The Northeast Indiana Disability Advocacy Coalition (DAC) recognizes the importance of educating individuals with disabilities, along with their families and friends, about legislative and policy issues that affect them. The Disability Advocacy Coalition Voter Education Project is a three-pronged approach involving voter education, voter registration, and a “Get out the Vote” campaign. The purpose of the Important Issues page of this website is to inform voters of the issues and the questions posed to candidates running in the 2012 general election.
In 2011, DAC surveyed stakeholders in Indiana to identify the most important issues for individuals with disabilities in Indiana. The resources and information on this page provide a summary of the key issues disability issues identified by the respondents as most important.
If you reside in Northeast Indiana, click Northeast Indiana State Legislature Candidate Survey and Candidate Positions for more information on where candidates stand on disability issues.
Key Disability Issues:
Eleven key issues were identified by stakeholders. Results of the survey show the respondents
prioritization of the issues:
• Accessible Transportation 14%
• Reduce Waiting Lists for Home and Community-Based Services 12%
• Mental Health Services 11%
• Transition Services (school to adult life) 11%
• Funding for Benefits 11%
• Special Education Issues 9%
• Health Care 8%
• Health Insurance 7%
• Affordable and Accessible Housing 7%
• Access to Quality, Reliable Home Care 7%
• Accessible Technology 3%
Because of the survey responses, DAC developed four key issues that the Disability Advocacy Coalition Voter Education Project (DACVEP) will investigate to understand the candidate’s
positions or available responses on the issues. This information will be shared with members DACVEP so they may make informed choices when voting in the general election. To receive updates and information on candidate positions via e-mail, please become a member by joining the coalition here.
While all of the issues that individuals with disabilities deal with are important, there was consensus that voters need information on candidate positions on the following topics (click on any of the issues below to see more detail):
Accessible Transportation Services
Reducing Waiting Lists for Home and Community-Based Services
Funding for Community Mental Health Services
Transition/Special Education Services
Access to public transportation is essential part of the community infrastructure to ensure mobility to access jobs, education, and community services for people with disabilities. For more than 20 years, people with disabilities have cited transportation issues as their number one barrier to community inclusion. Due to increased costs, fixed route bus service has been reduced each of the last four years.
In urban areas, the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) 5307 & 5309 funding programs provide federal funding for public transportation. In rural areas, the federal funding program for transportation is called FTA 5311. These funds are past due for reauthorization along with other components of the SAFETY-LU transportation legislation, which expired in 2009. In addition, the President has presented a vision for infrastructure improvements. For more information, visit Public Transportation Takes Us There, the American Public Transportation Association.
Two ways of alleviating the pressure of rising costs currently under consideration are as are listed below.
Questions for Candidates:
1. Increase state sales tax funding to the Public Mass Transportation Fund (PMTF), the primary funding source for public transportation. Indiana’s public transportation funding has been decoupled from the PMTF, and is now funded as a separate line item on the budget.
2. Create a mechanism for local communities to establish local/regional transit district taxing authority.
1. Do you support funding local public transportation systems at levels that were provided prior to recent state/federal funding reductions?
2. Please share your views on increased & continued federal funding for public transit in Northeast Indiana.
Medicaid funded Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Waiver programs provide individualized supports that help people live successfully in home and community settings. Through the Waivers, Medicaid funds therapeutic services or other needed supports in the home and community as an alternative to receiving institutional care, provided that the cost of supporting the individual in the home or community is no more than the cost of caring for the same type of individual within an institutional setting.
There are specific waivers are for children and adults with a developmental disability which assist a person to: become involved in the community where he/she lives and works; develop social relationships in the person's home and work communities; develop skills to make decisions about how and where the person wants to live; and, be as independent as possible. These waivers are Autism Waiver, Developmental Disabilities Waiver, and the Support Services Waiver. Individuals in need of these waiver services may apply through the local Bureau of Developmental Disabilities office.
The Division of Aging of the Family and Social Services Administration oversees two additional
Waivers, the Aged and Disabled Waiver and the Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver. These waivers are for children and adults whose needs are primarily medical, and assist a person to be as independent as possible and live in the least restrictive environment possible while maintaining safety in the home.
