Thursday, January 29, 2015

Where Disability and Poverty Intersect

Disability can be both a cause and consequence of economic insecurity. It is a cause because disability or illness can lead to job loss and reduced earnings, barriers to education and skills
development, significant additional expenses, and many other challenges that can lead to economic hardship. It can also be a consequence because poverty and economic insecurity can limit access to health care and preventive services and increase the likelihood that a person lives and works in an environment that may adversely affect health. As a result, poverty and disability go hand in hand.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Indiana Expands Medicaid and Charges Beneficiaries a Montly Fee

WASHINGTON — After a lengthy back-and-forth, the Obama administration has agreed to let Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, a Republican, expand Medicaid on his own terms, including some that have not been allowed before under federal rules.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence

The plan will extend coverage to an additional 350,000 Indiana residents with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — about $16,100 for a single person and $27,310 for a family of three — starting next month. As in the 27 other states that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will cover the entire cost through this year and at least 90 percent in future years.

Workers with Autism are Advantage for Florida Family Car Wash

If you're in the Northeast, hope you're recovering from the storm. Check out this story -- especially the video -- it will be a great way to start your day wherever you are.

Most car washes are filled with less-than-enthusiastic workers. But in Parkland, Fla., there’s a place to clean your car where the employees — 80 percent of which are along the autism spectrum — are extremely excited about their daily responsibilities, making the turnover rate is almost non-existent.

Started by the father-and-son team of John and Tom D’Eri, Rising Tide Car Wash gives their son and brother, Andrew, who was identified as an autistic individual at the age of three, and its other employees the chance to lead a fulfilling life.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Opinion: Connecticut Budget Cuts Reflect 'New Level of Inhumanity'

Powerful Op-Ed piece in The Hartford Courant by Stanley and the Rev. Kathleen Peters, parents of an adult child with ID/DD.

Enough is enough. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes have shown a whole new level of inhumanity with their continued cuts to the Department of Developmental Services budget. As two of the thousands of parents of an adult child with an intellectual/developmental disability, who has been on the department's waiting lists for residential funding, we are sickened by the Malloy administration's indifference to our children and all the children affected by the budget cuts.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are among the most vulnerable members of our society and the least able to personally advocate for themselves. We can only think that it is because of their vulnerability that the governor and the secretary of policy and management feel that they are an easy target to take the brunt of cuts to balance the state budget.

Report Cites Behavioral and Genetic Differences Among Siblings with Autism

Most siblings with a diagnosis of autism do not share the same genetic risk factors for the disorder and are as distinct in their behaviors as any brothers and sisters, scientists reported on Monday in a study that came as a surprise to many doctors, if not to parents.

Scientists analyzed genetic material from 85 families, using a technology called whole-genome sequencing. Unlike other approaches, which illuminate a sample of a person’s genetic material, the whole-genome technique maps out the entire voluminous recipe, every biological typo, every misplaced comma or transposed letter. Each of the families had two children with a diagnosis of autism.

Monday, January 26, 2015

‘Food Is a Death Sentence to These Kids’

“Are you ready to go to teenager college?” Rhoda Ross-Williams asked her 13-year-old daughter. “You really want to leave us?”
“Mm-hmm,” Rachelle said. She had pulled off her pajamas and was sitting on the toilet so her mother could bathe her. At 4-foot-7 and 278 pounds, she could no longer step over the side of the tub to take a shower.
Rhoda soaped a washcloth and began to scrub beneath the folds of her daughter’s skin. “They’ll have all kinds of stuff for you there,” she went on.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Designers Had People with Autism in Mind with Development of Smart Scarf

What better to add to your collection of contactless payment gloves and music beanie hats than a smart scarf? Microsoft Research has just presented exactly that at Stanford University's Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI).
The smart scarf is still in the early stages but the current prototype both heats up on demand via a smartphone app and vibrates - we assume to alert the wearer to notifications and alarms. What's really clever is that the smart garment is modular so the heating and vibrating modules can be snapped off and switched around to best suit the wearer.

High Court Hears Medicaid Rate Case

U.S. Supreme Court justices weighed whether hospitals and other health-care providers have the right to challenge Medicaid reimbursement rates set by states.A group of health-care providers argued in an Idaho case Tuesday that the U.S. Constitution allows them to contest their reimbursements under the Medicaid health-insurance program for the poor. The position is backed by hospitals, which say that the low rates aren’t covering their costs.Chief Justice John Roberts asked during arguments in Washington whether allowing such lawsuits from hospitals and health-care providers would put state budgetary decisions in the hands of federal judges.

