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Washington, DC Update 10/12/22
Legislative Updates
The senate is in session this week and focused on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Usually, there are not standalone defense-related bills each year, so everything is tacked onto this one… and this is why staffers will spend this week sorting through the 900 amendments to this year’s NDAA.

Pandemic over? Telehealth options drying up? Here are two ways legislators are working to keep telehealth an option:
Senators Warner (D-VA), Smith (D-MN), Klobuchar (D-MN), Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Murphy (D-CT), Sanders (I-VT), and Booker (D-NJ) sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (HHS/CMS) leadership urging them to review and formally report on the Affordable Care Act’s Essential Health Benefits (EHBs). The letter expressed the need to review telehealth flexibility and the impact that scaling back these service options will have on people who rely on telehealth.

Sens. Grassley (R-IA), Baldwin (D-WI), and Thune (R-SD) led a letter pushing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action to increase broadband speed requirements in its existing programs. The senators argue that improving these programs would help ensure that Americans, particularly those in rural and underserved areas, have access to the download and upload speeds necessary to participate in telehealth, telework and remote learning.
From the Administration
CMS: Minority Research Grants
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) is excited to announce this year’s grantees for the Minority Research Grant Program (MRGP). For more than two decades, the MRGP has supported researchers at minority-serving institutions through funding to explore and address health care disparities affecting racial and ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community, individuals with limited English proficiency, individuals residing in rural areas, and individuals adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.

CMS OMH is proud to announce three recipients will be awarded grants to expand our commitment to advancing health equity among the populations we serve. Each grantee will receive $333,000 in funding to support their projects, which will examine critical public health disparities and increase health equity research capacities at minority-serving institutions.

One of the three 2022 grantees focus on youth and will use the lifecourse framework:

Prairie View A&M University, Investigating the Combined Impact of Spatial Social Networks and Environmental Exposure on Minority Youths' Mental Health
One of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Prairie View A&M, will use multiple research approaches to understand the individual, community, and environmental factors that impact racial and ethnic minority mental health symptoms. They will investigate the combined impact of social networks and environmental exposure. In addition, the researchers will adopt the life course framework to understand past and present risks and protective factors against mental illness among youth aged 18-29 in the US. The research findings have many benefits for bridging the gap in mental health disparity and can identify community-engaged ways to improve outcomes.

ACL: State of the States Developmental Disabilities Project
The State of the States in Developmental Disabilities Project, a longitudinal data project funded under the Projects of National Significance at ACL has moved to the University of Kansas. This project investigates revenue, spending, and programmatic trends in intellectual and developmental disability services in all 50 states, DC, and the nation as a whole. 

In its 40-year history, it has produced more than 300 publications and 11 books. It has produced analyses of the impact of the Great Recession, emerging technology, and community services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The White House recently cited a report from the project when observing the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The project is funded by a five-year, $2 million grant from the Administration on Disabilities within the Administration for Community Living of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and joins other multiple other projects at KUCDD funded by the agency.

ACL: National Transportation Accessibility Center
ACL is announcing a new grant award to develop a National Transportation Accessibility Center (NTAC). The grant of $485,000 over a one-year period has been awarded to the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), which will be partnering with the UMass Boston Institute for Community Inclusion, USAging, and DJB Consulting. NTAC also will work closely with people who need or use transportation services, the transportation sector, and an array of national, state and local organizations throughout the country. This award seeks to expand access to transportation for people with disabilities and older adults by increasing awareness and adoption of transportation accessibility strategies, inclusive planning, and mobility on demand transportation systems.

The transportation industry is changing quickly with new technology like electric and self-driving vehicles and transportation systems. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will make historic investments to rebuild America’s roads, bridges, and rails, creating an important opportunity to make sure transportation is designed, built, and rebuilt around the principle of accessibility for all.
The NTAC will develop and promote strategies that make transportation services more accessible for people with disabilities, older adults, family caregivers and others in their support network, include:
  • identifying and sharing successful accessibility strategies;
  • developing the National Accessible Transportation Accelerator Network (NATAN);
  • identifying and sharing materials through an ACL-hosted NTAC website; facilitating five communities of practice to increase accessible transportation options for historically marginalized and underserved communities; and 
  • coordinating with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and ACL transportation-related centers to leverage resources and expand dissemination of effective practices.

NTAC will serve as a national resource and technical assistance center that advances greater awareness, adoption, and use of assistive technology and other strategies that make transportation systems, services, program enrollment locations, websites, and apps accessible and responsive to the needs of people with disabilities and older adults. Learn more about ACL’s inclusive transportation efforts.

CDC: National Plan for Developmental Disabilities
The strategic plan that will guide the work of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) through 2026 is now available. NCBDDD, a program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, focuses on advancing health for the nation’s most vulnerable populations, including children with developmental disabilities. Read about the plan's four focus areas.
Other Policy Related News of Interest
Child Trends: Policy and Practice-Relevant Research Agenda Indigenous Children and Families
Indigenous children and families in the United States and U.S. territories come from communities with rich histories of culturally grounded knowledge and practices that guide their development and well-being. However, these communities have faced centuries of colonization, inequity, and injustice that continue today. On Indigenous People Day, Child Trends announced Deana Around Him will lead a new initiative to develop a policy- and practice-relevant research agenda to advance the well-being of Indigenous children and families. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a researcher, Dr. Around Him strives to respect Tribal sovereignty and honor cultural strengths in her work. The new initiative builds on these critical elements for engaging in research with Indigenous Peoples, and leverages Child Trends’ decades of experience conducting applied research. She is joined in these efforts by Heather Sauyaq Jean Gordon, an Iñupiaq citizen of the Nome Eskimo Community who is passionate about Indigenous self-determination and well-being. They will partner with researchers across Child Trends who seek to more deeply engage Indigenous populations on the issues that affect them, to more fully include Indigenous children in Child Trends’ mission to ensure that all children thrive.
The values and strategies central to their work include:
  • We respect and honor Indigenous inherent sovereignty and self-determination and seek to engage in Indigenous-led research.
  • We center Indigenous Knowledge, culture, and values in every stage of our work.
  • We use Indigenous methodologies and take asset-based approaches to research. 
  • We seek to conduct projects that benefit our Indigenous partners.
  • We prioritize growing and nurturing true partnerships with Indigenous Nations, communities, and organizations to build trusting, sustainable relationships.

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Family Voices is a national organization and grassroots network of families and friends of children and youth with special health care needs and disabilities that promotes partnership with families--including those of cultural, linguistic and geographic diversity--in order to improve healthcare services and policies for children.