September 4, 2020
Happy Labor Day!
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
VOR & You:
Direct Support Professionals
Recognition Week
September 13 - 19, 2020
‘The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.’ - Mahatma Gandhi

We, the parents, siblings, guardians, and friends of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, would like to extend our thanks in recognition of the kindness, the good work and the personal sacrifices that Direct Support Professionals make to ensure the health, safety and happiness of all people with I/DD.
Amy S. F. Lutz to speak at Mt. Sinai Advances in Autism Conference
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Registration is free.
Guardianship and Supported Decision-Making
By Nichole Cipriani and Elizabeth McKenna, National Law Review, August 28, 2020
Recommended: A balanced discussion illustrating the benefits of guardianship for some individuals and the benefits of supported decision-making for others.

National News:
Ending Census Early Could Impact Disability Programs For Years
By Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop, August 31, 2020
Plans to end the census a month ahead of schedule may mean fewer people are counted and less funding is available over the next decade for disability services, advocates warn.

The U.S. Census Bureau was expected to collect responses from people across the nation through the end of October after making adjustments to its plan earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But this month, the agency announced that it would instead halt all collection activities Sept. 30.

Now, disability advocates are worried that the shortened timetable could have big implications for years to come. That’s because the once-a-decade national count determines how federal funding is allocated for Medicaid, education, housing vouchers, food assistance and other programs. It also decides how each part of the country is represented in Congress and the data collected influences state, local and private business decisions.
As of Friday, the Census Bureau indicated that it had received responses from over 80% of households, meaning that much of the nation has yet to be counted.

Advocates are pushing Congress to step in and adjust the deadline for the census to be completed given the challenges of conducting the count during a pandemic. Already, the House of Representatives passed an extension in its latest coronavirus relief legislation in May, but no action has come from the Senate.

In the meantime, advocates are urging people with disabilities and their families to ensure that they are counted by completing the census online.

State News:
New Jersey - Sheltered Workshop Programs to Reopen Statewide
NJ Insider (Press Release) September 2, 2020
Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin announced the state will provide CARES Act funding for the reopening of 26 Sheltered Workshop programs throughout the state.

Sheltered Workshop programs provide employment, job, and skills training to people with disabilities. Statewide, there are 26 programs operating 28 sites. All have been closed since early March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is an important step in our recovery process,” said Governor Murphy. “Sheltered Workshops provide a positive and valuable service for our developmentally disabled community and their ability to reopen will allow those workers to regain a sense of normalcy.”

“This issue is close to my heart. This is crucial funding that will reopen the doors to workshops for individuals with developmental disabilities, providing a safe work environment that cultivates their skills and abilities at a time when it is needed most,” said Senate President Sweeney. “The COVID crisis and shutdown has been especially hard for those who relied on these workshops as
safe havens where they gain invaluable experience with fair compensation for their work. This gives them a sense of purpose and pride as they are engaged in meaningful work. This is one of the best uses of CARES Act funding I can think of.”

“As we work to reopen our state and begin our new normal, we must prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable, including those with developmental disabilities,” said Assembly Speaker Coughlin. “Sheltered Workshops help people with disabilities grow and thrive personally and professionally. Restarting these programs will reopen doors to opportunity for our disabled community. We must support these initiatives however we can.”

The Memorandum of Understanding provides a total of $1,312,500 from the Coronavirus Relief Fund for reopening sites. Each provider will be able to apply for up to $25,000 for the initial reopening.

Oklahoma - Hundreds Receive Disability Services, Thousands Still On Waiting List
By Bonnie Campo, KWTV News9, September 3, 2020
Those with developmental disabilities in Oklahoma will soon see $1.9 million in an effort to help.
The money was provided by Senate Bill 1932, to aid Oklahoma Human Services (OKDHS) in their mission to serve individuals on their waitlist. 

While the funds will be designated to 270 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the waitlist is over 5,500 names.

The Jackson family has waited over a decade for their state benefits, and said they are thankful after receiving a call this week that they were at the top of the list.

"This for me was the best thing that could ever happen for my daughter and myself," said Tarsha Jackson.

Tarsha's daughter, Kirah, has a learning disability. The family applied for Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) in 2007.

However, the fight to help more Oklahomans isn't over.
There are more still waiting.

"We do serve 5,300 people on our home and community-based program, but we do have 5,800 people waiting," said Beth Scrutchins, Division Director for DDS.

The waitlist grows by 30-50 people each month. However, individuals on the waiting list are eligible for and often receive services from other programs while they are waiting. 

"We are part of a continuum of services and resources to the families who need us and are so excited to move these 250 individuals from waiting for services to actually receiving them," said Scrutchins. "This commitment will improve the quality of life for these Oklahomans and their families." 