Crimes Against. People with Disabilities

Some alarming statistics.

Not many violent sex crimes are reported in Baxter and Marion counties, but occasionally, it comes to light. And when it comes to understanding these types of attacks against people with developmental disabilities, state agencies say many questions are left unasked, unanswered.

Roberta Sick
The discussion has resurfaced locally following the arrest of Mountain Home resident Joseph L. Snurr Jr., 41, on a charge of rape involving a mentally challenged woman. The alleged crime has touched a nerve in the Twin Lakes Area, with the Marion County Sheriff's Office saying Snurr raped the victim multiple times over the course of two or three days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Education Dept. Warns Louisiana

The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to Louisiana officials, warning them that a state law creating alternative paths for special education students to complete high school may be in violation of federal law.

Vacuum Makes Birthday Special

WASHINGTON — A vacuum cleaner may not seem like a typical birthday gift for a teenager, but when a Virginia boy received one on his birthday, it moved all of the guests to tears.Dylan Johnson, a Chesterfield County boy diagnosed with autism, has had a passion for vacuum cleaners since he was 2 years old, his mom Jodie Greene said.

Friday, January 16, 2015

2 Minute Autism Test In the Works

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists have developed a brain-imaging technique that may be able to identify children with autism spectrum disorder in just two minutes.
This test, while far from being used as the clinical standard of care, offers promising diagnostic potential once it undergoes more research and evaluation.

Warren Decries SSDI Changes

This will be long, because I'm pasting it from The Wall Street Journal, re: the recent Social Security disability.

Congress last year unanimously closed a loophole that allowed surviving Nazi war criminals to claim Social Security benefits, but that’s where the entitlement reform consensus ends. Now the political left is melting down over a modest budget change that could require Congress to be honest about the Social Security disability program’s fiscal problems and employment distortions.
Republicans are “inventing a Social Security crisis that will threaten benefits for millions and put our most vulnerable at risk,” wrote Senator Elizabeth Warren , in one of her subtler commentaries. AARP and other left-leaning groups are also war-whooping that a procedural rule the House adopted last week will mean about a 19% cut in disability-insurance benefits.
If only. Social Security payroll taxes finance traditional income transfers for the elderly and disability payments, and an ever-larger share is going to the latter for what amounts to promoting middle-age retirement. What used to be last-resort insurance has come to apply to ailments like back pain or anxiety. More and more workers are leaving the labor force permanently and substituting disability for wages.
In 1990 about one of every 10 Social Security dollars flowed to disability. Now it’s nearly one of five. The disability rolls doubled between 1990 and 2008, and then they spiked 21% in the Obama era to 10.2 million Americans and their dependents. Only about one-third of this growth can be explained by the underlying health, size and demographic composition of the working-age population.
Payments have exploded 32% since 2008 to $140.1 billion. And every year since 2009 disability payments have exceeded the revenues dedicated to disability by a portion of the Social Security payroll tax. The nearby chart tracks the decline in the so-called trust fund that is scheduled to run dry in 2016.
Like the separate trust fund for seniors, this does not mean that some pool of money in the Treasury is running down. All current Social Security payments are financed by current payroll taxes. Trust funds are an accounting fiction that Congress invented to give the appearance that payroll taxes are being saved and invested.
There is one legal catch: When a trust-fund balance reaches zero and current revenue can’t cover current claims, the Treasury isn’t allowed to pay out full benefits. The projected disability shortfall for 2016 is 19% of liabilities, which is how the same liberals who created this shortfall get their figure for phantom cuts.
In practice Congress always protects entitlements for current beneficiaries. Eleven times since 1968, most recently in 2000, Congress has reallocated balances back and forth between the disability fund and the old-age trust fund to disguise Social Security’s financial shortfall. Liberals want to do it again to fill the growing disability hole.
But this bookkeeping maneuver would be especially reckless now, given that the long-term shortfall for payments to the elderly is much larger in absolute and relative terms. The crisis merely arrives later—about 2030—than the immediate disability shortfall.
The best analogy is to an underwater borrower transferring debt from one maxed-out credit card to another with a higher balance but also a higher spending limit. The new House Republican rule merely bars this accounting ruse, on the sensible grounds that Congress shouldn’t keep lying to the public. It may even force Congress to confront each of the two Social Security programs on its own terms.
Reforming disability insurance needn’t mean slashing benefits. It does require setting priorities that help the genuinely disabled while encouraging people who can work to remain on the job.
The subjective eligibility criteria for disability haven’t been updated in 35 years despite advances in medicine and rehabilitation, and they are enforced at the discretion of administrative judges. Applicants often use a shadow industry of lawyers, doctors and bureaucratic fixers to qualify. And as former Senator Tom Coburn amply documented, fraud is rampant.
If the GOP’s truth-in-advertising change forces Congress to fix the disability mess and protect the most vulnerable, so much the better.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Doctors MayBe Missing Signs of Autism in Well-Child Visits

