June 13, 2016
Disability Policy Consortium Weekly Update

 ,

The is a special edition of the DPC Update.  The Personal Care Attendant Program is under attack, and we need your help.  We begin with an editorial from Charlie Carr and myself.

We have a link to the proposed regulations and an article about how this issue is playing out across the United States.  We believe that it is time for our community and PCA's to act.  We hope you agree.

We also have a busy calendar section for you.

Have a good week and a s always, happy  reading.

John Winske
Disability Policy Consortium
Editorial: A Question of Balance

Once again the Personal Care Assistance (PCA) Program is under attack! This time, it's the Baker Administration and their response to a recent Department of Labor requirement to pay PCA's overtime. Instead of paying overtime, they want to cut back the number of hours a PCA can be paid to 40 hours/week. The proposed regulation, due to come into effect September 1st, will only allow a PCA to work a cumulative total of 40/hours per week for all the people they work for unless an exception is given. So if "Jane" has a well developed employer relationship with a good PCA who has been working 48 hours/week for her, effective September 1st, she'll have to find a second PCA to work the 8 hours. Or if "Mary" is a PCA for "Roberto" 35 hours/week and "Agnes" 25 hours per week for a total of 60 hours per week, under the proposed new regulations "Roberto" will need to reduce his hours with either "Agnes" or "Roberto" or both.

How big a problem is this? Let's look at some of the numbers. There are 28,000 people on the PCA program and 38,000 PCAs. Seven thousand three hundred PCA users have workers who work more than 40 hours/week. More than 6,000 PCA's work overtime. The program costs approximately $700 million per year. MassHealth reports overtime is costing the state an additional $1 million per week that they feel "can't be sustained". Their proposal is to "rein in" costs by capping hours at 40/week and creating "exceptions" that will need to be approved on a case by case basis, but if approved not to exceed 60 hours/week. It's unrealistic and unreasonable to expect that 7,300 PCA users can apply for and receive heretofore undefined "exceptions" on a regular basis. We shouldn't have to live by "exception". Mind you, this is all supposed to be put into place by September 1st. Are you getting nervous?

Despite the fact that Massachusetts has been making painfully slow but steady gains in moving away from institutional care, i.e. nursing homes to community based living using's PCAs, we are still in the lower 2/3rd in the county. Massachusetts has a nursing home budget of $1.3 billion annually and supports over 413 Medicare/Medicaid approved nursing homes for approximately 38,000 people. This is twice the cost or more of the PCA program! This is the discussion we should be having. The solution shouldn't be the poor public policy we are witnessing with the PCA program but rather how do we continue shifting institutional resources into community programs. Re-balancing the institutional bias is our primary goal.

Let's begin expressing ourselves at the upcoming EOHHS public hearing on June 24th at 10 am at the UMass Medical Center in Worcester. Let's express our righteous indignation and anger at how this will effect our lives. Let it be known that the bureaucrats cannot get away with one public hearing in Worcester with no available public transportation and with virtually no notice. We demand additional statewide public hearings.

If you think this isn't about you, that you don't need to let your voice be heard, you are mistaken. Your current PCA may take another job which results in working more than 40 hours/week or more.

Our lives are at stake; our right to choose and hire PCAs so that we can live in the community is in peril.

The DPC does not support this egregious proposal and hopes that you and your PCAs will join us in unison to share in our collective opposition.

Charles Carr                               John Winske
Legislative Liaison                    Executive Director
DPC                                              DPC 
charlescarr@dpcma.org    jwinske@dpcma.org
Advocacy News: Further Information on Restricting PCA Work Hours

Hearing

When:  Friday, June 24, 2016, 10:00 A.M.

Where:  ASC Auditorium AS2.2102 
Albert Sherman Center
UMass Medical School University Campus 
55 Lake Avenue North 
Worcester

MassHealth has just proposed restricting overtime hours that PCAs can work. H ere are some of the basic points around this:

  • A cap on overtime usage is proposed to start September 1, with PCAs being limited to 40 hours/week work, though the state doesn't anticipate full compliance will be feasible by then.
  • An exemption policy will be established.
  • PCA overtime is costing the state in the range of $1 million/week.
  • 7,300 consumers used PCAs who work over 40 hours/week.
  • Approximately 6,000 PCAs are collecting overtime pay.
  • The budget for the PCA program is now $704 million, of which half is reimbursed by the federal government.
If you have comments or concerns on the proposed changes-and especially if you can provide detail on how it might specifically impact you-please share with us for our advocacy efforts. 

