March 5, 2021
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
Breaking News:
Eight senators have just voted against provisions to raise the minimum wage in the American Rescue Plan. Removing that section of the bill also removes language that will phase out and ultimately eliminate vocational centers for people with I/DD and the 14(c) Specialized Wage Certificates that allow people with intellectual disabilities to work in them.

This is good news, but the fight is not over.
  • None of the eight senators cited these issues in their decision to vote against the measure.
  • There are still bills in both chambers of Congress that would do this.
  • There are still bills in many states that would close down these options
The 8 Democrats ho Voted 'No' on $15 Minimum Wage
By Alexander Bolton, the Hill, March 5, 2021
One of President Biden’s top policy goals, an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, suffered a big setback Friday when eight members of the Senate Democratic caucus voted against it.

An effort by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to waive a procedural objection to adding the $15 minimum wage to a COVID-19 relief package was resoundingly defeated by a vote of 58-42 in which seven Democrats and one independent joined all 50 Republicans.

Here are the eight members of the Senate Democratic Conference who voted against the $15 minimum wage:

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Contact your elected officials and tell them about our loved ones with I/DD.
Arrange for them to visit our facilities when they reopen to outside visits.

Bring awareness to those with the power to change lives for the better.

Our friends at the American Health Care Association have provided a link to help you find your elected officials.
and fill in your zip code and address.
National News:
Availability of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths Data In LTSS Settings that Primarily Serve Nonelderly Adults With Disabilities
COVID-19 Vaccine Access for People with Disabilities
By MaryBeth Musumeci and Priya Chidambaram Kaiser Family Foundation, March 1, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on people in nursing homes, with those in long-term care facilities accounting for a disproportionate share of all deaths attributable to COVID-19 to date. However, less attention has been paid to nonelderly people with disabilities who use long-term services and supports (LTSS) but live outside of nursing homes. This population includes people with a range of disabilities, such as people with autism or Down’s syndrome who live in group homes, people with physical disabilities who receive personal care services at home, and people who are receiving behavioral health treatment in residential facilities. Some nonelderly people with disabilities receive LTSS in a variety of community-based settings such as group homes, adult day health programs, and/or their own homes. Other nonelderly people with disabilities receive LTSS in institutional settings such as intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (ICF/IDDs) or behavioral health treatment centers for people with mental illness or substance use disorder. Many nonelderly people with disabilities, both in the community and in institutions, rely on Medicaid as the primary payer for the LTSS on which they depend for meeting daily self-care needs.

Nonelderly people with disabilities and the direct care workers who provide their LTSS have similar risk factors for serious illness or death from COVID-19 compared to their counterparts in nursing homes, due to the close contact required to provide assistance with daily personal care tasks, such as eating, dressing, and bathing; the congregate nature of many of these settings; and the highly transmissible nature of the coronavirus. Seniors in nursing homes are explicitly included in the top priority group in all states’ COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans, but nonelderly people with disabilities who use LTSS may be not prioritized. This issue brief presents current state-level data about COVID-19 cases and deaths in settings that primarily serve nonelderly people with disabilities and summarizes available research on this population’s elevated risk of severe illness and death; explains how nonelderly people with disabilities and their LTSS providers are reflected in state vaccine prioritization plans; and discusses key issues related to vaccine access for these populations.

As of February 11, 2021, 31 states report at least some data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in LTSS settings that primarily serve nonelderly people with disabilities These settings include both home and community-based settings such as group homes, personal care homes, adult day programs, and other community-based settings; and institutional settings such as intermediate care facilities and psychiatric institutions.
Not all states report all types of settings within each category. These data exclude settings that primarily serve elderly adults, such as nursing facilities and assisted living facilities (ALFs), to best reflect cases and deaths solely among nonelderly adults with disabilities. For state-level data broken out by resident/staff cases/deaths, details on the types of facilities included in each state’s count, dates of data, links to the state reports, and additional notes, see Appendix Table 1.

