October 4, 2018
VOR Weekly News Update
VOR is a national organization that advocates for high quality care and human rights for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
VOR promises to empower you to make and protect quality of life choices for individuals with developmental disabilities
Please support H.R. 6786

H.R. 6786 - A bill to protect the interests of each resident of intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities in class action lawsuits by federally funded entities involving such residents and in Department of Justice actions that could result in an agreement to move such a resident from that resident's facility.

This is VOR's bill, and we have introduced this legislation over the course of several sessions of congress. Our sponsor, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is in his last term in Congress, and the bill will expire at the end of this session. Please contact your member of the House to ask them to cosponsor this important bill.

Please Support H.R. 5658
Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-WI-06) recently introduced the Workplace Choice and Flexibility for Individuals with Disabilities Act (H.R. 5658). This bill will restore common sense to the definition of competitive integrated employment and provide increased employment opportunities for people with disabilities. People with disabilities across the country have been denied placements in high-paying jobs because of the regulations that implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). ACCSES supports expanding opportunities and keeping a full array of options available. We were honored to work with Congressman Grothman and his staff to help draft this legislation. Go to the ACCSES Action Center and tell your Members of Congress to cosponsor and pass this important bill to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities!

VOR Supports H.R. 6611

This bill would define individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as a medically underserved population, and appropriate more funds to their care. The bill will expand and improve health care and dental services for people with I/DD. Stay tuned for more information on this bill.

VOR Supports H.R. 3325

Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act or the ACE Kids Act

This bill amends title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act to establish a state Medicaid option to provide for medical assistance with respect to coordinated care provided through a health home (i.e., a designated provider or team of health-care professionals) for children with medically complex conditions. A state shall make payments for such health-home services regardless of whether they are provided through a fee-for-service or managed-care system. For an initial period of eight fiscal-year quarters, the federal matching rate applicable to such payments shall be increased by 20 percentage points, not to exceed 90%.


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News Spotlight - New York State

Several articles have appeared in the last month regarding placing sex offenders into group homes with people with developmental disabilities. New York state has been closing congregate care facilities for decades, and now faces the problem that it lacks sufficient facilities to meet the varied needs of the I/DD population, including the Forensic population and sex offenders.

The rights of individuals with intellectual disabilities are protected under 42 U.S. Code § 15009 - Rights of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities , and NY State's Office of Persons With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and The Justice Center appear to be acting in direct violation of these protections.

Please see the articles and videos below.
State Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) has been placing Sex Offenders in Group Homes
By Aaron Cerbone, The Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 27, 2018

An analysis showing dozens of sex offenders being housed in state group homes has received news coverage from several print and television outlets, but this practice of housing sex offenders in group homes for the developmentally disabled and alongside the general community is old news in Tupper Lake.It is unclear, however, if sex offenders and the developmentally disabled without a criminal history are being housed together.

Sunmount, the facility of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities in Tupper Lake, has housed people with developmental disabilities who cannot care for themselves for decades, but since 1999 it has also been a place for convicted people with developmental disabilities who may be at risk in prison, as well as those deemed unfit to stand
trial for alleged crimes, including rape, pedophilia and acts of violence.

OPWDD officials will not reveal what percentage of Sunmount residents now have a criminal background.

While a portion of those served at Sunmount have a criminal justice history secondary to their developmental disability determination, at no time has admission to Sunmount been contingent on the existence of criminal charges,” OPWDD Director of Communications Jennifer O’Sullivan wrote in an email.

Advocate Fights to Remove Sex Offenders from Group Homes for the Disabled
By Beth Cefalu, WHEC -TV News, September 26, 2018

How Can NY Safely House Sex Offenders with Developmental Disabilities?
By Nancy Cutler, Rockland/Westchester Journal News, September 27, 2018

There’s been growing concern — and media coverage — about sex offenders being dumped in group homes for people with developmental disabilities. The issue has taken on a political tinge, which makes it even more difficult to get to the truth as disturbing questions stack up.

As the state moves away from operating large institutions in favor of community residences for the disabled, what steps have been taken to keep everyone safe?

Where to house sex offenders, and how, has become a more pressing question as the state has closed institutional-style developmental centers as part of a national movement.

Here's just one example: Broome Developmental Center, whose residents included sex offenders with developmental disabilities, closed in 2016. As part of the transition, an agency attempted to open a group home in Danby to house those offenders. Neighbors protested and plans were scrapped. 