Yet, accessing the waiver may be difficult for many people with disabilities who have immediate need for these services because of large waiting lists. According to the ARC of Indiana, there are currently about 18,000 individuals receiving one of the Developmental Disabilities, Support Services, or Autism Waivers. However, a waiting list of over 20,000 individuals who need Home and Community-Based Waiver Services through these waivers remains. The FSSA’s Section 144 Report recommends developing a new Family Supports Waiver that would improve, expand and replace the current Support Services (SS) Waiver. The goal is to bring services to 6,600 people through the Family Supports Waiver, and an estimated 1,000 people through the Developmental Disabilities (DD) Waiver, over the next three years - April 2012 through March 2015. Even with these positive steps, there is more need for individuals with disabilities to receive home and community-based services.
Questions for Candidates:
1. Are you committed to making the resources available to eliminate waiting lists in
Indiana for home and community-based services?
2. Please share your views on the priorities for healthcare reform and services for people with disabilities.
The Family and Social Services Administration Division of Mental Health and Addictions (DMHA) oversees mental health services in Indiana and contracts with Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) who serve individuals in “catchment areas” in various locations across the state. Funding for services is available through both federal and state dollars. CMHCs have had their resources stretched as DMHA policies push them to provide more services with less available funding.
To move individuals from the hospitals and institutions and help them remain in their communities, Indiana must ensure adequate funding is available. The average cost of serving and individual with severe and persistent mental illness in a state funded institution is nearly $73,000 annually, whereby comparison, the average annual cost of serving individuals in the community is just under $2,000. Yet, change is necessary to ensure that CMHCs have resources to provide effective community based services.
The Division of Mental Health and Addiction has taken an extensive examination and transformation of the Medicaid funds that support community based services (Medicaid Rehabilitation Option (MRO) in an effort to redirect resources toward other types of federal Medicaid programs. MRO funds behavioral health services such as medication training and support, counseling and therapy, skills training and development, case management, peer recovery services, and addiction counseling. Until alternative funding sources are established, through federal waivers or other proposals for new funding, Indiana must ensure that Medicaid funded mental health services are available for individuals who need them.
In the 2010-2011 state biennial budget passed by the general assembly, CMHC state funding was reduced by 3%. Less than two months after the budget was passed, CMHCs received notice that an additional 5% contract cut was necessary due to Indiana’s economic hardship. These reductions have occurred when the need for mental health services is increasing to avert homelessness, incarceration, emergency hospital visits, or institutionalization. Indiana needs to increase state dollars for mental health services, so that CMHCs are able to leverage additional Medicaid funding to provide more services and reduce higher costs to the state for meeting the needs of individuals with severe and persistent mental illness or serious emotional disturbances with an emphasis on recovery in the community.
Questions for Candidates:
1. Will you work to restore funds to Indiana mental health centers that were reduced by recent state/federal funding cuts?
2. What do you see as the top priorities for reform of mental health services funding?
President Jimmy Carter created the United States Department of Education in 1980. While it is a relatively small government entity, it has a large budget to carry out its mission to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access for all. The Department carries out its mission through playing a leadership role in the ongoing national dialogue over how to improve the results of our education system for all students. The department engages in activities such as raising national and community awareness of the education challenges confronting the nation, disseminating the latest discoveries on effective teaching and learning, and helping communities work out solutions to difficult educational issues. Prior to Public Law 94-142 in 1975 (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), there were 1,000,000 students in the United states in need of special education who were languishing without an academic
program in the public education.
Through the 1990 reauthorization of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), youth with disabilities were ensured even greater access to education and the services that would support them in preparing for and assuming more meaningful adult roles in society. School personnel within public education services typically provide special planning and supports, known as Transition services. Transition planning involves looking ahead and planning a student’s future and is part of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) developed through the school. Others involved in the planning for the student may be family members, through local service community workers, vocational rehabilitation, teachers, and other staff supporting a student. Transition planning is important to help determine living environment; employment and life planning; post-secondary education, skills and experience needed;
address challenges or barriers; and, identify services and supports, accommodations, and any
available community resources.
Even with transition services, there are difficulties ensuring students with disabilities have the educational supports needed to succeed. According to recent data and information provided by Indiana school corporations, between 12% and 17% of students have an Individual Education Plan. Students who are part of special education (i.e., those with an IEP) drop out of school at twice the rate of those students who are part of regular education. These statistics highlight the need for improved services for transition-aged youth.
Questions for Candidates:
1. Will you support state/federal initiatives designed to reduce the high school dropout rates of students with disabilities who receive special education services?
2. What should be the government’s role for funding of special education in Indiana?