VCDR’s 2015 Legislative Platform
Budget and Policy Priorities
The Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights presents our legislative platform for 2015. This highlights some of the legislative, policy and state budget issues affecting Vermonters with disabilities and their families.
This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the American’s with Disability Act and the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Education Act. It is a time to acknowledge and preserve Vermont laws and services that establish equality and opportunity for all Vermonters. It is a time to remember all that Vermont has done to honor its commitment to inclusive education. And it is a time to renew our commitment to these principles.
2015 is not a time to cut essential programs or erode state policies that were put in place to ensure that Vermonters with disabilities and their families experience the rights and benefits established in these landmark laws. As we wrestle with the challenge of funding education, the right of all children to an excellent education and the opportunities that education creates should not be compromised. Instead it is time to remember that disability is a natural part of the human experience, a fact of life shared by children, working age adults and older Vermonters, and human experience that must be adequately addressed in the State’s budget.
Vermont has developed peer and family services, health benefits, and a system of community services and supports for people with disabilities that foster self-determination, independence and community integration. Any health care reforms or human services changes must preserve these advances. As we consider Vermont’s funding for education, health, human services, and other essential programs we must protect the policies and programs that safeguard the rights established in both the IDEA and the ADA.
One in five Vermonters has a disability. Let us work together to preserve our commitment to disability rights and services so that we do not create a bitter legacy for the future.
Safeguarding Mental Health Rights and Protections: VCDR will monitor and oppose legislative proposals that may diminish the civil rights of people with mental health issues. With the creation of a less centralized system and the passage of Act 192 last session it is particularly important that due process in involuntary treatment and other rights to self-determination are not compromised.
Values and Quality Assurance in Developmental Services: People with intellectual and developmental disabilities served by the developmental service system should receive services consistent with Vermont’s Developmental Disabilities Act [see: 18 V.S.A. § 8724. Principles of service.] The values of self-determination, productivity, and community integration in Vermont’s Developmental Disabilities Act be should be adhered to in all related laws, regulations, policies and guidelines. Twenty years after closing Brandon, we need to rebuild and strengthen our quality assurance infrastructure for developmental services, adhering to meaningful outcomes and indicators that ensure adequate funding is allocated to provide the services needed and to have a positive impact on people’s lives.
Individual and Family Engagement in Health Care Reform: VCDR will monitor health care reform activities, especially the Vermont Blueprint for Health’s implementation in communities, to ensure that patients and family members are integral participants in their design, implementation, and evaluation. VCDR will continue to monitor state and federal health care reform with the goal of ensuring that Vermont's financing, service delivery and administrative practices benefit individuals with disabilities and their families and that related policies and practices ensure equal access and necessary rights protection for these Vermonters.
Common Core Standards: VCDR recommends that the Legislature monitor the State Education Agency (SEA) and Local Education Agencies (LEA’s) during Vermont’s transition to the Common Core Standards. The purpose of this monitoring is to ensure that there is appropriate planning and preparation to implement the Common Core with all students, including students with disabilities. Students with disabilities should be included in this new general education curriculum and given appropriate support to ensure that they are able to achieve their maximum potential.
Seclusion & Restraint in Vermont Schools: Efforts should be continued to ensure enforcement of Agency of Education Rule 4500 regulating the use of restraint and seclusion in Vermont schools. Ongoing monitoring of school data by the AOE, the legislature, families and other stakeholders is crucial to ensure that all students, particularly those with disabilities are being protected and that positive behavioral supports are being implemented.
Legal Assistance for Families with Education Needs: VCDR recognizes the scarcity and expense of legal assistance to families of children with disabilities who are eligible for or on a Section 504 plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school. Funding should be provided for a qualified, full-time, special education attorney or towards sustaining a bank of pro bono attorneys trained by the Disability Law Project in special education law.
Medicaid & Budget
Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund: VCDR believes that Vermont should join the 20 other states with funds that fill the gaps in services and prevention efforts for people with TBIs by identifying an ongoing source of funding. Real possibilities to support proven efforts like the BIA-VT Neuro-Resource Facilitation Program for injured veterans include a $1 surcharge on motor vehicle registrations or the dedication of a portion of penalties for violation of motor vehicle safety statutes, including DUI.
EPSDT Medicaid: The state should review funding levels for mandated EPSDT services (including case management , rehabilitative therapies, crisis support, and transportation including family van modifications) for Vermont’s Medicaid eligible children. This review should result in increased funding to bring Vermont into compliance with federal EPSDT requirements.