You also can submit formal comments on the proposed regulations to the Assistant Secretary for MassHealth, EOHHS, One Ashburton Place, Room 1109, Boston, Massachusetts 02108, or e-mail them to masshealthpublicnotice@state.ma.us. E-mailed comments should contain the sender's name, mailing address, and organization or affiliation, if any. 

Comments will be accepted through 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 8, 2016. The proposed regulations (130 CMR 422.000: Personal Care Services) are available at http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/laws-regs/masshealth/masshealth-proposed-regs.html.

Net News: New Rules Intensify Shortage 

This article is from the DisabilityScoop.com.  It blames the new overtime rules for the shortage.  I think the blame is better placed on shortsightedness of  state Medicaid agencies.  Nonetheless, this article points out that what MassHealth is proposing is part if a national trend. You can find the article here. 
Calendar:  Stavros Housing Speak-Out  
  
When:  Monday, June 13, 2016, 11:00 AM - 12:3 0 P.M.

Where:  Stavros, 227 Berkshire Ave., Springfield, MA 01109

Within Massachusetts many individuals face barriers to housing. The constant increase in housing costs, long waiting list for voucher programs, and the overall limited availability of housing options makes it difficult for people to live the community.

Stavros is asking community members, housing advocates, those currently seeking housing and cross-sector agencies to come together and discuss their concerns with housing. This event strives to meet the following objectives:
  • Allow individuals from cross-disability, and diversified backgrounds to come together to discuss issues within housing.
  • Allow individuals seeking housing and those struggling with their housing placements to come together and share their housing stories.
  • Participate in group activity that describes your ideal housing placement.  How does it promote healthy living and community integration?
We hope you will join us.  Light refreshments will be served.

For accommodations please contact Jennifer Lee at
413-256-0473 or  jlee@stavros.org.
Calendar: Boston Commission Community Forum

When:  Wednesday, June 15, 2016, 2:00 P.M. - 4:00 P.M.

Where:  BRA Boardroom, 9th floor, Boston City Hall, Boston, MA  02201

This event is hosted by the Mayor's Commission for Persons with Disabilities. Attendees will have the opportunity to help set the City's 2016 - 2017 accessibility agenda, hear updates on our current initiatives, and get their questions about access and inclusion in Boston answered.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments about disability issues, we want to hear from you!
Come out and tell us about your access priorities!
  • Hear updates from Disability Commissioner Kristen McCosh
  • Meet members of Boston's Disability Commission Advisory Board
  • Make your concerns about accessibility known to City Officials
  • Network with Disability Community Friends over Free Refreshments
Please plan to join us this year on Wednesday, June 15th at Boston City Hall.

ASL and CART provided. This is a scent-free event.

To request an accommodation, contact us by June 1st at:
disability@boston.gov or call 617-635-3682 / 617-635-2541 TTY

For more information, visit www.cityofboston.gov/disability.

Please see the flyer linked below for more details - and help us spread the word about this event to the disability community.
Calendar: Deaf Persons and Allies Retreat

When: Monday, June 20, 2016, 9:30 A.M. - 3:30 P.M.

Where:  Edward's House, 1 Badger Road, Framingham, MA   01702

Help Grow Deaf Peer Support in Massachusetts

See DEAF Mental Health Recovery Videos

All videos in ASL.  All discussion in ASL.

CART services confirmed.  ASL Interpreters Requested.

Free - RSVP Please - Lunch Provided

For more information or to register

VP: 617 606-7508
Hearing: 617 442-4111 

Sponsored by Transformation Center
with gratitude to the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health for support.
Calendar: Judge King Hearing

When: Tuesday, June 28, 2016, 1:00 P.M. - 3:00 P.M.

Where:  10 Park Plaza. 2nd Floor, Boston, MA 

On Tuesday June 28th, Judge King will be hosting his 
semi-annual public meeting regarding the status of the
MBTA/BCIL Settlement agreement. This particular 
meeting will be unique as we will be taking some time to 
mark the 10 year anniversary of the settlement and 
share some personal reflections on the past 10 years. 
And there will be refreshments!

Please join us to mark the occasion, share feedback 
and help shape future plans.  

See you there,
Laura

Laura Brelsford
Assistant General Manager, System-Wide Accessibility
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Ten Park Plaza, Suite 4470
Boston, MA 02116
Phone: 617-222-1688
Fax: 617-222-4394
Email:  lbrelsford@mbta.com
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