The mission of VCDR is to advance the human and civil rights of people with disabilities to ensure full and equal participation in all aspects of community life and the political process.


VCDR Alerts

2013 Action Alerts

How are we doing?

We would love your feedback on how well VCDR is doing in meeting the advocacy needs of our community! Please fill out this brief survey that the VT DD Council provided for us and feel free to add additional comments by email to

Could we have your responses by December 9th? It would be a help to us and to the VTDDC in making sure we are on-track with your needs!
Many Thanks, Ed Paquin, Pres., VCDR



The Senate is taking action on state’s budget bill for next year. Green Mountain Self-Advocates and Vermont Center for Independent Living have been working closely with the Vermont Workers Center to stop:
· * Time limits for the poorest Vermonters receiving Reach Up benefits
· * Cutbacks being considered for the strongest work incentive Vermont has—the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
that helps thousands of Vermont families work their way out of poverty
· * A $2.5 million dollar cut for Developmental Services, the 4th cut in 5 years.

Please join us in recognizing our shared humanity and dignity as we call for a budget that protects dignity and tackles poverty, that starts with people’s
needs and rights, and that aims to achieve an adequate standard of living for all people in Vermont." Vermont Workers' Center
Kate Kanelstein (802) 825-8399

These following events are being organized by the Put People First Budget Campaign. Please join us:

Urgent: Calling all People of Faith and People of Good Faith!
What: A conference call to bring together people in Vermont to strategize about how advance human rights this legislative session and address to attacks described above.
When: Tuesday April 9th noon-1pm
Where: Conference Call. Call: (641) 715-3620 Access Code: 100053#

Human Rights Hearing: Dignity Not Poverty
What: A panel of community leaders will hear testimony from members of our community impacted by proposed budget cuts and the lack of a People’s Budget.
When: Thursday April 18th 3:30pm
Where: Montpelier, Location TBD

Dignity Not Poverty Vigil
What: A gathering and press event on the Statehouse lawn to express our deep concern, sadness and outrage at budget proposals that attack our shared human dignity, and to call for a People’s Budget that advances dignity and equity.
When: Thursday April 18th 4:30pm
Where: Statehouse Lawn, Montpelier

May First March and Day of Action
What: Thousands gather for a Put People First: One Movement for People and the Planet March and Day of Action. As the legislature is making its final decisions for the session, people from across Vermont come together to call for human rights and real democracy. Register online at
When: Gather at 11:30am Wed May 1
Where: Statehouse Lawn, Montpelier

Budget battle unfolds in DAIL’s Developmental Services Division
by Alicia Freese | April 9, 2013

In a state budget bill that allocates over a billion dollars, $2.5 million can sound like small change.
That’s the amount that the Department of Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) wants to trim from the program budget for people with developmental disabilities.

But advocates for the disabled say the cutback will hit an already beleaguered program still reeling from $11 million in cuts over the last five years.

The Developmental Services Division provides services to more than 3,000 people with developmental disabilities. It partners with a number of service providers to carry out its work. The $2.5 million — which DAIL Commissioner Susan Wehry bills as a “policy reduction” — represents 1.5 percent of the program’s $170 million budget request for Fiscal Year 2014.

At the outset, Wehry said she had high hopes that DAIL could save the money by adopting more cost-effective policies. DAIL came up with roughly 20 proposals, but service providers rebuffed them all.

Now Wehry says program cuts are the “only sure way to save $2.5 million.”

“We have worked very hard with our compatriots on this and the ability to make changes is very difficult. After months of trying to find alternatives through policy changes and system, it is now our opinion that the only sure way to save $2.5 million would be through rescission,” she said.

Julie Tessler, executive director of the Vermont Council of Developmental and Mental Health Services, says most of the original proposals didn’t gain traction because they amounted to cuts.

“They weren’t policy changes. It’s a euphemism,” Tessler told VTDigger.

The Developmental Services program has been grappling with a growing caseload and mounting needs within that caseload — its budget request is $8 million higher than it was last year. Department officials point to a spike in the refugee population, the aging of both clients and their caregivers, and increased public safety needs as the major cost-drivers.

The $2.5 million “policy reduction” proposal was born during the first four months of FY 2013, when DAIL was on pace to end up $6 million in the red.

Still, according to Wehry, Vermont keeps these costs lower than the national average. And Tessler points out that the cost per person has stayed constant for the last five years.

