2007 DISABILITY LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

 

A Brief Summary of the 8 (eight) Legislative Issues you need to know

 

1.  Independent Living Center (ILC) Funding

*Increase funding for ILCs by an additional $5 million this year.

 

2.  Health Care

*Oppose proposals negatively affecting eligibility, benefits, coverage, and/or access to services for Medicaid beneficiaries.  Eliminate the systemic bias that leads to unwanted placement in nursing homes and other institutions.

*Promote comprehensive long term care reform that will not reduce coverage or access to services.

*Provide rental/housing subsidies to participants in the new Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion (NFTD) Medicaid waiver program.

*Expand coverage under New York’s Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program to people with disabilities under age 65.

Bill #: A.3074-A/S.1357 of 2006

*Extend Medicaid wrap-around coverage for people dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare who are unable to obtain prescription drugs due to Medicare Part D regulations.

Bill #: A.12117 of 2006

*Increase access to comprehensive health care coverage for all New Yorkers with disabilities.

 

3.  Housing

*Create a housing trust fund for people with disabilities.

*Incorporate the housing provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act into state law.

Bill #: A.7867/S.4933-A of 2006

* Establish standards for “Visitability” in state law to require all newly constructed single-family houses, townhouses and ground-floor units of duplexes and triplexes built with public funds to be made accessible.

 

4.  Civil Rights

*Incorporate Titles II and III of ADA into NYS Human Rights Law.

Bill #s: A.7294/S.5074 of 2006 and A.6328/S.3921 of 2006

*Waive the State’s sovereign immunity to claims under the ADA and Section 504.

Bill #: A.2159 of 2006

 

5.  Education

*Place the burden of proof on school districts in due process hearings challenging the IEP or other aspect of a student’s special education program.

Bill #: A.11965/S.8354 of 2006

 

6. Election Reform

*Eliminate provisions in Section 4-104 (1-a) of the NYS Election Law allowing waiver of polling place accessibility requirements.

 

7. Transportation

*Require transportation service providers, such as taxis, limousines and hotel shuttles to purchase a percentage (10% to 20%) of wheelchair accessible vehicles.

 

8. Mental Health

*Ban the use of solitary confinement in special housing units (SHUs) of people with psychiatric disabilities in state correctional facilities.

Bill #: A.3926/S.2207 of 2006

 

 

 

 

Budget Priorities

 

1.  Independent Living Center (ILC) Funding

 

Background:

 

NYAIL is pleased that ILCs received a minimal increase of $1 million in state funding last year, after a four-year period of level or decreased funding.  This increase provided some additional ability for centers to address existing shortfalls, but funding has not kept pace with the dramatic increase in demand for services over the same period. This year, ILCs need a $5 million increase to continue and expand their work providing people of all ages and disabilities with services that allow them to:

 

--Develop skills to live independently

--Earn degrees, find jobs, and become self-sufficient

--Reduce their reliance on state and federal benefit programs

--Stay out of institutions and participate in community life.

 

A critical part of the work of ILCs is assisting individuals of all ages with disabilities in transitioning from or avoiding unwanted placement in nursing homes or other institutions.  A recently released study of transition and diversion projects at six ILCs by the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council demonstrated an average savings of $63,800 per person per year in Medicaid costs for each person transitioned into the community and $83,000 in projected savings per person per year in Medicaid costs for each person diverted from nursing facility admission. The total savings to the state for the 499 people transitioned or diverted during the period 2003-2006 was nearly $34 million.

 

ILCs are an essential part of the solution to successful restructuring of the long term care system, away from costly institutions to a community-based system of services and supports for people with disabilities of all ages.

 

 

Top Priority:

 

*Increase funding for ILCs by an additional $5 million this year.

 

2.  Health Care

 

Background:

 

Under the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision, people with disabilities are entitled to receive the services and supports they need to live freely in the community and avoid unwanted placement in nursing homes and other institutions.  However, the impact of the Olmstead decision has not been fully realized in New York in terms of facilitating the transition to community-based health care alternatives. Problems with obtaining necessary health care services and supports remain a major barrier to full independence and integration for people with disabilities in New York.  While the State is focused on reducing the costs of Medicaid and other programs, it is crucial that people with disabilities have access to the health care services and supports they need and choose.      