But the Danby group home was going to serve only sex offenders.

The question of the moment is whether offenders with developmental disabilities are placed in group homes with others?

Group finds Sex Offenders in Local Homes for Developmentally Disabled
By Don Lehman, The Post Star, September 20, 2018
Six registered sex offenders are living in group homes with the developmentally disabled in Washington and Saratoga counties, according to part of an analysis by an advocacy group for the disabled.

The analysis was prompted by an outcry over a proposal to have a sex offender move from state prison to a group home in Gansevoort.

Michael Carey, founder of the Jonathan Carey Foundation, said his organization received information that registered sex offenders were already living in homes around the state, and an analysis found at least 25 in Washington, Franklin and Suffolk counties. The Post-Star found an additional offender listing a home in Hadley, in Saratoga County, as his address.

Michael Carey said he believes it illegally endangers the welfare of the disabled to place sex offenders with them. He said he has contacted district attorneys across the state to inform them of the potential problem.
The issue arose earlier summer, when family members of residents of a group home on Route 50 in Gansevoort went public with concerns about a plan by the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities to put a Level 2 sex offender who was being released from state prison in the home with four developmentally disabled men. The state backed off the plan amid the backlash, but Carey and a group of regional legislators pushed to discontinue the practice of putting sex offenders in homes with those who could be victimized.

A contingent of six local state legislators — Assembly members Dan Stec, Carrie Woerner, Mary Beth Walsh and William Jones and senators Elizabeth Little and Kathleen Marchione — signed a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking that the state designate homes for only sex offenders with developmental disabilities, so they are not placed with others with developmental disabilities.

National News
Lawmakers Look To Improve Care For Kids With Complex Conditions
By Blythe Bernhard, Disability Scoop, October 1, 2018
Melissa Herrera says the most frustrating part about parenting a child with complex medical needs is repeating herself over and over to health care providers.

“If you can have something there that communicates the foundation of the child, it can take so much stress away from the parent,” said Herrera, whose 8-year-old daughter Angelica was born with a brain anomaly that affects her hearing, vision, motor control and coordination.

Legislation that aims to help parents like Herrera coordinate their children’s care is moving closer to passage through Congress. The Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act, known as the ACE Kids Act, was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee in September.

The bill creates a subcategory of children on Medicaid with complex medical conditions defined
as affecting two or more systems in the body and causing physical or cognitive impairment. Each child’s “enhanced pediatric health home” — usually a children’s hospital — would be reimbursed for coordinating their care, inside the hospital and at different specialists, including those across state lines.

The ACE Kids Act allows those out-of-state specialists to qualify for Medicaid reimbursement in the child’s home state without any additional paperwork. It would also connect the pediatric health homes electronically, so the child’s health records can be shared more easily among providers.

Opinion: Senator Warren’s Concern about Payment of Subminimum Wages to Developmentally Disabled People is Misplaced
By Dave Kassel, The COFAR Blog, September 28, 2018

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has proven to be one of the nation’s most effective advocates for workers and their financial security; but we think she’s wrong in charging that persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities are being exploited by work programs that pay them a subminimum wage.

Warren is leading an effort in Congress to eliminate waivers that have allowed employers to pay a subminimum wage to disabled persons who are hired by employers in mainstream work settings. Warren alleges that payment of subminimum wages under the so-called 14(c) certificates or waivers is exploitative and discriminatory.

We would agree that for disabled people with normal intellectual functioning, payment of subminimum wages is exploitative and unnecessarily discriminatory; but a distinction needs to be made in the case of persons who have intellectual or other developmental disabilities that severely limit cognitive functioning.

In not making this distinction in calling for the elimination of the subminimum wage waivers, Warren is making the same well-intentioned mistake that many people in the advocacy community have made. That mistake is to assume that all developmentally disabled people are exactly the same as non-disabled people in terms of their employment potential and, even more importantly, their employment aspirations.

Those assumptions overlook a number of realities, including the fact that virtually all developmentally disabled persons who are placed in those work programs receive government assistance in some form for residential care, day care, or other services. Unlike non-disabled persons, most, if not all, individuals with significantly impaired cognition are not seeking to support themselves financially through work. They are seeking to occupy their time with activities that are meaningful and satisfying to them.

State News
Missouri Officials Dropped from Man's Wrongful Death Lawsuit
By Jesse Bogan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
October 1, 2018
The Missouri Department of Mental Health, department Director Mark Stringer and other leaders of the agency were dismissed from a federal lawsuit Friday that stems from the death of a disabled man found encased in a block of concrete.

Carl DeBrodie had a court-appointed guardian. His intellectual disabilities left him unable to read, write or speak. His remains were found eight days after he was reported missing in April 2017. The makeshift tomb was in a storage unit, not far from where he had lived at Second Chance Homes of Fulton, Mo.

Police believe his death went undetected for months. He would have been 31.

Second Chance employees and their associates were arrested in June in connection with the case, which cast a spotlight on Missouri’s safety net for vulnerable adults who rely on the government and its contractors for life choices and care.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office asked a judge in June to dismiss the state from the DeBrodie wrongful death lawsuit.
“Mr. DeBrodie was not in state custody. He resided in a private facility,” the attorney general’s office argued in court records, adding: “The state is alleged simply to have licensed and certified Second Chance Homes as a residential care facility and to have contracted with Second Chance Homes and other entities to provide services for Mr. DeBrodie.”

In the past decade or so, Missouri has transferred much of its case management authority from regional offices to county developmental disability resource boards. Today, there’s more emphasis on so-called individualized supportive living, which is essentially outpatient service provided in the home of the client’s choosing. The Department of Mental Health certifies and licenses those providers.

Arkansas - Update: Children's Behavioral Health Provider Ascent to Close all Arkansas Facilities
By Benjamin Hardy, Arkansas Times, Oct 2, 2018

Ascent Children's Health Services, which provides behavioral health and early childhood development services at ten sites across Arkansas, will close all facilities in the state by the end of November. The state Department of Human Services announced the news in a press release Tuesday morning.

On September 19, Ascent said it would close three of its facilities — in Arkadelphia, North Little Rock and West Memphis — by October 17. Today, it announced plans to close its remaining seven sites as well.

Facilities in Batesville, Benton and Blytheville will cease operations on November 1. Those in Jonesboro, Mountain Home, Paragould and Trumann will close on Nov. 30.

No word yet on how many patients will be affected. DHS said it will be sending beneficiaries a list of other providers in their area that accept Medicaid. The agency said families looking for assistance should call the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC) Medicaid Beneficiary Service Center at 1-833-402-0672 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Last week, a group of mental health providers held a rally at the state Capitol to protest what they say are unsustainable cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates for behavioral health. The protestors said other changes being made at DHS — such as more stringent licensure requirements for certain classes of mental health professionals — also threatened to drive some providers out of business. However, it's not yet clear whether Ascent's closure is tied to those rate cuts or something else.

Special Education:
Trusting States to do Right by Special Education Students is a Mistake
By Matthew Brock, The Ohio State University via Greenwich Time, October 1, 2018

On Sept. 20, the U.S. Department of Education released a new framework to “rethink” how the department oversees special education services for students with disabilities.As part of this framework, the department plans to provide states with “flexibility” and to “acknowledge” that states are “in the best position to determine implementation of their programs.”

This flexibility relates to how states satisfy the provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – a federal civil rights law known as IDEA meant to ensure all students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education.

In my opinion, the assumption that states are in the best position to determine implementation of their programs related to the IDEA law is a faulty one. So is the notion that relaxing enforcement of these provisions would have a positive impact on students.

I make these arguments as a researcher who focuses on the best ways to serve students with intellectual disability and make sure such students are included in the general classroom to the greatest extent possible.

The Education Department’s plan to give states more flexibility is in line with the Trump administration’s broader view that the Education Department has too much power and that its role should be reduced.

In my view, the administration is wrong to single out IDEA as an example of federal overreach. In reality, IDEA is an example of how the federal government works at its best to ensure the rights of America’s most vulnerable citizens. Without it, the nation’s special education system would not exist.

Texas Saved Billions Cutting Special Ed: Now The Bill Comes Due
By John O'Neil, Bloomberg News via Disability Scoop , October 2, 2018

Texas’s 5.4 million students are returning to school this fall amid the usual scramble for textbooks, lockers and desks. The state is also facing a huge problem of its own creation: how to find, evaluate and properly teach as many as 200,000 students wrongly denied special education or overlooked as it sought to limit spending for the nation’s fastest-growing school population.And then there’s the question of how Texas, under orders from the U.S. government, will pay for it all.