The wide variety in state reporting makes it difficult to compare between states or have a complete understanding of how people with disabilities have been impacted by the pandemic. Among states reporting data, there were 111,000 cases and over 6,500 deaths across these settings as of February 11, 2021 (Figure 1). Of the 31 states reporting data, 8 states report data only for institutional settings, 8 states report data only for home and community-based settings, and 15 states report data for both settings. Thirty-one states report cases and 25 states report deaths. States also vary in whether they report only data on residents and staff separately or combined (Appendix Table 1). State reporting also varies in other ways, such as inclusion of only active cases (e.g., MA, UT), inclusion of data within broader long-term care reporting (e.g., ID, MD, MS, OK, GA, KY, LA, NC, ND), and level of detail in facility-level information. Additionally, states use different definitions or categorizations for the same types of facilities, making cross-state comparison challenging.

Data from a limited number of states suggest that LTSS residents in institutions other than nursing and assisted living facilities, as well as those in some community-based settings, face an elevated risk of COVID-19 infection (Table 1).Overall, limited data on the number of people in HCBS and institutional settings other than nursing and assisted living facilities makes calculating case or death rates difficult. However, eight states (CT, IL, NJ, OR, PA, WA, WI, TX) provide resident census data to calculate the shares of residents that have been impacted in certain settings. Among the states that provide census data on institutional settings, cumulative data show that between 19% (Connecticut’s mental health facilities) and 50% (Pennsylvania’s state centers for individuals with intellectual disabilities) of residents were infected. These rates are on par with the share of residents infected in nursing homes, which, using 2019 resident census data and resident case counts as of the end of January 2021, is about 50%. These rates are also higher than population level rates, which show more than 8% of the US population infected as of mid-February 2021. For states that provide census data on home or community-based settings, between 2% (Oregon’s Adults with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities Foster Care HCBS waiver) and 19% (Illinois’ Community Integrated Living Arrangements group homes) of residents were infected. Given the limited sample size and wide state variation, this data should be interpreted with caution. However, this data supports other research suggesting that congregate settings, particularly larger facilities, are at high risk of having an outbreak.

Opinion: Why Health Care Professionals Must Call for Splitting the Autism Spectrum
By Irene Tanzman, Medpage Today's Kevin MD, February 27, 2021

In a February 2021 Facebook Live presentation sponsored by Seattle Children’s Hospital, Jill Escher, the president of the National Council on Severe Autism (NCSA), called for splitting the autism spectrum.
In some individuals, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) presents as a serious developmental disability affecting communication, learning, motivation, and all aspects of daily living. These individuals require 24/7 level care. Others on the spectrum have mild differences in social skills and sensory perception. This latter group may contain some who possess high IQs and hold advanced degrees. They are independent and can follow health care advice.

Health care professionals cannot get a proper understanding of a population that varies so greatly in its presentation from person to person. Health care policymakers and lawmakers cannot retrieve clear data and make informed decisions on such a broad population.

Retrieving and analyzing data about a specific population helps us understand health care disparities and assists us with quality and costs of care. Population health carries the promise that evidence-based practices for a particular condition will reach patients faster and in a more organized fashion. When the population is so haphazardly defined, this may be difficult to accomplish.

State News:
New York Did Not Fully Comply With Federal and State Requirements for Reporting and Monitoring Critical Incidents Involving Medicaid Beneficiaries With Developmental Disabilities
Office of the Inspector General, U,S, Department of Health and Human Services, February 16, 2021

Why OIG Did This Audit
We have performed audits in several States, including New York, in response to a congressional request concerning deaths and abuse of residents with developmental disabilities in group homes. Federal waivers permit States to furnish an array of home and community-based services to Medicaid beneficiaries with developmental disabilities so that they may live in community settings and avoid institutionalization. CMS requires States to implement a critical incident reporting system to protect the health and welfare of Medicaid beneficiaries receiving waiver services.