 

Top Priorities:

 

*Oppose proposals negatively affecting eligibility, benefits, coverage, and/or access to services for Medicaid beneficiaries.  Eliminate the systemic bias that leads to unwanted placement in nursing homes and other institutions.

 

Additional cuts or reductions in eligibility for Medicaid beneficiaries put people with disabilities at increased risk of unwanted placement in a nursing home and/or poor medical outcomes.  As the Legislature considers Medicaid and long term care reforms, it must make community integration through the provision of vital and accessible services to people with disabilities of all ages its top priority.

 

*Promote comprehensive long term care reform that will not reduce coverage or access to services.

New York State’s long term care “system” is broken.  A restructured long term care system must allow people with disabilities of all ages to choose to live and receive services in the community.  It must be person-centered and consumer controlled.  New York must offer a spectrum of services and supports to meet the needs and desires of individuals in all areas of the state. Understandable, complete and unbiased information must be available to individuals considering or in need of long term care services. 

 

*Provide rental/housing subsidies to participants in the new Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion (NFTD) Medicaid waiver program.

 

New York will implement a new Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion Medicaid waiver this year, which will help 5000 seniors and people with disabilities live in their communities and avoid or end unwanted nursing home placement.  In order to make this a reality, finding affordable, accessible, and integrated housing is critical.  Part of the savings to the State from avoiding high-cost nursing home placements should be used to offset the cost of making housing subsidies available to individuals transitioned and diverted through the NFTD waiver program.

 

*Expand coverage under New York’s Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program to people with disabilities under age 65.

Bill #: A.3074-A/S.1357 of 2006

 

Many people with disabilities live on marginal incomes which do not qualify them for Medicaid.  Some are faced with the choice of either buying medication, or paying the rent or buying food. Those who worked long enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are eligible for the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, but the significant cost sharing associated with this program will still make it unaffordable for many.  EPIC expansion will help people with disabilities stay healthy and avoid costly and unwanted institutionalization.

 

*Extend Medicaid wrap-around coverage for people dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare who are unable to obtain prescription drugs due to Medicare Part D regulations.

Bill #: A.12117 of 2006

 

A safety net is necessary to fill in the gaps left by the creation of Medicare Part D for prescription drug coverage.  The many problems with Medicare Part D should not fall on the backs of New York’s most vulnerable citizens – the elderly and people with disabilities – who need prescription drugs to survive.

 

*Increase access to comprehensive health care coverage for all New Yorkers with disabilities.

 

As a result of federal Medicaid cuts under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2006, the Medicare Part D rollout, provider “right sizing efforts” and more, people with severe disabilities will face a sudden and unprecedented level of erosion in their health services. Many may be forced to pay more for their care, have greater difficulty accessing their care, and forego care altogether. State lawmakers must oppose budget proposals that would cut off or restrict access to health care. In addition, publicly funded programs should further the community integration of people with disabilities. People with disabilities cannot remain stable and participate in community life if they are unable to access appropriate publicly funded health services.

 

3.  Housing

 

Background:

 

The availability of accessible, affordable and integrated housing opportunities for people with disabilities is critical to sustaining fully independent lives in their communities. The Access to Home program has provided some assistance for home modifications, but more is needed now for New York to fully address the housing crisis facing people with disabilities. 

Top Priority:

 

*Create a housing trust fund for people with disabilities.

 

A housing trust fund would provide people with disabilities with very low to moderate incomes with grants, loans and other housing supports and services, including home modifications. 

 

 

Public Policy Priorities

 

1.  Civil Rights

 

Background:

 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 each provide comprehensive protection for the civil rights of people with disabilities under federal law.  Efforts to weaken the scope of the ADA in particular, and inconsistencies with the provisions of NYS Human Rights Law, leave people with disabilities facing confusion and uncertainty about the scope of their civil rights protections in New York.  New York State must do its part to ensure these critical protections are incorporated into state law and that the State’s immunity to suit under the ADA and Section 504 is waived.

 

Top Priorities:

 

*Incorporate Titles II and III of ADA into NYS Human Rights Law.