To apply for services through DDS, please visit the website.

Connecticut - State-Issued PPE Halted For Home Health Aides
By Lisa Backus, CT News Junkie, September 4, 2020
As a disabled person who is bedridden when not in her wheelchair, Sharon Thorstenson depends on two personal care aides to see to her daily needs while keeping her safe from COVID-19.

Two months ago, she lost her father to the virus which has killed 4,468 state residents since March.

Thorstenson, a 55-year-old Southington resident, is concerned that a new directive issued by state officials that limits personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution will put her, her aides and the public in jeopardy.

“We’re less than two feet apart when they transfer me to my wheelchair, put me on the toilet or put me back in bed,” Thorstenson said. “There is no way they can stay six feet away from me.”

As some of Connecticut’s largest cities including Hartford are set to honor home care workers Friday, the state Department of Social Services has announced it will cut PPE to a request-only distribution system in the Community First Choice Medicaid program unless the client has symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive for the virus.

The directive will halt the regular shipment of gloves, gowns, surgical masks and face shields to consumers who have home care aides in favor of
five cloth masks per quarter, according to a letter by Melissa Morton, lead planning analyst with the Office of Policy and Management.

The move will impact 10,000 predominantly Black and brown women who work as home care aides serving 6,000 consumers who need help with their daily needs, according to New England Health Care Employees Union SEIU 1199, which represents most of the aides.

The state has regularly provided PPE to hospitals and nursing homes during the healthcare crisis, said Josh Geballe, chief operating officer for Gov. Ned Lamont. Stocks of PPE are now adequate and the facilities should be acquiring their own, Geballe said. Geballe did not specifically mention home care workers when asked Thursday why DSS was no longer providing PPE to home care clients or aides.

Georgia - Valdosta Non-Profit for Adults with Intellectual Disabilities Faces Funding Cuts Due to COVID-19
By Ava Van Valen, WTXL 27 News, September 3, 2020
In south Georgia, there's a safe haven for those with intellectual disabilities and their families that, despite the pandemic, vows to continue serving the community.

"It gives our folks a quality of life with their peers that they would not have with the public," said Dr. Harry Hamm, the executive director of The Lowndes Advocacy Resource Center.

In March, COVID-19 shut down another critical non-profit in Valdosta, The Lowndes Advocacy Resource Center or LARC, leaving more than 100 people with disabilities with nowhere to go, work or socialize.

"We were shocked at having to shut down because we weren't expecting that," Hamm said.
After the shutdown, many parents found themselves caring for their adult children at home full time, and weren't able to work.

"They didn't have us and the families can't just leave, and leave them home alone," said Hamm.
LARC reopened in May with new safety guidelines in place, including temperature checks, supervised hand-washing stations, and social distancing.

"We have every level of intellectual disability here," Hamm said. "Some are very willing to wear their masks and understand the necessity and others you can't force the mask on them. We are especially careful with those people making sure they are at least six feet apart at all times."

Arizona - Ex-CEO, Ex-CFO for Hacienda HealthCare Indicted for Fraud; State is Owed Nearly $11M
By Briana Whitney, AZ Family, September 2, 2020
A grand jury has indicted Hacienda HealthCare’s former CEO Bill Timmons and former CFO Joseph O’Malley on several felony charges of fraud and racketeering after the facility allegedly overbilled the state millions of dollars between 2013 and 2018.

The healthcare facility first made headlines at the beginning of 2019 when a patient in a vegetative state was allegedly raped by a former nurse, then gave birth with no facility staff ever knowing she was pregnant.

According to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO), the Medicaid fraud investigation began around the same time in early 2019 after learning Hacienda failed to comply with terms of its contract with the state.
The investigation found that Hacienda improperly allocated costs, inflated reported expenses, and engaged in improper billing from 2013 to 2018, resulting in an overpayment of at least $10,895,648.25 to Hacienda from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS.)

The AGO reached a settlement with Hacienda to pay back the funds, plus an additional fine of $1 million. In the settlement agreement, Hacienda will pay an initial amount of $7 million in January 2021, followed by monthly payments of $50,000. They will also pay the $1 million fine to the AGO and AHCCCS.

Arkansas Governor Announces DHS to Move 700 Off Wait List For Developmental Disabilities Aid
STL News, (Press release), August 28, 2020

The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) will be adding 700 families to the program that provides in-home and community-based services to Arkansans who are eligible for assistance through Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS), Governor Asa Hutchinson announced at a press conference Thursday.