Family Funding & CSHN Respite: VCDR requests increased funding of respite opportunities for families provided via Developmental Services Flexible Family Funding, the Department of Health/Children with Special Health Needs Respite Program, the Children’s Mental Health Respite Program, the Children’s Personal Care Services Programs, and/or any other programs in order to restore past funding levels, and to bring the programs to parity.
Work Incentives: The administration and the legislature should expand Vermont's work incentive benefits, including expanding eligibility and asset protections in Vermont's Medicaid for Working People with Disabilities Program, to encourage more people with disabilities to participate in the workforce. Employment initiatives should also be a part of the State Innovation Model and the Community Rehabilitation & Treatment Program since it has been shown that people who are employed and productive are healthier and lower the overall cost of health care. Administrative initiatives should carry out the intent of legislation along these lines.
Children’s Integrated Services – Early Intervention: In order to assure that all children with a legal entitlement to services that are guaranteed by federal and state law, including Part C and B or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Early, Periodic, Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) Services under Medicaid, receive these services at the level and for the duration medically and developmentally necessary, we propose that Vermont:
- Determine the gap between funded Part C services under Children’s Integrated Services (CIS) and the rising need for early intervention services in our communities to which eligible children 0-3 are entitled.
- Appropriate additional money TBD to the Agency of Human Services (AHS) Department of Vermont Health Access (DVHA) and the Agency of Education (AOE) to increase access to EPSDT services.
- Assure CIS services and EPSDT services are included in the planning and implementation of Vermont's single payer insurance system.
- Require CIS representation on all Community Health Teams.
- Direct Building Bright Futures (BBF) to work with the Agency of Education (AOE) and AHS to explore the implementation of the Birth to Five option for early intervention and early childhood special education services under IDEA.
- Designate funding to support the work of developing and implementing Early Intervention (EI) competencies to ensure a highly skilled and qualified workforce in EI, including a fiscal incentive for early childhood professionals to complete the EI competencies.
- Ensure input from the field on the Interagency Agreement for Part C as rule changes on eligibility and evaluation responsibility move forward.
- Ensure that AHS/AOE partners develop indicators around the outcomes for children who do not meet the new eligibility cut-off of 25% delay for Essential Early Education to better understand the impact of this change on children’s academic and developmental success.
Disabilities, Long Term Supports & Services (LTSS): A realistic level of long term supports must be available to those with serious needs. This includes developmental services, especially those oriented towards transition to adulthood and sustained meaningful employment. Most people don’t realize that only about 20% of the people who have developmental disabilities get LTSS. Each year about 100 new people come into the system because of some crisis in their life, like homelessness, the death of a parent, or abuse. And once they come into the system they likely will need services for the rest of their lives. Services for elders and other individuals with disabilities who need LTSS to lead fulfilling lives, including people with serious mental health issues, need to be robust so that they can have equal access to the opportunity to participate in all aspects of society.
SERVICES & NEW INITIATIVES
Support for Peer Initiatives: The state should continue and expand support for Peer initiatives and organizations “of, by and for” people with disabilities. VCDR supports advocacy within the budget process for adequate funding of organizations and projects like: Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, the Green Mountain Self-Advocates, Another Way Drop-in Center, Alyssum, Soteria VT, Pathways VT, Deaf Peer Services, Vermont Family Network, the Vermont Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, the Wellness Workforce Coalition, and other developing peer-run services. This is particularly important as the state budget “tightens” with the pressure of developing expensive residential and inpatient services.
Appropriate, Accessible, Accountable Services and Supports for Children, Youth, and Families: VCDR will monitor the actual budget and policy actions being implemented under the Integrated Family Services initiative to ensure that IFS realizes its potential for family directed services, based on informed decision making, that effectively and responsively meet children and families’ needs in their homes, schools, and communities, regardless of where they live. Research shows that prevention and early intervention should be emphasized for optimal outcomes for all children, especially with regard to good socio-emotional development and mental health. The state’s obligations to children’s services under EPSDT, IDEA Part C and B entitlements must be met. Opportunities under Act 264 and health care reform should be fully explored so that Vermont capitalizes on building capacity for ready and responsive support before a crisis that jeopardizes a child’s stability at home, in care, at school, etc. Family, youth, school, and community stakeholder engagement is needed in the design, implementation, and evaluation of systems changes that seek to advance outcomes of health and well-being for all Vermont families. VCDR believes that our system of care lacks capacity to meet the needs of young Vermonters with social and emotional challenges, and that we need to reinforce our efforts in light of increased stresses on families, schools, and medical homes. The state should work with VCDR to understand and address capacity and access concerns, informed by family, student, school, healthcare, mental health, and other provider perspectives.