The budget passed by the House hampers DAIL’s ability to make a rescission — it tasks a working group of lawmakers, service providers, Wehry and Secretary of Human Services Doug Racine with finding ways to save the money that will “benefit individuals with development disabilities and their families.”

Advocates support this plan — they are confident the group won’t come up with policy cuts that actually help people — but Wehry says the working group’s September deadline doesn’t give her enough time to carry out the changes.

Both parties made their cases to the Senate committees on Appropriations and Health and Welfare last week. Wehry told both committees she is confident there are ways to save money without putting people in harm’s way, while advocates argued that the program has withstood all the cost containment it can handle and any further reductions will destabilize the system of care.

One of the areas where Wehry is keen to scale back costs is the public safety budget. Service providers supervise people with developmental disabilities who are deemed a risk to public safety, often in costly arrangements where the staff-to-client ratio is high. The number of individuals with budgets of over $200,000 — permitted under DAIL rules only if there are “extraordinary circumstances” — has increased from 10 to 19 since 2007. The total number of people under supervision has climbed at the same pace, from 165 to 220, to a total tune of $2 million.

Wehry, who refers to this as “mission creep,” has suggested putting a firm cap on the $200,000 limit and, in certain cases, supplanting constant supervision with an on-call system. “We were spending a lot of money basically on containment,”Wehry said.

But providers caution that a cap will force them to stop serving these high-needs people because they won’t be able to do so in a safe way. And reducing staff ratios elsewhere in the program would also be harmful, advocates say, forcing providers to offer more congregant services.

Karen Schwartz, executive director of the Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council, said these arrangements strip people of their autonomy and often amount to“child care for adults.”

VCDR ALERT: Physician Assisted Suicide

An Assisted Suicide Bill will be introduced in the Vermont Senate. In adition to a Public Hearing in the House Chamber on Tuesday January 29th, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee will be taking testimony on January 30, January 31 and February 1st in the Mornings in Room 11.

Press Release from Legislature : Public Hearing - End of Life Choices
Montpelier, VT- The Senate Committees on Judiciary and on Health and Welfare will conduct a public hearing on End of Life Choices on January 29, 2013, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the House Chamber at the State House.

Public hearing participants will be given two minutes to testify to the committees.
Sign-up for the public hearing will start at 4:30 p.m. outside the House Chamber.
Please contact Agatha Kessler by phone at 828-2279 or e-mail at with any questions.

2013 legislative session update

VCDR Position on Physician-Assisted Suicide:

Opposition to Legislation: VCDR opposeslegislating physician-assisted suicide. We are particularly concerned that this campaign is happening at a time when there are so many unresolved inequities in our current health care systems. Vermont can – and should – create needed options and real choices for individuals at the end of life by ensuring equal access to the programs, practices and protections that will make quality palliative care, hospice, and community supports at the end of life a real choice for all Vermonters.

Update on PAS

S.77 The Physician-Assisted Suicide legislation termed "End of Life" passed through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee with a positive recommendation and Senate Judiciary with a negative recommendation. The bill was debated on the floor Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with a number of amendments to the original bill.

In the end a "strike all" amendment that considerably altered the bill passed the Senate. The legislation would allow a physician to prescribe drugs "for the relief of symptoms associated with or caused by the terminal condition shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability or professional disciplinary action if the patient self-administers more than a prescribed dosage of the medication and dies as a result". The new language greatly reduces any State involvement in the process.

The bill will now go on to the House where it is expected to consider something more closely aligned with the original bill as introduced. If passed in the House, the legislation will go back to the Senate and the two Houses will need to work out the differences in a committee of conference.
Below are a number of links to articles following the path of the legislation, and the language of the bill as it finally passed the Senate as well as the Seate journal entry for that day and the votes of Senators.

In the News

Vt. Senate Gives Final Passage To Overhauled Bill
Thursday, 02/14/13 5:50pm
Listen (2:36)

A deeply divided Vermont Senate has approved an end of life bill that gives physicians immunity for prescribing a lethal dose of medicine to terminally ill patients.

The action soon turns to the Vermont House, where supporters hope they can restore what they say are much needed safeguards.

For the second day in a row, Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott broke a tie on a bill that had senators arguing in caucus and on the Senate floor.