“This is a significant initiative for these families,” Governor Hutchinson said. “The clients will receive assistance with the day-to-day tasks that most of us perform without thinking about them. This offers them a new level of independence.”

The additional slots will be funded through a new premium tax in the Provider-Led Arkansas Shared Savings Entity (PASSE) program and added to the Community and Employment Supports (CES) Waiver program, known as the DD waiver. PASSE has already brought in about $15 million to fund slots in this program.

“We are so excited to be able to provide services to so many more families, many of whom have been waiting for years to be a part of this program,” said DDS Director Melissa Stone. “I appreciate the help of the Governor, the Legislature, and the PASSEs to move this forward.”

New York - TRC Launches Online Career Development Academy for Direct Support Professionals
Observer Today, September 4, 2020
The Resource Center has implemented the latest initiative supporting its status as a national leader in the development of direct support professional career ladders with the launch of the NADSP E-Badge Academy.

For more than a decade, TRC has worked with the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals to provide opportunities for eligible employees to earn multiple levels of national certification. In 2014 The Resource Center received a Moving Mountains Award, which recognizes organizations that use best practices in direct support workforce development that result in improved outcomes for people with disabilities.

The traditional NADSP certification process has long been the gold standard as a demonstration of a direct support professional’s knowledge, values and skills in a selected set of competency expectations. Over the past decade, the NADSP has realized a need to respond to the many time demands that can impede upon the ability of DSP certification candidates to develop a robust portfolio for submission at the end of their credentialing journey. Also influential when considering change was a commitment to the reality that today’s DSP is guided by a code of ethics and a need to possess a greater range of skills and knowledge than ever before to help people reach positive outcomes and live quality lives in the communities of their choice.

Toward that end, NADSP retired the traditional certification process in January to make way for the launch of the NADSP E-Badge Academy.
The E-Badge Academy is housed online using the Web Courseworks platform. This makes E-Badge Academy attractive to DSPs who often have few minutes to spare in the course of a day, given with their work schedules and home-life responsibilities.

E-Badge Academy participants work at a self-developed pace to create and submit examples of competency demonstrations from an array of skill sets based on core competencies established by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Each learner will earn a total of 50 E-Badges from a catalog featuring skills such as “Building on Strengths,” “Community Safety” and “Cultural Reflections.” Required E-Badges will also be achieved for the milestones of 10, 25, 50, 75, and 100 cumulative hours completed using the accredited learning management system Relias.

Learners receive credit for competency throughout the process, including stipends from TRC as they achieve each of the three levels of national certification. Certifications at the DSP-I and II levels are obtained as learners reach specific criteria of E-Badge accomplishment, leading to the highest level of national certification, DSP-III.

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. 1379 & S. 560 - Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act - To require that group and individual health insurance coverage and group health plans provide coverage for treatment of a congenital anomaly or birth defect. (i.e. Cleft palate, ectodermal dysplasia, etc.)


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.


VOR is concerned about the following bills because they only cover HCBS proivders, and because the sponsors of the bills have consistently fought against ICFs as part of the continuum of care in I/DD services.

H,R. 6305 & S. 3544 - Coronavirus Relief for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act of 2020 - Bill provides FY2020 supplemental appropriations to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for specified quality improvement and laboratory certification activities. The funds are designated as an emergency requirement, which exempts the funds from discretionary spending limits and other budget enforcement rules.
In addition, the bill (1) temporarily requires state Medicaid programs to provide Medicare cost-sharing assistance to certain individuals who qualify for, or are enrolled in, the low-income subsidy program under the Medicare prescription drug benefit; and (2) authorizes a grant program to support Medicaid home- and community-based services during the public health emergency.


During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Health Care Providers have been relying increasingly on Telehealth Services. Members of Congress have proposed a number of bills to learn more about telehealth services, with a possible eye toward expanding these services into our broader system of health care.

VOR has been following the expansion of telehealth, especially how incorporating these services into treatment of people with I/DD might change our delivery systems. Telehealth has the potential to improve care for some people with poor access to professional care, or it could be used as a less-expensive substitute for in-person treatment and quality professional care.

Current Telehealth bills in the 116th Congress include:

H.R. 6474 - Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act - To provide for the expansion of the Rural Health Care Program of the Federal Communications Commission in response to COVID–19, and for other purposes.

H.R. 7078 - To study the effects of changes to telehealth under the Medicare and Medicaid programs during the COVID-19 emergency.

S. 3999 - A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to simplify payments for telehealth services furnished by Federally qualified health centers or rural health clinics under the Medicare program, and for other purposes.

S. 3999 - A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to ensure access to mental health and behavioral health services furnished through telehealth under the Medicare program.

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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