The federal mandate, intended to make up for a de facto cap put in place by the Texas Education Agency in 2004, may amount to the biggest single expansion of special education services ever. For more than a decade, local school districts were pressured to turn away students in need. Now that must be undone.

The federal order is an opportunity to improve the life prospects of young people with disabilities and a challenge to the low-tax, high-growth, small-government model Texas has pursued while under Republican control. The state and local districts now confront spending increases projected to reach more than $1.5 billion a year.

Nationwide, schools are struggling to provide special education services in the face of tight budgets, heightened legal scrutiny and shortages of qualified teachers, psychologists and therapists. Texas needs all of those experts to climb out of its hole, plus the help of parents whose trust in their schools has been deeply eroded.

Last year, Heather Beliveaux thought she was done fighting Houston school officials after her daughter was finally deemed eligible for special education. The year before, the girl, Sophia Salehi, had been denied services for visual impairment despite being legally blind.

But Beliveaux found herself again working with a special education lawyer. The new battle wasn’t over whether Sophia, 11, should get help, but whether she could get that help without having to transfer out of a school where she’d begun to thrive. “I thought the big thing was to get her eligible,” Beliveaux said. “I thought once that was settled, they’d have to step up.”

It’s been almost two years since The Houston Chronicle revealed that the percentage of students in Texas special education classes had fallen by roughly a third since the TEA set enrollment targets in 2004. Before then, the special education share in Texas was 11.8 percent of all students, not far below the national average. Over the next decade, the Texas figure fell to 8.6 percent, while enrollment nationwide remained largely unchanged.

More Iowa Students Could Qualify for Special Ed Programs
Federal judge rules state agencies violated the Disabilities Education Act.

By Mike Bunge, KIMT-3 News, October 3, 2018

A federal judge's ruling could mean more Iowa students with learning disabilities will qualify for special education programs.An administrative law judge ruled last year that Iowa education agencies violated the Disabilities Education Act by denying an Urbandale student's access to special education classes, The Des Moines Register reported . The student, identified in court documents as A.W., was denied services because she was performing well in her classes.

The Iowa Department of Education challenged Administrative Law Judge Christie Scase's ruling, but a federal judge affirmed the decision.

Attorney Curt Sytsma, who represented the student, said students throughout Iowa could benefit from the ruling. Although federal law says students are entitled to special education help if they have a disability, Sytsma said additional qualifications can exclude students, such as those who are at grade level but still struggle with a learning disability.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”    - Mother Teresa
Help Needed: Caring for the Forensic Population

Dear Fellow Members of VOR,

I am a parent and a member of the Governor’s Advisory Board at Porterville Developmental Center in California. The Special Treatment Program serves people with intellectual disabilities who are Regional Center clients. Our residents have been involved in a crime, are submitted through the courts because they are incompetent to stand trial. The clients are forensic clients.

The Special Treatment Program services include an array competency training for court appearances and testing, vocational, educational training, medical, dental, and recreational services in addition to individualized services as needed for the client and his family. The program, through professional support, deals with emotional, self-confidence, anger, drug addiction, and other physical issues.

Porterville Developmental Center Special Treatment Program is unique in the state and supported only with state funds. California does not receive Federal Funding for this program.  

Jails are not suitable for our clients. Jails do not provide proper care or individualized programs and can be very dangerous for a person with developmental disabilities. The need is obvious and many family members of people with developmental disabilities, as well as the judges and people in law enforcement, can relate to the security, safety, supports and services this program provides. The Porterville Developmental Center staff are licensed, professional, creative, and trained to work with this special population. Federal funding would allow this program to serve more clients. Currently, we are limited to serve only 211 persons in the program. The program is full and there is a waiting list. 

Please contact me if you are aware of similar programs in your state. I would like to compare funding sources. Email is preferred. I would like to hear from family members, advocates, and staff persons.  Thank you, I look forward to knowing more about the special programs for this very special population in other states.
Sunny Maden
2345 N. Cameron Ave.
Covina, Ca. 91724
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Our Friends at the American Health Care Association (AHCA) / National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL)
Invite you to attend the
2018 Convention
October 7-10
San Diego, CA

Tuesday, October 9 is ID/DD Day
For more information go to

836 South Arlington Heights Road #351 Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Toll Free: 877-399-4867 Fax: 877-866-8377
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