The bill that the Senate finally approved is a much-reduced version of legislation that failed to win support earlier in the week. It gives physicians and family members immunity if they help a terminally ill patient kill themselves.
Washington Senator Ann Cummings was a critic of the original bill that established more of a state process for physicians to follow. Her proposal simply addresses liability for doctors and family members. And it clarified a similar bill that was approved on Wednesday.

Cummings said she didn't want the state to have a role in how people end their lives.

"Fifteen of us to believe that the state of Vermont should not be in the business of deciding who lives and who dies. We don't have capital punishment," Cummings said. "We don't have program now that sets up who lives and who dies, that that at the present time is a decision that happens between a doctor and his patient."
But critics of the bill said it lacked safeguards for patients. That was also the concern of Attorney General Bill Sorrell, whose office was asked to review it.

"And in our view the amended version took away so many of the patient protections of a person being competent, terminally ill with two different doctors... prognosis, diagnosis of that, the requirement that over a more than two week period of time there be three separate requests for the ability to get this medication," Sorrell said.

Sorrell says those safeguards are contained in an Oregon law that the original Vermont legislation was modeled after.

Supporters of the more comprehensive bill now hope the House will restore much of that original language.

House Speaker Shap Smith promised to give in a thorough review.
"The concern that I have is that a bill that has been thoroughly vetted was changed on the fly on the Senate floor and may pass over to us on a hugely consequential issue, and I have some real concerns about that," Smith said.

The bill will now be reviewed by several House committees, including the Judiciary Committee.

Vermont Senate passes Death with Dignity bill
by Andrew Stein | February 14, 2013

Lieutenant governor breaks tie in Senate, pushing drastically altered assisted death bill to Thursday vote
by Andrew Stein | February 13, 2013

End of life patient rights bill passes first test in Vermont Senate
by Alicia Freese | February 12, 2013
Original Bill:

S.77 - as Passed by Senate:

(a) As used in this section:
(1) “Bona fide health care professional-patient relationship” means a
treating or consulting relationship in the course of which a health care
professional has completed a full assessment of the patient’s medical history
and current medical condition, including a personal physical examination.
(2) “Health care professional” means an individual licensed to practice
medicine under 26 V.S.A. chapter 23 or 33.
(3) “Terminal condition” means an incurable and irreversible disease
which would, within reasonable medical judgment, result in death within six
(b) A health care professional who has a bona fide health care
professional-patient relationship with a patient with a terminal condition and
who prescribes medication to that patient for the relief of symptoms associated with or caused by the terminal condition shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability or professional disciplinary action if the patient self-administers more than a prescribed dosage of the medication and dies as a result.
(c) A person shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability solely for
being present when a patient self-administers a lethal dose of a medication that has been prescribed for that patient by a health care professional.
This act shall take effect on July 1, 2013.

Which was agreed to on a roll call, Yeas 16, Nays 15.
Senator Sears having demanded the yeas and nays, they were taken and are as follows:

Roll Call
Those Senators who voted in the affirmative were: Benning, Campbell,
Cummings, Doyle, Flory, Galbraith, Hartwell, Kitchel, Mazza, McAllister,
Mullin, Nitka, Sears, Starr, Westman.
Those Senators who voted in the negative were: Ashe, Ayer, Baruth,
Bray, Collins, Fox, French, Lyons, MacDonald, McCormack, Pollina,
Rodgers, Snelling, White, Zuckerman.
There being a tie, the Secretary took the casting vote of the President, who
voted “Yea”.
Thereupon the question, Shall the bill be amended as moved by Senator
Rodgers, as substituted?, was agreed to.
Thereupon, the bill was read the third time and passed, on a roll call,
Yeas 22, Nays 8.
Senator Campbell having demanded the yeas and nays, they were taken and are as follows:

Roll Call
Those Senators who voted in the affirmative were: Ashe, Ayer,
Benning, Bray, Campbell, Collins, Cummings, Doyle, Flory, French,
Galbraith, Hartwell, Kitchel, *Lyons, Mazza, McAllister, McCormack, Mullin,
Nitka, Sears, Starr, Westman.

Those Senators who voted in the negative were: Baruth, Fox,
MacDonald, Pollina, Rodgers, Snelling, White, Zuckerman.
*Senator Lyons explained her vote as follows:
“As I indicated previously I don’t believe that this bill offers reassurance or
protection for terminally ill patients with six months to live when they choose to hasten their deaths. I voted “Yes” to move the bill forward and look for improvements to be made.”

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Montpelier, VT 05602

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Phone: 1-800-639-1522

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