Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Message from Tom Laing: More bad news in Topeka. What can we do?

Last week we learned that our State's economy was continuing in its decline. Today's news reveals deeper revenue losses .. around 90 million dollars for the current year, and nearly 80 million more per year for the coming two-year budget cycleand there is no other developments being reported from the Statehouse to offer any relief that "all will be well". 
Tom Laing, Executive Director of
InterHab, at a previous Push Day. 

So we and other concerned groups must do our part to make things better. 

How about a Push Day?

We have had all kinds of Push Days -- those when we pushed back against bad ideas, those when we pushed forward with good ideas, those to heighten the public awareness of our mission, those to raise the visibility of our place in the community, and so on. 

This year's Push Day will happen in a completely different dimension of reality than anything we have ever seen. 

To put it simply, our leaders have forgotten how to lead in a responsible manner, and it is time for us and others to call this mess out for what it is, in hopes that legislators will be shaken awake, into the reality they have created, in time to fix it. 

As for us, we need to come together in Topeka to make a difference. 

Here is the dilemma: 

The job of responsible leaders is to identify the important work that government must do, and then raise the  necessary resources to accomplish that necessary work. This government has instead placed its political philosophies at a higher priority .. i. e  cut taxes, force state-sponsored programs to get by with less, and ignore those whose needs are dire and whose hope is fading. 

Here is what is it at stake for the IDD community:

If the State's deep self-inflicted revenue decline is not reversed, then cuts will happen

CDDO administrative cuts may be left in place and perhaps even made worse. 
The modest new waiting list dollars may be taken out of the budget.
State Aid could be shifted to replace current dollars in the waiver budget. and
Medicaid remibursement rates may be cut.

No one in the statehouse is saying this out loud, but Medicaid is a huge part of the budget, and they cannot balance the budget with the current inadequate dollars unless they whack Medicaid. 

Unless you and we and our fellow citizens in  education, health care, mental health, childrens programs, and elsewhere can slow down this landslide of neglectful governance, then we will be trying to recover for many years to come. 

The status in the Statehouse IS that grim; this is NOT a drill; and we  MUST speak out. 

So, will you join with those who have already signed up?  We hope so. 

Thank you for your steadfast efforts over many years to stand up for persons in need, and for the organizations which meet those needs. 

Register to do what you can to make the Push Day 2015 gathering big, and strong, and effective!

And, keep the faith. You can make a difference. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

3 Reasons to Rally at Push Day

Registration is officially live for Push Day! And this year, the stakes are high. With Kansas facing a projected deficit of at least $600 million, we are at risk of funding cuts for critical services for people with disabilities. By participating in Push Day you can have a direct impact on people’s lives! 

Here are three benefits of participating in the April 30th Rally:   

1. Join fellow advocates from around the state in a day of celebration at the Kansas State Capitol

2. Remind legislators, through your presence, that the challenges facing the Kansas I/DD system should be priorities throughout the remainder of the 2015 legislative session. 

3. Urge lawmakers to preserve funding for I/DD services as they wrestle with the state's fiscal challenges. 

The family advocacy group Advocates for Invisible Kansans will be on hand to deliver their personal stories and reasons for advocating. Let’s band together and be a strong, unified voice for families of Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities!

The event is free to the public and Organizations can register as many people as they need to for one low fee! Click Here to Register for Push Day. The official 2015 Push Day T-shirt is also available for pre-order! 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Autism Awareness

April is autism awareness month. Whether you work with someone on the autism spectrum or not, there are many steps you can take this month to increase awareness and acceptance.

By raising awareness you are helping foster a sense of community where persons with autism can find comfort, encouragement and companionship.

You can raise awareness through a variety of techniques including:

  • Providing education though newsletters, emails, meetings, trainings and more 
  • Advocating at the local/state level to implement changes to help all of those affected by autism live a high quality of life
  • Sharing stories, quotes, and pictures on your personal social media accounts
  • Volunteering wherever/whenever you can! 
For more information on how you can spread awareness, contact InterHab today! 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Kansans rally for repeal of Brownback tax cuts

Large audience gathered around speakers at Rev Up Kansas rally
About 100 people rallied Wednesday within earshot of Gov. Sam Brownback’s office to demand the repeal of income tax cuts they say are crippling the state.

Rev Up Kansas, a coalition of organizations from across the state including InterHab, staged the event to call attention to ongoing budget problems.