Bill #s: A.7294/S.5074 of 2006 and A.6328/S.3921 of 2006

 

*Waive the State’s sovereign immunity to claims under the ADA and Section 504. Bill #: A.2159 of 2006

 

 

 

 

2.  Housing

 

Background:

 

According to a recent study, “Priced Out in 2004,” by the Technical Assistance Collaborative and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, no person receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in New York State can afford an efficiency or one bedroom apartment. Recipients would have to pay over 118% of their SSI benefits for an efficiency apartment and 137% of their SSI benefits for a one bedroom apartment.  The monthly SSI payment to a person living alone with a disability in New York State is currently $710.  Because of the cyclical nature of public and private funding, communities are falling farther and farther behind in addressing the growing need for affordable, accessible, and integrated housing. Yet, decent affordable housing for people with disabilities should not be dependent upon yearly state budget decisions.  Instead, the State should ensure that people with disabilities have more opportunities to obtain affordable, accessible, and integrated housing.

 

Top Priorities:

 

*Incorporate the housing provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act into state law.

Bill #: A.7867/S.4933-A of 2006

 

Housing developers often fail to comply with Section 504’s requirement to set aside a certain percentage of accessible units for people with disabilities when federal dollars are used for construction.  By including these requirements in state law, the Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) will be fully empowered to enforce these requirements and ensure that the State is in compliance with federal standards.

 

* Establish standards for “Visitability” in state law to require all newly constructed single-family houses, townhouses and ground-floor units of duplexes and triplexes built with public funds to be made accessible.

“Visitability” is a movement to change home construction practices so that

 

new homes offer a few specific features that make the home easier for people with a mobility impairment to live in and visit.  The spirit of “Visitability” is the belief that it is unacceptable that new homes continue to be built with gross barriers, given the ease of building basic access into the majority of new homes and the harsh effects major barriers have on people’s lives, including physically unsafe conditions, social isolation, and unwanted institutionalization.

 

     4. Education

 

Top Priority: 

 

*Place the burden of proof on school districts in due process hearings challenging the IEP or other aspect of a student’s special education program.

Bill #: A.11965/S.8354 of 2006

 

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 decided in Schaffer v. Weast that, in the absence of state law to the contrary, the burden of proof in appeals challenging a special education student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is with the party seeking relief.  In most cases, the party seeking relief is the child’s parents, not the school district.  Parents typically have fewer legal resources available to them and less access to information about their child’s education program than the school district officials.  It had been New York’s long-standing policy, prior to the Schaffer decision, that school districts bear the burden of proof in such cases. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     5. Election Reform

 

Background:

 

With the passage of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, voters with disabilities in New York State believed that they would finally be afforded full and equal access to the electoral process. Unfortunately, despite concerted efforts by disability rights advocates, New York has been the last state to implement HAVA’s requirements and ensure that persons with disabilities can vote independently, privately and securely and the State is currently being sued by the federal government as a result. People with disabilities must be afforded this basic right as citizens to vote along with their families, friends, and neighbors and barriers to this right that remain in New York State Election Law must be removed.

 

Top Priority:

 

*Eliminate provisions in Section 4-104 (1-a) of the NYS Election Law allowing waiver of polling place accessibility requirements.

 

     6. Transportation

 

Background:

 

The limited availability of accessible transportation services is a major barrier faced by individuals with disabilities throughout the state, often leading to unemployment, the inability to access medical care, and isolation from friends, family, and full community participation. 

 

Top Priority:

 

*Require transportation service providers, such as taxis, limousines and hotel shuttles to purchase a percentage (10% to 20%) of wheelchair accessible vehicles.

 

 

     7. Mental Health

 

Background:

 

We applaud the passage last year in both houses of a bill to ban the use of solitary confinement in special housing units of people with psychiatric disabilities. Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed by Governor Pataki.

 

Top Priority:

 

*Ban the use of solitary confinement in special housing units (SHUs) of people with psychiatric disabilities in state correctional facilities.

Bill #: A.3926/S.2207 of 2006

 

Psychiatric disabilities may interfere with an inmate’s ability to conform to prison rules. Inmates who violate prison rules are frequently segregated for months or even years in disciplinary lockdown, sometimes known as special housing units (SHUs).  Confined for 23 hours a day, these prisoners face severe social isolation, extreme boredom and idleness and increased risk of suicide.  Placing people with significant psychiatric disabilities in solitary confinement is inhumane and wrong and should be banned.