 The 10 to 20 minutes of a typical well-child visit isn’t enough time to reliably detect a young child’s risk of autism, a new study suggests.

“When decisions about autism referral are made based on brief observations alone, there is a substantial risk that even experts may miss a large percentage of children who need a referral for further evaluation,” said lead study author Terisa Gabrielsen. She conducted the study while at the University of Utah but is now an assistant professor in the department of counseling, psychology and special education at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

School Aide Suing NYC

Interesting story from today's edition of The New York Times.

Back in September, an occupational therapist ferociously devoted to disabled children in her public school was suspended for 30 days on charges so flagrantly trumped up that Vladimir V. Putin would blush to bring them. The therapist, Debra Fisher, has helped children to soar from wheelchairs.
Last week, pro bono lawyers representing Ms. Fisher sued the city, demanding that the suspension be overturned and the charges purged from her record.Included in the legal filing was this disclosure: The Education Department is “redoing” the original investigation after it became the subject of skeptical coverage in The New York Times and The Daily News. “It’s practically unheard-of,” said a lawyer representing Ms. Fisher, Joel Kurtzberg of Cahill Gordon & Reindel.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Medicaid for Children Yields Dividends

When advocates talk about the advantages of government health care, they often talk about a moral obligation to ensure equal access. Or they describe the immediate health and economic rewards of giving people a way to pay for their care.

Now a novel study presents another argument for the medical safety net, at least for children: Giving them health coverage may boost their future earnings for decades. And the taxes they pay on those higher incomes may help pay the government back for some of its investment.The study used newly available tax records measured over decades to examine the effects of providing Medicaid insurance to children. Instead of looking at the program’s immediate impact on those children and their families, it followed them once they became adults and began paying federal taxes.

Tenn. to Close Last Large Institution

The state has agreed to close a 40-year-old facility in east Tennessee for people with limited mental functioning, a move that advocates say marks a welcome end to an era of housing people with disabilities in large state-run asylums, often for the majority of their lives.

Under the plan, the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities will shutter Greene Valley Developmental Center in Greeneville by June 30, 2016, moving the remaining 96 residents into more home-like settings integrated into neighborhoods.

Friday, January 9, 2015

House Rep. Proposes Amendment to Save Social Security Fund

Rep. Tom Reed says an amendment he is co-sponsoring would help protect the Social Security Trust Fund. 

Reed, R-23 of Corning, N.Y., joined Rep. Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican, in proposing the amendment to the House rules. It would bar the use of trust fund money to prop up the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund.

Californians Gain More Protection

An additional layer of protection for individuals with developmental disabilities has been added to the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, a 1969 California law that guarantees equal access to services and rights for persons with developmental disabilities.
AB 1687, also known as the Persons with Developmental Disabilities Bill of Rights, went into effect Jan. 1 and adds a fundamental right to the Lanterman Act: a prompt investigation. It applies to any alleged abuse perpetrated against persons with autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and various other developmental disabilities.

DSPs Expected to Feel Md. Budget Cuts

Washington County providers of services for the developmentally disabled would feel the pinch of a 2 percent across-the-board budget reduction to Maryland state agencies that a state board approved this week.

The reduction is part of a plan to cover a $410 million budget shortfall. It would cut in half a 4 percent increase in funds for developmental disability community services  for this fiscal year that the Maryland General Assembly passed last year.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Opinion: Battle Looms Over Social Security Disability and Other Funds

A technical rule change engineered by House Republicans on the first day of the new Congress may signal the beginning of a major battle over the future of the Social Security Disability program—and, more broadly, other federal programs for people with disabilities.