According to Rev Up Kansas, these budget problems are the result of tax cuts that Brownback championed in the mistaken belief that they would jump-start the Kansas economy.

Late Tuesday, the Kansas Department of Revenue reported that the state had collected $11.2 million less than estimated in March. With three months left to go in the 2015 fiscal year, tax collections are running a total of $48 million behind already lowered estimates.

Just before the legislative session started in January, plummeting revenues forced Brownback to order allotments — a combination of cuts and cash transfers — to close a projected $300 million budget gap. But only weeks later, continued revenue shortfalls forced him to make another $44.5 million in cuts to state universities and public schools.

If tax collections continue to fall short of projections in April and May, additional cuts will be necessary to ensure the state ends the fiscal year in the black.

Bigger problems lie ahead in the budget year that begins July 1. Brownback and lawmakers are facing a projected deficit of at least $600 million. A Senate-passed budget bill partially closes the gap but would require tax increases of $141 million to balance. Speakers at the rally said repealing the income tax cuts would be the best way to solve the budget problems.

Last week, Brownback said adjusted statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor showed Kansas ranked second in its five-state region for private sector job growth in 2014. “These corrected numbers show that our tax policy is working, bringing jobs and people to Kansas,” the governor said in a news release.

Brownback has said he believes higher sales tax receipts eventually will replace some of the revenue being lost because of the income tax cuts. So far this fiscal year, sales and use tax receipts are $40 million higher than estimated. However, they were $7.8 million short of projections in March.

Read entire KHI News article 

Bowman joins Oral Health Kansas

Doug Bowman has joined Oral Health Kansas as the Community Coalition Coordinator. In his new role, Doug will work with communities across the state to form and strengthen coalitions to address local oral health issues.

Many of InterHab's members will remember Bowman, from his more than two decades of work as the staff director of the State ICC (Interagency Coordinating Counil for Early Childhhood Devlopment) , which provides advice and comment to the State and to legislators regarding IDEA Programs, Part B (3-5 special education) and Part C (the tiny-k program).

Bowman's move to Oral Health Kansas stengthens the already favorable climate at OHK in the recognition and exercise of inclusive views regarding oral health policies. The executive director of OHK is Tanya Dorf Brunner, who many members will recall as the director of training and conferences at InterHab in the mid-1990s.

If you have interest in, or want more information about, OHKs community work, you can contact Bowman at dbowman@oralhealthkansas.org .

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Supreme Court rules against disability providers

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, Courtesy of Disablity Scoop
(The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States/TNS)

DISABILITY SCOOP - Developmental disability service providers cannot sue to force state Medicaid programs to raise their reimbursement rates, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

In a 5-4 decision Tuesday, the high court ruled against a group of Idaho agencies serving people with developmental disabilities.

The service providers had argued that the state failed to raise Medicaid payments as outlined in a federally-approved formula for years even as such agencies faced rising costs.

But, in a blow to the providers, the Supreme Court ruled that private companies currently lack any right to enforce Medicaid requirements. Rather, it is up to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to ensure that states comply with the program’s rules, the court said.

“Our precedents establish that a private right of action under federal law is not created by mere implication, but must be ‘unambiguously conferred,'” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority. “Nothing in the Medicaid Act suggests that Congress meant to change that.”

Joining Scalia in the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in her dissent that the decision will have significant consequences.

“Previously, a state that set reimbursement rates so low that providers were unwilling to furnish a covered service for those who need it could be compelled by those affected to respect the obligation imposed by (the Medicaid Act),” Sotomayor wrote. “Now, it must suffice that a federal agency, with many programs to oversee, has authority to address such violations through the drastic and often counterproductive measure of withholding the funds that pay for such services.”

Sotomayor was joined in dissent by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.

Disabilityscoop.com

Friday, March 27, 2015

InterHab quoted in KC Star editorial on Medicaid expansion

Legislative hearing on Medicaid expansion.
Photo courtesy of Kansas City Star/Associated Press
The Kansas City Star posted an article this week reacting to the testimony the Gov. Brownback administration gave at a legislative hearing on Medicaid expansion.

The editorial is an opinion piece and features comments from Tom Laing, InterHab's executive director.

Read what Tom Laing and the KC Star have to say about the recent developments on the Medicaid expansion debate in the opinion section of the Kansas City Star.