What OIG Found
New York did not ensure that providers fully complied with Federal waiver and State requirements for reporting and monitoring critical incidents involving Medicaid beneficiaries with developmental disabilities residing in community-based settings. Of the 30 incidents of potential abuse and neglect in our sample, 23 incidents were properly reported and investigated; however, 7 incidents were not. Specifically, providers did not properly report three incidents and, for all seven incidents, providers did not meet investigation requirements (four incidents were not investigated on time and three were not investigated adequately). These incidents of potential abuse and neglect were not properly reported because the individuals responsible for reporting them either initially reported them to the wrong authority or erroneously believed that another provider was responsible for reporting them. Investigations were not adequately conducted because: (1) some incidents were not reported on time, thereby delaying initiation of the investigations; and (2) providers' internal policies and procedures for investigating internal incidents were either inadequate or were nonexistent. Because incidents of potential abuse and neglect were not properly reported or investigated, beneficiaries were put at an increased risk of harm.

New York - Lawmakers Probe Impact of State’s Directive to Group Home Operators Concerning COVID-Positive Residents
State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities resists releasing data on COVID-19 infections and deaths in group homes
By Denise Civiletti, Rvierhead Local, February 27, 2021
The Cuomo administration last April issued a directive requiring state-regulated group homes for people with disabilities to admit COVID-positive residents discharged from hospitals and has refused to release data on COVID-19 infections and deaths in those homes.

The language of the April 10 advisory from the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. closely tracks the language of the controversial March 25 advisory from the State Department of Health to nursing home operators.

And just like the State Department of Health, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities has resisted releasing data on COVID-19 infections and deaths — even when the federally mandated watchdog agency charged with monitoring the treatment of people with disabilities in group homes filed a Freedom of Information Law request.

North Carolina - Parents Wait, or Drive Across NC, for Autism Therapy. This Bill Could Change That
By Lucille Sherman, The News & Observer,
February 24, 2021
North Carolina lawmakers are moving to eliminate a barrier to behavioral health care, in particular for children with autism.

Health care providers known as behavior analysts provide therapy to a range of patients, including those with autism. Some work one-on-one with autism patients, including teaching kids with autism to talk, use the bathroom or reduce self-harm.

Under current state regulations, behavior analysts cannot practice independently. Their work must be overseen by a licensed psychologist.

Two pieces of legislation filed this month, if passed, would mean North Carolina will no longer be the only state with such a requirement.
Two pieces of legislation filed this month, if passed, would mean North Carolina will no longer be the only state with such a requirement.
House Bill 91, sponsored by Rep. John Bell, a Republican from Goldsboro, and Senate Bill 103, sponsored by Sen. Jim Perry, a Republican from Kinston, would provide a path for behavior analysts to obtain licensure and practice on their own. It would also create a board tasked with licensing, disciplining and setting rules for the providers.

Nevada - iTeam: ‘Deplorable Conditions,’ 36 Unlicensed Group Homes Found in 2 Years
By Vanessa Murphy and Carolyn Williams, 8 News Now, March 3, 2021
Metro Police are pulling back the curtain for the first time on a problem they say is plaguing the Las Vegas valley: unlicensed group homes. The I-Team got an exclusive look into what investigators have found, arrests they’ve made and how prevalent the problem may be here.
Metro tells us they’ve discovered 36 unlicensed group homes over the past two years. Licensed group homes have strict rules they have to follow, and some offer specialized care.

But in unlicensed homes, police say the elderly, the homeless and people with disabilities are recruited, ripped off and placed in dangerous living conditions.

“They don’t really see what we see, the victims, they see them as cash cows,” said Metro Sgt. James Johnson.

Police say they discovered 18 elderly and vulnerable adults, along with two children, living in a six bedroom east side home in 2019. Investigators described the conditions as “deplorable.”

Mary Glenn was in charge, they say, and court records obtained by the I-Team reveal she’s a felon with aliases.

“She was one of the most egregious that we’ve had,” Johnson shared.

He says there may be hundreds of victims, since Glenn operated several unlicensed group homes. Prosecutors say she had no license to run a business or provide medical care.

Metro Lt. David Valenta says they are uncovering more of these types of unlicensed group homes throughout Clark County.
“These are people that are looking for a roof over their head,” he explained. “They’re being targeted because they have steady governmental benefits, Social Security, Medicaid, and they’re taking advantage of them, putting them in a house and then not delivering on the promises.”

Valenta says the promise is for a room, food, and in some cases, medical care.

But residents soon learn the truth.

