in annualized cuts to residential rates went into effect on Oct. 1 and is expected to result in the loss of 1,200 beds in group homes and other residential facilities, according to a recent survey conducted by New York Disability Advocates.

The coalition also estimates that provider organizations supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) have lost $2.6 billion over the past 10 years due to Medicaid funding cuts.

“We have gone from benign neglect to active abandonment and, in some cases, actual attacks because of the cuts that have been forced upon us by the governor,” said New York State Assemblymember Thomas Abinanti of Westchester County, who, like Miller, is also the parent of a child living with I/DD.

In addition to several elected officials, Wednesday’s speakers included dozens of self-advocates living with I/DD, family caregivers and direct service providers. Many of them characterized the situation for people living with I/DD in New York State even more bluntly than Abinanti.

“We’ve reached the breaking point,” said a mother named Maryann Virga. “This is a human rights catastrophe.”

Direct Support Professionals:
Pandemic Helpline For Caregivers of People With IDD

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, a new 24-hour support line is working to help individuals with developmental disabilities and those who care for them cope during this tough time.

Known as Project Connect, the telehealth line is free and available anytime for people with disabilities, their families, caregivers and other members of their support teams across the nation.

Project Connect is available by calling 888-847-3209.
It is the season of giving. We give thanks, we give gifts, we give or ourselves.

Won't you help us to provide our gift to those who need it most?

There are many ways to give.
Click on the links below for details.

VOR Bill Watch:
Click on blue link to view information about the bill


H.R. 6045 & S. 3669 - Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act - To require the Office of Management and Budget to revise the Standard Occupational Classification system to establish a separate code for direct support professionals, and for other purposes.

H.R. 5443 & S. 3220 - Ensuring Access to Direct Support Professionals Act -
To amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to clarify that the provision of home and community-based services is not prohibited in an acute care hospital, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2417 - The HEADs UP Act - To amend the Public Health Service Act to expand and improve health care services by health centers and the National Health Service Corps for individuals with a developmental disability as a Medically Underserved Population (MUP).


H.R. 555 & S. 117 - The Disability Integration Act - This bill has written into it the goal of eliminating "institutional care". In addition to the inherent bias against ICF's and people with severe and profound I/DD, the bill is prohibitively costly and there are not enough Direct Support Professionals to meet the provisions of this act.

H.R. 582 & S. 150 - The Raise the Wage Act - This bill is aimed at raising the minimum wage, but it also has provisions to eliminate 14 (c) wage certificates over the next six years and to immediately stop the issuing of any new certificates. VOR believes the issue of employment options for individuals with intellectual disabilities should not be buried in a bill for raising the federal minimum wage. Both issues deserve clean, stand-alone bills.

H.R. 873 & S. 260 - The Transformation To Competitive Employment Act - This bill has declared the goal of eliminating Sheltered Workshops and 14(c) Wage Certificates, under the mantle of everyone with a disability is capable of competitive integrated employment.
Sponsors of the bill recently added a new summary that significantly downplays the effect the bill would have on eliminating work centers and 14(c) that benefit those who are unable to compete in the employment opportunities the bill promotes.


Our loved ones' caregivers are essential to their health, safety, and happiness.
In appreciation of their good work and kind hearts, VOR offers free digital memberships to any DSP who would like to join.

We encourage our members to speak with their loved ones' caregivers to extend this offer of our gratitude.

If you are a Direct Support Professional interested in receiving our newsletter and e-content, please write us at

with your name, email address, and the name of the facility at which you work. Please include the name of the VOR member who told you of this offer. 

What's Happening In Your Community?

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Do you have information or a news story you would like to share?
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