Albany legislation

In Albany, bills and resolutions are humming along — some might say they’re being crammed in — before the State legislature adjourns on June 8. One bill deserves your immediate attention: Direct Support Wage Enhancement.

Direct Support Wage Enhancement bill

New York’s 2023-24 budget utterly failed nonprofit Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and, in response, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and state Senator John Mannion introduced a bill to raise wages an extra $4,000 per year in income.

To show your assembly member and senator you support it, click this link to the CP New York advocacy page. (Thanks to New York Alliance for Developmental Disabilities for posting this on Facebook.) It’s fast, it’s easy, do it now.

Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day

Much of the recent activity is thanks to Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day on May 15. That was when legislation and resolutions were passed to “promote inclusion, dignity, and respect for people living with disabilities,” according to a statement put out by Seawright, who’s also chair of the Committee on People with Disabilities. You can read about everything that’s in the legislative package here. Below are some highlights.
  • The legislature established the People with Disabilities Access to Programs Commission. It will make recommendations for new laws to help streamline the process for New Yorkers getting access to the programs and services they need.
  • A bill passed that creates more employment opportunities for disabled people within New York State government by allowing an individual with disabilities or disabled veteran to hold full-time or part-time positions for purposes of eligibility for recruitment for state employment.
  • A bill passed the Assembly (and is stuck in the Senate) that waives the state’s sovereign immunity to claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act, allowing state employees to sue New York State for damages due to violations of those laws.

Andre’s Law

A bill reintroduced in the New York state legislature,  “Andre’s Law,” that would prohibit New York State from sending children to a Massachusetts institution that uses electro-shock and other aversive therapies is still hoping to pass before the end of the 2023 legislative session on June 8, reported the New York Post.

Andre’s Law would stop government agencies from sending any more children to the Judge Rothenberg Education Center in Canton, Mass., reportedly the only institution in the country to use such devices for behavior modification on students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). More of the JRC’s residents come from New York than any other state, notes the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. Read the NYP for the details, including how the Judge Rothenberg Center is fighting the law.

Disability-related highlights of the fiscal year budget

Given how recently the budget passed, I wanted to share these efficient highlights of what’s included courtesy of OPWDD.

  • Four Percent Cost of Living Adjustment: A four percent COLA for human services providers including providers within the developmental disabilities service system.
  • Intensive Treatment Opportunities (ITO): Funding to develop additional ITO units at the former Finger Lakes Developmental Center campus. This additional capacity will support people who require this level of care as they prepare to transition to more independent settings.
  • Statewide Ombudsman Program: $2 million for creating a statewide ombudsman program which will provide independent advocacy for people who receive OPWDD services. The ombudsman program will be available to all individuals eligible for OPWDD supports and services.
  • Continued investments in new services: $60 million in new funds to support OPWDD services for people who are new to the system and those whose needs have changed.
  • Continued investments in independent living opportunities: $15 million for continued development of integrated, supportive living opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.

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