“No heating, no air condition, bedbugs infestation, rodents, no running water, no working bathrooms,” Johnson continues, “where they’ll stack 10, 15, 20 people and, remember, these people all need a higher level of care.”
He says residents in some homes may not even have access to their own money. Some victims with dementia may not understand how they got there.

In some homes, there are individuals known as “enforcers.”

“They’re anointed to be the caretaker. But realistically, they’re there to make sure nobody causes waves,” Valenta explained. “Nobody notifies authorities, calls the police. So, they can just keep the cash flow going.”

Related Content:

Opinion: State Bill to Cut 14(c)
Washington - Senator Randall’s Bill Cuts Safety Net
Because We Care, March 1, 2021
SSB 5284 passed out of the Senate on February 18, 2021. There has been much concern expressed by community members and legislators regarding harm that may be caused by this bill. It’s troubling that even when acknowledging harm, legislators still pass a bill without evaluation of the harm already caused the past several years. The specific harm in this situation is the termination of community jobs for people with significant disabilities who may not be able to secure a supported employment position in a competitive market.

As Bill Sponsor Senator Randall pointed out in her testimony on the Senate Floor – “we are not doing enough to support individuals with IDD in Washington State. We are towards the bottom of the barrel in State rankings regarding investments in our disability community.” Senator Randall recognizes that we need to offer more support – especially when we make changes to our safety net that is ALREADY FRAGILE. 
These certificates are part of the fragile safety net and are a critical alternative for those with significant support needs who will have employment opportunities terminated due to his bill. There is no offer of more support in this bill and quite frankly this bill is more than a slap in the face to some of our community members with the most significant support needs. 

We are not treating our neighbors as “less than” by acknowledging the support needs but we are treating them as “less than” when we pull their supports and safety net without additional resources. There are safeguards in place already within the current RCW and WAC which honor choice and alternative.

Coronavirus Updates:
Covid-19 Tracker:
More Than 291 Million People Have Gotten Vaccines Worldwide;
The U.S. has Administered 85 Million Doses

A Quick Guide to Statewide Vaccination Plans

Littler Publications is offering a free guide to vaccine plans for each state.

This chart is not all-inclusive and does not cover municipalities, some of which have issued their own guidance. Nor does the chart include vaccine provider registration procedures or industry-specific guidance. The purpose of the below information is to give employers a general idea of what vaccine-related actions various jurisdictions are taking.

Monthly Donations and
VOR’s “21 in 21” Campaign

Your monthly donation of $21 will allow us to continue communicating face-to-face with members of Congress and fight to stop legislation aimed at closing Intermediate Care Facilities or Facility-Based Work Centers across the country.

Your monthly donation of $21 will ensure a seat at the table for your family member and give you a voice in decisions that affect policies that govern their health, residential care, and daily activities.

Your monthly donation of $21 will insure continued regional conference calls where family members across the country have a voice and share concerns and ideas. It will help pay for the VOR Voice and our Weekly Newsletter.

Your monthly donation of $21 will insure a continued Voice of Reason.

The Campaign For Change

This year, VOR's Annual Meeting will be held virtually, via Zoom. The date and details are yet to be announced. But to support our work, we are have a fundraising event we call the Campaign For Change.

This is easy. Every day, at the end of the day, empty your pockets of all your loose change and put it into a jar. You can dig into your couch cushions, too. On May 1st, gather up all of that change and take it to the bank or a CoinStar machine and cash it in, deposit it into your bank account, and send a check to VOR for the amount of change you've gathered. You are welcome to get family and friends, children and grandchildren involved.

At our virtual Annual Meeting, five winners will be announced. So start saving those pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters today, and we look forward to seeing you all in June!

"Be a part of the change you want to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi
VOR Bill Watch:
Click on blue link to view information about the bill


H.R. 603 & S. 53 - The Raise the Wage Act - These bills are aimed at raising the minimum wage, but they also have provisions to phase out and ultimately eliminate vocational centers and 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.


At this writing, there have been no bills entered in the 117th Congress that support a full continuum of care, or advance the interests of Direct Support Professionals.
Stay tuned.
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.

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?

Is there an issue in your loved one's home that you need help with?
Do you have information or a news story you would like to share?
Is there legislation in your state house that needs attention?

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