The immediate issue is the fate of the SSDI trust fund, which is expected to become exhausted in 2016. If new funding is not found, SSDI benefits will be cut by about 20 percent for 9 million workers, 2 million of their children, and about 160,000 spouses.

Nebraska County Struggles to Be Compliant on Group Homes

So disturbing the reactions of area residents in their efforts to restrict group homes in their community. What makes them think that the individuals who would live in those homes are any different ... they want a nice place to live, good friendships and relationships, a job or meaningful activity and the opportunity to learn new skills while enjoying access to the community. 

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Grand Island developer Greg Baxter told the Regional Planning Commission Wednesday night that he’s glad he wears boots and not the shoes of Regional Planning Director Chad Nabity, Grand Island Building Director Craig Lewis and Fire Marshal Fred Hotz.
Nabity, Lewis and Hotz have been working for months on addressing a fair housing complaint filed against both Grand Island and Hall County by the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission.
The complaint essentially says that the city and county zoning regulations are out-of-date and out-of compliance with federal fair housing regulations as defined by case law handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Democrats: Attack on Social Security

WASHINGTON — Democrats and Social Security advocates are accusing House Republicans of launching a sneak attack on disability insurance on the very first day of the new Congress.

States Watch 2015 Health Care Issues

Much of the health-care conversations this year will concentrate on two issues with major budgetary and insurance coverage implications that Governing has previously covered. Those are the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision that could end federal subsidies in the 30-some states that don’t operate their own exchange, making insurance unaffordable for many, and whether Congress reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers 8 million kids from low-income families through state and federal funding.

Unfortunately for states, those are also both issues over which they have little control. There are, however, several other areas to watch over which states do have greater control and still others worth keeping an eye on where federal policymakers remain in the driver’s seat.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

U.S. Unprepared for 'Autism Tsunami' as Children Transition to Adults Services

Autism is on the rise: More than 1.5 million people have the condition in the United States alone. But because the majority of these people are younger than 22, the country is on the verge of an “autism tsunami” that could leave thousands without the support they need as they become adults, according to Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization. 
“The current system we have right now is woefully inadequate,” says Angela Lello, director of housing and community living at Autism Speaks. "There are lots of long waiting lists. In some states, it can take as long as 10 years to gain access to [these support] services."  

NYC Students Being Sent to Infamous Massachusetts Center

The Judge Rotenberg Center, a Boston-area school for kids with severe developmental disabilities and behavior disorders, has earned national notoriety for a long record of brutal techniques to keep children in line. Electric shocks. Restraints. Hunger. Federal and state authorities have repeatedly scrutinized the school. Even the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on torture has chimed in.
But New York City kids are still being sent there. Indeed, nearly 90 percent of the school’s students—121 of 137 kids—are from New York City, including 29 who enrolled this year. New York’s taxpayers send the Center $30 million a year.

Monday, January 5, 2015

With Doctors Facing Big Pay Cuts, Medicaid Patients Expected to Pay Price

Andy Pasternak, a family doctor in Reno, Nev., has seen more than 100 new Medicaid patients this year after the state expanded the insurance program under the Affordable Care Act. 

But he won’t be taking any new ones after Dec. 31.  That’s when the law’s two-year pay raise for primary care doctors like him who see Medicaid patients expires, resulting in fee reductions of 43 percent on average across the country, according to the nonpartisan Urban Institute.

Inspiring Others with Disabilities

HAMBURG, N.Y. — Christopher Polisoto is starting 2015 in his own home. His purchase of a three-bedroom, 1½-bath house in Hamburg was completed in October, just in time for him to mow the lawn once before everything was buried under more than 6 feet of snow.
He could not be happier.
“When the storm came, I figured that was a good time to reach out and know my neighbors better,” he said.
And they had a chance to get to know him: He’s 32 and works two part-time jobs while working toward his bachelor’s degree at SUNY Buffalo State.

NYC Requires Flu Shots for Preschoolers

New York City preschoolers will be heading back to class this week with memories of new holiday toys, vacation adventures, and, health officials hope, a flu shot.

In fact, because of a new city requirement, young children can, for the first time in the city’s history, be excluded from class if they have not received a flu vaccination.