Peer Navigation for Families with Complex Needs: Vermont should reinstate this program in which people with the lived experience of complex needs in their OWN families assisted other families to find their way through the complex system of social, economic and health programs. Formerly federally funded for 6 years (Family Support 360 Project), peer navigation has a documented record of success in supporting more informed choices and positive outcomes for families with children and/or parents with disabilities.
Support Service Providers (SSP) for Deaf/Blind Individuals: The closing of the Vermont Center for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing (VCDHH) has delayed the implementation of a pilot program to provide SSP services, funded by VTrans resources. VCDR supports SSP services being ultimately included in the DAIL budget, but currently hope that the pilot project can go forward. We believe that SSPs, individuals who are trained to act as links between persons who are deaf-blind and their environment, are essential to support the independence and community participation of individuals who are Deaf/Blind and other Vermonters with dual sensory loss.
Rehabilitation Services for People who are Blind or Visually Impaired: VCDR believes that there is a need to increase funding through DAIL for rehabilitation services for the blind and visually impaired, which has been frozen at $320,000 for seven years. The need is great for more teachers, more technology training for the visually impaired, and to reduce the level of subsidization by VABVI. As caseload and needs have increased an additional $200,000 would go some way towards addressing the need.
Insurance Coverage for Dentures and Hearing Aids: Private insurance and Medicaid should be required to provide some reasonable level of coverage for dentures and hearing aids. Dentures make adequate nutrition possible and are important for the overall health of individuals who have a disability. Appropriate Hearing Aids are needed for better communication, good health, and personal safety. Neither are adequately covered by the Affordable Care Act and other insurance providers, including Medicaid.
Advocacy for people who are Deaf or Deaf/Blind: A vacuum has been created by the closing of the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VCDHH). All of the services that they provided were valuable and need to be replaced or reinstated in a meaningful way. The Vermont Commission for the Deaf needs to be reestablished by the State to guide policy development, and there is important work to be done for the Deaf and Deaf/Blind Communities across the agency of Human Services. AHS and AoE could benefit from having expertise available to help guide the different departments and to insure that they understand the needs of communities who may be separated by language from mainstream culture. With a system that relies on local schools and that lacks the cohesion that the VCDHH provided, the needs are great for licensure of ASL interpreters, oversight of local teachers of Deaf students and the redevelopment of regional peer programs for Deaf youth so that they can benefit from peer interaction in a language-rich environment.
Van Modification: Funding of $150,000 should be provided through the Sue Williams Freedom Fund at VCIL to assist families with expenses related to modifying a van or other vehicle to make the vehicle accessible to children whose medical condition requires adaptive equipment and/or a wheelchair.
Affordable Accessible Integrated Housing: VCDR will support efforts to expand Vermont's available stock of affordable accessible and integrated housing. This requires legislative support for increasing the number of appropriate rental and purchase units, and for regulation that prohibits credit scoring bias. These services require an infrastructure expansion for developers, housing authorities, and private landlords. We support funding the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (which funds the VCIL Home Access Program) and Pathways to Housing program funded through the Dept. of Mental Health.
Parking Placard Statute Update: VCDR supports updating Vermont’s parking placard statute to clarify that individuals transporting a person with a valid placard have the same rights as the individual would have if she or he were driving the vehicle. The statute should read: “A person who is eligible for a DMV-issued parking placard, or a person who is transporting a person with a DMV issued parking placard, or a person who is Blind shall be permitted to park and to park without fee for at least 10 continuous days in a parking space or area which is restricted as to the length of time parking is permitted or where parking fees are assessed, except that this minimum period shall be 24 continuous hours for parking in a state or municipally operated parking garage …”
Licensure of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Practitioners: VCDR supports a request by the Vermont Association for Behavior Analysis to create a new category of state licensure specific to Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs). ABA is an evidence-based approach that has been shown to be highly effective in treating the interfering symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. It has been ruled by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to be a required EPSDT service. Licensure of BCBAs will increase availability of skilled practitioners able to deliver ABA services and will insure the public of a consistent, high quality and ethical standard of practice.
The Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights thanks you for your service to ALL Vermonters!
VCDR hopes that we can assist you throughout the session as you consider issues that affect the lives of your constituents with disabilities.
VCDR thanks the Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council, VCDR members and friends for their contributions and support of our work. For more information about particular bills and other VCDR advocacy activities, or to share your recommendations and concerns, contact us
To Contact VCDR by mail:
11 East State St., Suite 2
Montpelier, VT 05602
VCDR can be contacted by phone via VCIL at: