Disability News Service, Resources, Diversity, Americans with Disabilities Act; Local and National.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Check Is Not in the Mail: Social Security checks will no longer be an option: April 28 2011 NYTimes

By SHERISSE PHAM
Starting next week, anyone applying for Social Security, Veterans Affairs or other federal benefits should expect to receive their money electronically — paper checks will no longer be an option. Most of those already getting paper checks have until March 1, 2013 — a slight reprieve — to set up electronic deposit.

It’s about time, actually,” said Rosie Rios, the United States treasurer, in an interview. “We’ve been offering electronic deposit for over 35 years — already eight in 10 people have their funds deposited electronically. This is really a great way for people to have a safe, easy and convenient way to get their funds.”

The move also is a way for the federal government to save money. It costs 92 cents more to print a check than to issue the amount electronically. By phasing out paper checks, the Treasury Department expects to save Social Security $1 billion over the next decade.

For older adults comfortable with computers and online banking, the move should prove fairly seamless. But not everyone is. I have tried to introduce my parents, ages 73 and 66, to Internet banking and direct-deposit tax refunds, and it’s still a multiyear work in progress. Aware of the uninitiated, the Treasury Department has begun a public education campaign. Ms. Rios hopes adult children and other family caregivers will get involved.

I sat down with my mom and I explained this to her, and she’s not one who either has a computer or has any interest in a computer,” said Ms. Rios. She said she told her mother “that there are options available in terms of speaking to a live person via phone, setting this up pretty easily with a little bit of information.”

She also explained “the benefits of what it means to have her money immediately.” Electronic payments become available in bank accounts and on debit cards just after midnight on the day of payment.

People who are, as Ms. Rios put it, “unbanked” can sign up for Direct Express, a preloaded debit card that can be used at stores that accept debit or credit cards. It includes one free monthly A.T.M. withdrawal, provided that you use certain A.T.M.’s; additional withdrawals cost 90 cents. Cardholders can check their balances online, by phone or at A.T.M.’s free of charge, but — in keeping with phasing out that paper — receiving statements in the mail will cost 75 cents a month.

Electronic payments are safer than paper checks, Ms. Rios pointed out. The Treasury Department counted more than 540,000 checks lost or stolen last year, compared with 184,000 reported problems with electronic payments. It is also easier to fix payment issues via direct deposit.

But not everyone has to sign up for electronic payments. People ages 90 and older who receive paper checks will not be asked to make the switch.

How to Sign Up
Online: www.godirect.org
Phone: 800-333-1795
Mail: Fill out this form.
More information on Direct Express, the preloaded debit card, is available here.
http://www.godirect.org/social-security-federal-benefits-direct-deposit/directexpress/

Medicaid Information for U.S. States, Providers, and certain Low-Income Individuals and Families

Medicaid Information for States, Providers, and certain Low-Income Individuals and Families

Overview
Good health is important to everyone. If you can't afford to pay for medical care right now, Medicaid can make it possible for you to get the care that you need so that you can get healthy – and stay healthy.

Medicaid is available only to certain low-income individuals and families who fit into an eligibility group that is recognized by federal and state law. Medicaid does not pay money to you; instead, it sends payments directly to your health care providers. Depending on your state's rules, you may also be asked to pay a small part of the cost (co-payment) for some medical services. ("Medicaid At-A-Glance 2005" may be downloaded from the bottom of the page.)

Medicaid is a state administered program and each state sets its own guidelines regarding eligibility and services. Read more about your state Medicaid program. (See Related Links inside CMS at the bottom of the page.)

Many groups of people are covered by Medicaid. Even within these groups, though, certain requirements must be met. These may include your age, whether you are pregnant, disabled, blind, or aged; your income and resources (like bank accounts, real property, or other items that can be sold for cash); and whether you are a U.S. citizen or a lawfully admitted immigrant. The rules for counting your income and resources vary from state to state and from group to group. There are special rules for those who live in nursing homes and for disabled children living at home.

Your child may be eligible for coverage if he or she is a U.S. citizen or a lawfully admitted immigrant, even if you are not (however, there is a 5-year limit that applies to lawful permanent residents). Eligibility for children is based on the child's status, not the parent's. Also, if someone else's child lives with you, the child may be eligible even if you are not because your income and resources will not count for the child.

In general, you should apply for Medicaid if your income is low and you match one of the descriptions of the Eligibility Groups. (Even if you are not sure whether you qualify, if you or someone in your family needs health care, you should apply for Medicaid and have a qualified caseworker in your state evaluate your situation.)

Screening Tools

To help you see if you may be eligible for a variety of governmental programs, you may access the GovBenefits and BenefitsCheckUp websites. (See related links inside CMS at the bottom of the page.)

When Eligibility Starts

Coverage may start retroactive to any or all of the 3 months prior to application, if the individual would have been eligible during the retroactive period. Coverage generally stops at the end of the month in which a person's circumstances change. Most States have additional "State-only" programs to provide medical assistance for specified poor persons who do not qualify for the Medicaid program. No Federal funds are provided for State-only programs.

What is Not Covered

Medicaid does not provide medical assistance for all poor persons. Even under the broadest provisions of the Federal statute (except for emergency services for certain persons), the Medicaid program does not provide health care services, even for very poor persons, unless they are in one of the designated eligibility groups. Low income is only one test for Medicaid eligibility; assets and resources are also tested against established thresholds. As noted earlier, categorically needy persons who are eligible for Medicaid may or may not also receive cash assistance from the TANF program or from the SSI program. Medically needy persons who would be categorically eligible except for income or assets may become eligible for Medicaid solely because of excessive medical expenses.


Visit website by clicking headline or: http://www.cms.gov/home/medicaid.asp

Uncle Sam Wants You To Pay Him Back « report & video - April 27, 2011 CBS Chicago

Uncle Sam Wants You To Pay Him Back « CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) — The government wants its money. And if you’ve ever received federally subsidized benefits its possible you were overpaid.

As CBS 2′s Pam Zekman reports, most are not fond of the idea of giving back.



A change in the law is now allowing the federal government to collect even if the overpayment happened decades ago. And if you don’t pay up, it could come out of your tax refund check or other future benefits.

That’s what Jane Nye was afraid of after she was notified by the Illinois Department of Human Services that she owed $72 in duplicate food stamp benefits she received back in 1982.

“It’s just insanity to me, insanity,” Nye said, so she demanded copies of the government records that supported the claim.

They showed that the state recouped the duplicate payment the next month.

So what does she think about the agency sending out collection letters without checking their own records?

“I think it’s horrible,” Nye said.

We asked Jennifer Hrycyna, an Associate Director at the Illinois Department of Human Services about Nye’s case.

“Mistakes occur unfortunately,” Hrycyna said. “We do our best to make sure our systems are set up in a way to avoid improper notices being sent and make sure that all our information is accurate. But as in any system we are talking a large volume of people, a large volume of money and there are errors.”

Under the program to crackdown on overpayments DHS has referred 52,000 cases in Illinois to the U.S. Treasury Office to collect more than $39 million in food stamp overpayments.

But that’s just the tip of a huge overpayment problem involving federally subsidized programs. A 2008 report by the General Accounting Office estimates that 22 agencies overpaid $72 billion dollars– money the feds are now aggressively trying to collect.

Before they can take money from your tax refund check or other benefits, the state has to notify you about the overpayment.

You can ask to see records to support their claim and for a case review. But if you can’t prove you don’t owe the money you have to pay it.

Jerry LeBeau tried to get his bank records to prove he did not owe a 1986 food stamp overpayment but, he said, “They could only go back ten years.”

So he paid the $94 but he’s mad about it.

“I mean come on. You’re collecting from 24 years ago its ridiculous.”

And impossible for 69 year old Maria Cobos to deal with. She’s now a Parkinson’s patient living in a nursing home. The state says she was overpaid $2,175 in food stamp benefits and public aid—
26 years ago.

“Do you think you owe it?” Zekman asked.

No I don’t think so,” Cobos responded.

Now $143 a month is being deducted from her social security checks that pay for her nursing home care.

“That’s my only source of income so I am upset of course.”

“We are very sensitive to the hardship that this is causing,” said Hrycyna, “and the challenges of going back to an overpayment many years go. Memory is very limited.”

“But unfortunately,” she said “they are on our books and we are obligated to pursue these overpayments.”
State officials were unaware that some beneficiaries may be eligible for a financial hardship waiver. They are now looking into it.

Now overpaid unemployment benefits are about to be grist for this federal crackdown.

And it doesn’t matter if the errors were caused by a beneficiary or the government, you still have to pay.

Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago for individuals with disabilities or other special needs and their families to improve quality of life and maximize independence.

Easter Seals' Autism
Therapeutic School
Chicago


Expertise

Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago has over 15 years of experience providing services to children and adults with autism. "Until there's a cure, there's Easter Seals."

Easter Seals' Autism Therapeutic Schools are licensed by the Illinois State Board of Education for children ages 3 to 22. Our goal is to empower each student to achieve maximum independence.

Student Eligibility Requirements

•Primary diagnosis of autism, emotional behavior disorders and/or learning disabilities
•Referred for services by home school districts
•"Therapeutic Day Placement" must clearly be identified on Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
Program Overview

•Extended school year
•Modified academic curriculum focusing on adaptive living skills
•Therapies including speech / language, occupational, social work, nursing, art, music
•Other services include behavior consultation and vocational and community training
•On-site After School program
•On-site developmental training program

Until there's a cure, there's Easter Seals.

Please visit website at: http://chicago.easterseals.com/site/PageServer?pagename=ILCH_homepage

National MS Society, Illinois: What is MS? - video -

What is MS? - National MS Society


Uploaded by NationalMSSociety on Mar 11, 2009

This video shows what happens in the central nervous system when a person has multiple sclerosis.

please visit website: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/chapters/ILD/index.aspx

Skepticism Surrounds Cook County's Plan For The WIC Program :Illinois: April 2011

News that Cook County's plan to forgo pursuing a contract renewal to provide health care services for those in the federal Women, Infant, and Children program (WIC) is raising some eyebrows and stirring up a great deal of questions. Chief among them is why other alternatives for cost savings were not pursued before the decision was made, primarily by Cook County Department of Health's Chief Operating Officer Stephen Martin, to shut the program down altogether.


A spokesperson for the county's department of health said the move was made because costs were exceeding revenues and there's an ordinance on the books mandating that all program budgets associated with grants be in the black. The official went on to say that he was unclear as to whether the county is permitted to reduce their caseload in order to remain within the $3 million annual budget. Meanwhile, union officials are calling foul on the decision, with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 31 leading the way. The union is set to lose 70 jobs if the county moves forward with the plan to stop providing WIC services.

Another burning question is how the changes will affect the 20,000 WIC recipients that utilize the county's services. While county officials say the services will continue to be available to current users, there is skepticism about how the referral system will work and whether WIC recipients will be properly directed to the social service agencies that are set to take over for the Department of Health. AFSCME's Executive Director, Henry Bayer, pointed out this concern in a letter to county commissioners earlier this week.

Ending the program has repercussions beyond just the families it serves. There is a synergistic relationship between Cook County WIC and Cook County health care services — which serves to improve health care outcomes for program participants. Women come to WIC to obtain food benefits, but then are referred into the County health system. In fact, studies show an important benefit of WIC is that it provides a gateway to healthcare for participants. Referrals work the other way as well, and clients getting health are services at the County find it easy to apply for WIC.

The county's contract to provide services for those in the WIC program ends on June 30.

Progressive Illinois post

Friday, April 29, 2011

Potential Medicaid Cuts in Illinois Budget Cuts: Peoria Ill: April 22 2011:

Potential Medicaid Cuts
By Jen Christensen : WEEK-TV

Healthcare providers in Illinois could face even more financial challenges now that Governor Pat Quinn is proposing a big cut to state medicaid reimbursements.

Lawmakers are considering an annual six-percent cut for nursing homes and other long term care facilities. Governor Pat Quinn's said, "HFS's proposed budget for FY 2012 calls for achieving a savings of $552 million through a six percent rate reduction for most health care providers. These steps are needed to help stabilize our budget while jump starting the economy and creating jobs."

Methodist Medical Center President Michael Bryant says state cuts--in addition to the federal medicare cuts--could be detrimental to some providers.

He says under the current federal healthcare reform plan--hospitals will lose around 70 million dollars over a 10 year period in medicare reimbursement.

President and C.E.O. of Methodist Medical Center, Michael Bryant said, "We get paid, in methodist's case-less than 40% of cost. This would be another 6% of that. that's a sizeable number. Everywhere you go right now, the providers are taking hits, whether it's nursing homes, hospitals, etc.It's certainly going to be challenging as we go forward."

We talked to all three Peoria hospitals today about potential reimbursement cuts.

Federal cuts make up the biggest potential loss to providers.

That's because Medicare patients make up about 40-percent of Methodist and OSF patients and about 60-percent of Proctor patients.

Cinemark Theatres to install closed captioning: Disability Rights Advocates filed suit in California: report & video: April 2011

Cinemark Theatres to install closed captioning
Don Sanchez - reporter; KGO-TV San Francisco, CA : April 26, 2011



SAN LEANDRO, Calif. (KGO) -- There's been a real breakthrough for people who are deaf or hearing impaired who wanted to go to the movies. They often can't enjoy the theater experience because they simply couldn't hear what was happening on the screen, but Cinemark Theatres is changing that.


The movies are silent for more than one million deaf or hard of hearing people in California, but now 61 Cinemark theatres in California will install closed captioning.

"I'm so excited. This is just wonderful news," said Linda Drattell.

Drattell is deaf and hasn't been able to go to theatres in years.

"I've missed all of the first run movies," said Drattell.

But that will change.

"It absolutely is a major breakthrough," said Sid Wolinsky.

Wolinsky of Berkeley's Disability Rights Advocates filed suit against Cinemark, charging the theatre company with discrimination. In a one-day negotiation, the company agreed it is time for closed captioning. The suit has been dismissed.

"Cinemark was very accommodating and willing to work with us," said Drattell.

Equipment is being installed and the cost is under $2,000 a theatre.

"It coincides with them converting to digital," said Wolinsky. "At that same time, they will implement closed captioning for deaf and hard of hearing people."

They will get a device in the lobby that will fit into a seat cup holder and captioning is transmitted to it.

Cinemark will have closed captioning in every one of their California theaters by May next year. Next up, they're going to negotiate with AMC and Regency chains. The hope is there will be closed captioning in every theatre in America. And it makes sense from a business standpoint to open up a new market.

"There is a large deaf and hard of hearing community out there that is untapped," said Drattell.

Larry King Special “Unthinkable: the Alzheimer’s Epidemic” airs May 1 2011, 8p ET – CNN : article & video

Larry King Special “Unthinkable: the Alzheimer’s Epidemic” airs May 1, 8p ET – CNN Press Room - CNN.com Blogs



Larry King Special “Unthinkable: the Alzheimer’s Epidemic” airs May 1, 8p ET

On Sunday May 1st, CNN will air the first Larry King special, premiering at 8pm ET/PT and will be titled “Unthinkable: the Alzheimer’s Epidemic.” It’s being called the disease of the 21st century as an estimated 5.4 million people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It is the sixth-leading cause of death across all ages in the United States, but many Americans still do not know much about this illness. The one-hour special will look into Alzheimer’s disease, who gets it and why, the race to find effective treatments and a possible cure.

In the above clip, actor Seth Rogen talks to King about supporting his fiancĂ©e and her family as they deal with her mom’s early diagnosis at the age of fifty-five. King will be joined by people who have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease and will include interviews with former First Lady Laura Bush and California’s former First Lady and Alzheimer’s activist Maria Shriver; actors Seth Rogen, and Angie Dickinson; TV host Leeza Gibbons; football star Terrell Owens and son of President Ronald Reagan, Ron Reagan. Neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta will explain what Alzheimer’s is and how this disease affects the human brain.

Rogen wants the world to know this is a young person’s problem too, “More and more people in our generation are gonna have to deal with it,” Rogen said. “We're dealing with it before most people have to,” he tells King. “But as you get older and you see it happening to your parents, and ultimately realize it could happen to yourself and your friends, it becomes much more real and not some imaginary old person problem, you know?” Shriver, in the first interview she’s given since losing her father, Sargent Shriver, to Alzheimer’s disease this year tells King, “I think anybody who’s not concerned about Alzheimer’s is in denial.”

In addition to visiting the Mayo Clinic, Larry King will visit the cutting-edge Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas, and he will be joined by Ron Reagan. While there, one of them will take a brain scan that will indicate if he is at risk for Alzheimer’s or other memory disorders, and one will opt out. Tune in and as they will share the results with the audience and talk to Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, Director, ClevelandClinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and Larry Ruvo, philanthropist and visionary, to see how doctors are treating patients and what people can do to diminish their risk for Alzheimer’s. Dr. Ronald Petersen, Director, Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, who treated President Reagan warned, “If we don't do something about Alzheimer's disease right now, Alzheimer's disease in and of itself may bankrupt the healthcare system.” The special hour will also broadcast on CNNi and will re-air on Saturday, May 7 at 8pm ET/PT. For additional information please visit Alz.org. Exclusive content will be featured on CNN.com including interviews with actor David Hyde Pierce and Harry Johns, President and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association.

CNN Worldwide, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company, is the most trusted source for news and information. Its reach extends to nine cable and satellite television networks; one private place-based network; two radio networks; wireless devices around the world; CNN Digital Network, the No. 1 network of news Web sites in the United States; CNN Newsource, the world’s most extensively syndicated news service; and strategic international partnerships within both television and the digital media.

CNN webpage: http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2011/04/18/cnn-presents-a-larry-king-special/
Alzheimer's Association: http://www.alz.org/index.asp

How To Dispose of Unused and Expired Prescription Drugs

In a nationwide effort to clear homes of potentially dangerous, expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) is supporting the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day taking place on Saturday, April 30.

"Many do not know that prescription drug abuse is an epidemic. Unused prescription medicines that remain in homes can be misused or abused if they end up in the wrong hands of children, family or friends," said Allan Korn, M.D., BCBSA senior vice president and chief medical officer. "BCBSA and Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies nationwide are leading efforts to increase patient safety and make it a healthcare priority and we commend the DEA's efforts of providing a safe and easy way for Americans to drop off their unnecessary prescription drugs."

According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined. The Partnership for a Drug Free America reports that each day, approximately, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet. In addition, it's advised that usual methods of disposing unused medicines – flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash – both pose potential safety and environmental health hazards.

This year on April 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time, the DEA will have more than 5,100 locations across the U.S. available for the public to dispose unwanted prescription drugs. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked. For more information and to find a collection site near you, visit www.dea.gov, click on "Got Drugs?" and enter your zip code.

During its inaugural National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day in September 2010, the DEA collected more than 121 tons of prescription drugs at nearly 4,100 collection sites across the country.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 39 independent, community-based and locally-operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for nearly 98 million members – one-in-three Americans. For more information on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit www.BCBS.com

Information provided by Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
Published:04-28-2011

Drama program helps people with disabilities flourish: report & video - April 2011: abc7 -Karen Meyer reports

Drama program helps people with disabilities flourish
abc7 Karen Meyer reports; April 21, 2011


(if no video, refresh)

April 21, 2011 (ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill.) (WLS) -- For the past eight years, the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights has given teenagers and adults with developmental disabilities an opportunity to showcase their talent.

Rehearsing since last fall, performers with disabilities are part of Flourish in the Footlights production. The big event is Monday night with "Jack and the Beanstalk."

Artist/director Megan Willhite says these performers take their roles seriously.

"We meet for eight weeks in the fall to do acting techniques," Willhite said. "We meet once a week for an hour and fifteen minutes, and they learn basic acting skills and how to work together as an ensemble.

"Then we take a short break and start back in December for the production phase where they actually get familiar with the story&Then we do the improvised scenes to write the script."

Then comes rehearsal for the one-night performance.

This year there are 13 actors who range in age from 16-to-40.

"I'm very fortunate that I have four really great assistant directors," said Willhite. "They're there all the time...we have an occupational therapist and a special educator from Arlington Pediatric Therapy, and then we have an assistant director on the Metropolis side who team directs with me."

Both of the Buchberger's adult children are part of Flourish in the Footlights. It has made a difference for the Buchberger's family.

"Kevin was usually very quiet, and people hardly know that he can talk, but he has the lead role this year and he's in every single scene, and especially if I call him 'Jack' instead of Kevin, you can really get him to speak loud and clear now," said Chris Buchberger.

"I love how I can watch them grow every year," Willhite said, "and it's not just because they're becoming talented performers, but I can see some of the skills we work on are improving their social skills and their communication skills."

Flourish in the Footlights' performance is Monday April 25 at 7 p.m. at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. The address is 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, Ill. Tickets are $8. For more information go to www.metropolisarts.com

JFActivist: Urgent Alert: Advocate for Medicaid During Congressional Recess - April 2011 -AAPD

JFActivist: Urgent Alert: Advocate for Medicaid During Congressional Recess

Contact your Representative and Senators during the Congressional Recess (Monday April 18- Friday April 29) to advocate against current House proposals to slash funding for Medicaid. Talking Points, Action Steps and Contact Information for Senators and Representatives is below.

Background: The recent budget proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives would seriously undermine the Medicaid program. Medicaid provides critical health coverage to 8 million Americans with disabilities who rely upon Medicaid for long term services and support, including prescription drug coverage, durable medical equipment, and facilities and services which permit them to live and work in the community, avoiding costly institutional care.

This proposal would reduce Medicaid funding for the next ten years by a total of $772 billion below the level of a status quo program. This is a reduction of about 35%. In addition, the proposal would make the reduced funding a cap on the program (the so-called block grant). By contrast, the existing program does not have a cap and is an entitlement program in which federal funding will cover a share (averaging 57%) of the expenses of a state’s approved Medicaid program. If enacted, the States would have the burden of limiting their programs to deal with the reduced federal support. The reductions made by the state could take the form of curtailing covered services, capping enrollment, and imposing high premiums and co-payments for beneficiaries.

Policy Considerations: The Congressional process for this proposal is likely to be drawn out. At this time there is no definite scenario for how and when Congress will consider proposals to cut Medicaid. There are a number of possibilities.

1.Medicaid cuts are now in issue in the Congressional Budget resolution that, if passed, would establish dollar limits for Medicaid funding. If limits are set, the details, such as converting the program from an entitlement program to a program of capped blocked grants, would be dealt with in subsequent legislation. At this time, there is a good possibility that the House and Senate will not be able to agree on a budget resolution, as has happened in the past. Even if no budget resolution is adopted Congress is still able to go forward with legislation to fund the government.
2.The next opportunity to impose general spending caps is likely to be when legislation is considered to raise the debt ceiling on the amount of the debt the federal government can issue. The federal government’s debt is expected to reach the current ceiling by May 16. The Administration has stated that if the ceiling is not raised by July 18, the government will be unable to make payments on existing debt. This would have catastrophic effects on interest rates in domestic and international markets. Unlike the budget resolution, the debt ceiling bill is “must pass” legislation.
Outlook: There is speculation that conservatives will refuse to support legislation to raise the debt ceiling unless accompanied by legislation requiring limits on federal spending. Possible limits on spending could take many forms, but most likely they will be general and the battle will continue over follow-up legislation to develop detailed proposals for individual programs such as Medicaid. On another track, President Obama has announced a plan for bi-partisan negotiations between the Administration and the Congress, with the goal of reaching an agreement on the overall budget by June.

The battle over cuts in Medicaid is likely to be prolonged, and involve a series of critical decisions and votes. It is important that the opponents of Medicaid cut proposals express opposition early and often. Even if all details of Medicaid are not an issue in proposals for general spending cuts, the structure of these general spending cut proposals will affect the likelihood that similar proposals will ultimately be adopted. At all times, Members of Congress need to be aware of the serious consequences to people with disabilities of drastic cuts in Medicaid.

The Congressional recess beginning the week of Monday April 18 to Friday April 29th is a good time for advocates to educate their Congressman and Senators who will be in their home districts and states during the recess.

Suggested Talking Points:

•Medicaid is critical for the health care of 8 million people with disabilities.
•Medicaid pays for wheelchairs and prosthetic devices for people with disabilities such as spinal chord injury, cerebral palsy and other disabilities.
•Medicaid pays for prescription drugs for persons with mental illnesses and epilepsy and other medical conditions.
•Medicaid pays for programs to enable people with intellectual disabilities to live and work in the community.
•Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening Diagnosis & Treatment program helps identify disabilities early for children with disabilities and gets them the care they need.
•The proposal would undermine these important benefits by reducing funding for Medicaid for the next 10 years by $772 billion, compared to continuation of the status quo.
•The proposal does not establish specific reductions in Medicaid to enable the program to operate under reduced funding. States will have to make changes to afford to continue Medicaid with significantly less federal support and this proposal leaves it to the States to decide how to cut back on their programs. This could impact many of the current waivers that support community-based living for people with disabilities. Changes must be carefully considered to be certain they will not have a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid to enhance their ability to live and work in the community.

Action Steps:

1.Call your Senators and House Representative today in their local state offices to set up a time to meet between Monday April 18 and Friday April 29th. To find your U.S. Senator, go to http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm This list includes their Senate address and phone numbers. To determine who is your U.S. Congressional Representative, please go to the official site at https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml To find out your U.S. Congressional Representative’s local address and phone numbers, go to http://www.house.gov/
2.If you can only get a meeting with a staffer person, do that too.
3.If you or someone you know with a disability benefits from Medicaid directly, be sure to mention that at the meeting.
4.Be sure to write a letter using the Talking Points above or organize a Medicaid Letter Writing event.
5.Be sure to include your name and address in the letter and state that you are a “registered voter.”
6.If you are not a registered voter, go to your state election website at http://tinyurl.com/29x7g5a and register today!
7.Let AAPD know what you hear or learn in your meetings or in mail response by sending an email to policy@aapd.com
8.Please circulate this Action Alert to others and encourage them to enter this big budget debate.
9.Thank you for everything you do to keep disability programs well-funded and driven by good policy!
AAPD’s Action Alert is written by David Heymsfeld, AAPD Member and Jenifer Simpson, AAPD Senior Director for Government Affairs

Please visit AAPD - The American Association of People with Disabilities at:
http://www.aapd.com/site/c.pvI1IkNWJqE/b.5406299/k.FBCC/Spotlight.htm

Service Animal Registry of America (SARA) TM

Service Animal Registry of America (SARA) TM

SARA Certified and SARA Registered Animals:
SARA registers and certifies service dogs, therapy dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, and all other species of service (assistance) and therapy animals, including: service dogs, therapy dogs, service cats, therapy cats, service primates, therapy primates, service monkey, therapy monkey, service birds, therapy bird, service horses, service equine, therapy equine, service dog.


Mission:
To promote the use of service animals by the disabled; to increase public awareness of the disabled rights concerning service animals; to encourage and support positive federal, state and local legislation involving service animals; to serve as advocates against restrictive legislation for service animals, service animals in training, service animal trainers, and mandatory certification of service animals; to maintain a national database of service animals, service animal trainees, and therapy animals in use in the USA.
SARA Services:
Registration of Service Animals and Service Animal Trainees.
Registration of Service/Therapy Animal Trainers.

Registration of Therapy Animals.

For more info: http://www.affluent.net/sara/index.html

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Seals Project ACTION: FAQ - What is the appropriate length of time spent on a paratransit ride?

Easter Seals Project ACTION: FAQ - What is the appropriate length of time spent on a paratransit ride?

According to USDOT regulations, capacity constraints may include an inordinate number of excessively long trips. The local standard should define what makes a trip excessively long and should also provide for an allowance of long trips. This determination should be made in consultation with the local ADA advisory committee.

The FTA has advised that consideration be made to the comparable trip time of a fixed route (at the same time of day) including a set standard to allow for walking time to/from the stop. It would seem reasonable for transit systems to have a goal of always scheduling trips to be performed in a reasonable (not excessive) amount of time. In-service problems and circumstances beyond the system’s control may develop and cause a trip to be long, but policies and practices in operations that would lead to an excessively long ride should be avoided.

Policies and practices that might lead to excessively long trips might include:

Too many pick-ups and drop-offs scheduled into group runs; and/or
Inadequate backup capacity to handle same-day service problems, resulting in trips added to already tightly scheduled runs throughout the day.
Excessively long trips may be defined in one of the following ways:

Trips that are longer than a set amount of time (e.g., trips longer than 60 or 90 minutes); or
Trips that are considerably longer than comparable fixed-route trips (e.g., trips that are more than twice as long as fixed-route trips from and to the same origins and destinations at the same time of day).
In some cases, systems that use set amounts of time also have different thresholds based on trip length. For example, the standard might be no more than 60 minutes for trips less than 10 miles and no more than 90 minutes for trips more than 10 miles in length.

Each of these approaches has its benefits and flaws. Standards based on set times are easiest to use but may be inappropriate for the full range of trips in the system. An hour may still be too long for a trip that is only 1 to 2 miles in length. In addition, even 90 minutes may not allow enough time for trips that are cross-region, which might take two or more hours by fixed route.

Standards that are based on general comparisons to fixed-route travel times (150 or 200 percent of fixed-route time) may not be appropriate for very short or very long trips. For example, if a trip takes 180 minutes by fixed route, would it be appropriate to allow for a paratransit ride that is 270 or 360 minutes (4.5 to 6 hours)? Probably not.

In recent ADA compliance assessments, FTA has made direct comparisons between paratransit travel times and comparable fixed-route travel times, including an allowance for the extra time it may take traveling to/from a stop or station and waiting for the bus or train. So, for example, defining a paratransit trip as excessively long if it is more than the fixed-route travel time for a comparable trip plus 40 minutes might be more appropriate. The extra 40 minutes might be a reasonable surrogate for the extra time to walk to the bus stop, wait for the bus and walk to the destination, depending on the distances involved.

Considering all of the above, a possible travel time standard might be (see below):

XYZ Transit Agency Sample Travel Time Standard

The goal of XYZ Transit Agency is to provide all trips in a reasonable amount of time when compared to fixed-route service. A trip will be considered to be excessively long if it takes more than 40 minutes longer than a fixed-route trip from the same origin to the same destination at the same time of day. XYZ Transit Agency’s goal is to perform all trips in a reasonable and comparable time. A minimum of 98 percent of all trips will be performed within this standard, with no patterns of excessively long rides due to operating practices within the control of the system. All trips will be scheduled to be performed within this time standard. Adequate backup services will be maintained to ensure that there is no regular pattern of extra trips being added to already full runs, causing other trips to be excessively long.

This standard is an example only and will vary from system to system. These standards should be set with input from the local disability community and ADA advisory committee.

** This information is excerpted from the ESPA publication Innovative Practices in Paratransit Services **

Please visit Easter Seals Project Action for Public Transportation and ADA questions at:
http://projectaction.easterseals.com/site/PageServer?pagename=ESPA_homepage

State of Illinois: 2011: draconian cuts to services for children and adults with developmental disabilities and other vital, community-based human services.

Letter: Draconian Cuts for Community-based Services
Make No Sense : Letter to the Editor Opinion :
Elmhurst Patch News: April 2011

I have a solution to the governor’s budget, which proposes draconian cuts to services for children and adults with developmental disabilities and other vital, community-based human services.

The solution is to spend Illinois taxpayer dollars in an efficient and effective manner! The governor’s proposed budget levies horrific cuts to community-based services that are quality in nature and cost effective when directly compared to the state-run institution model, which clearly is a sacred cow in Illinois for some elected officials.

Illinois state-run institutions have a proven record of providing negligent services that have placed people at great harm and have often times resulted in death. These sub-standard services currently provided to 2,156 people come at a very high cost. The average annual cost per resident in a state institution is $168,656. However, the average annual cost per person served in a 24-hour supervised community-based setting is approximately $50,000. [Data source: Don Moss and Associates, 2/2011]. Simple logic and math tells us that if today our state leaders made a commitment to serve its 2,156 citizens residing in state-run institutions in community settings, there would be an estimated $200 million saving !!!

However, local community services are in the line of fire for drastic cuts beginning July 1. Illinois’ own Department of Human Service’s data shows that there are more than 20,862 children and adults with disabilities waiting for community services; 14,757 people have an emergency or critical need today! It seems to me that the governor’s proposed budget is positioning the nine state-run institutions as the only viable option. Starting in July, these facilities get a $30 million increase to fulfill an overall 14.5 percent agreement to increase wages. There is no one waiting to move into a state-institution, there are only people waiting to move out! In fact, the overall census of people with disabilities is projected to drop, but the staff head count is not!

Illinois remains one of the top 5 states nationally for the number of people living in state-run institutions, all the while being near the very bottom of all of the states in funding community services. We need to change our spending patterns now. This is not just a human service issue. It is an issue of the state exhibiting poor financial stewardship.

—Kim Zoeller, president and CEO, Ray Graham Association for People with Disabilities

Please visit Ray Graham Asso At: http://ray-graham.org/

LifeMyWay : video : Marianne and Ben: "He has choices" : Disability, Community, Advocacy & Life in Illinois

Marianne and Ben: "He has choices"
Uploaded by lifemywayil on Oct 6, 2009



Why I advocate:
To help improve our services. We want increased opportunities and offer integration earlier. My son should be able to able to do activities with friends and family.

LifeMyWay means:
It means my son Ben has the choices for what he likes to do. He should make his own decisions, where to sleep, where to eat, where to work. He's a person like anyone else.

My dreams:
I want my son to be working in the community. He should be able to be a part of his community with his friends

Visit LifeMyWay at: http://www.lifemyway.org/

Union, commissioner question Cook County’s plan to cut WIC program - April 2011 Chicago Sun-Times

Union, commissioner question Cook County’s plan to cut WIC program - Chicago Sun-Times
BY LISA DONOVAN Cook County Reporter : Apr 22, 2011

Cook County officials plan to shut down a program that provides everything from health screenings for pregnant women to infant formula for new moms across the suburbs — but it wont be closed without a fight.

Stephen Martin, Chief Operating Officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health, has told a range of officials the county will no longer provide services funded by the federal Women, Infants and Children Program.

Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who represents the North Side and suburbs, said Martin told him earlier this week that won’t mean the assistance will dry up for those who rely on the program, which include some of the poorest families in the county.

“If we don’t do it, they’ll give [the WIC money] to other community groups to handle the program,” Suffredin said.

Still, Suffredin says he has questions about what it means to eliminate the program. By one estimate the county’s WIC program, which has offices in the Rolling Meadows, Bridgeview and Markham courthouses and another site in Maywood, has a caseload of 20,000 women and children.

“The issues are, who will provide these services and who will provide the outreach to connect people with these services?’’ Suffredin asked. “Should this have been Dr. Martin’s decision alone? Or should it have gone to the [health] board?”

Sean McDermott, a spokesman for the county public health department, assured “the WIC program will continue in Cook County, it will just be provided by’’— possibly one or more social service agencies.

Under the county, costs were exceeding revenues for the $3 million-a-year program, leaving public health officials with no other choice than to stop running it, McDermott said. Officials have said county ordinance requires grant-funded programs to stay on budget.

But the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 31, is planning to fight the move.

“With virtually no rationale and no public input, Cook County is preparing to eliminate these vital services,” AFSCME Local 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer wrote in a letter to county commissioners this week.

The AFSCME note, obtained by the Sun-Times, says Martin said during an April 15 tele-conference with union and program officials that a 10 percent cut in federal WIC funding means the county can no longer afford to administer the program completely from outside funds, as required.

McDermott wasn’t aware of the 10 percent cut mentioned in the AFSCME letter.

“Regardless of whatever cut comes down, this program in the last three years has not been keeping up with expenses,” McDermott said.

Asked why the program didn’t cut back on expenses rather than shutting down, McDermott said: “I don’t know the state allows us to shave back the program. Instead of 20,000, we only want 10,000. The cost of the program exceeds revenues we have to run.’’

He said public officials notified the state that they won’t be renewing the contract to run the program in the county. The county’s contract ends June 30. But public health officials are working with the state to find one or more social service agencies that could administer the program. Whether the offices will remain in the same locations is unclear.

AFSCME officials said about 70 AFSCME employees, including nutritionists and support staff, will lose their jobs if the county discontinues the local WIC program.

Bayer said in the letter that cutting the WIC program goes beyond job cuts.

“Ending the program has repercussions beyond just the families it serves,’’ he wrote. “There is a synergistic relationship between Cook County WIC and Cook County health care services — which serves to improve health care outcomes for program participants. Women come to WIC to obtain food benefits, but then are referred into the County health system. In fact, studies show an important benefit of WIC is that it provides a gateway to healthcare for participants. Referrals work the other way as well, and clients getting health are services at the County find it easy to apply for WIC.”

Independence and social services: Illinois People with Disabilities: Nursing Home; April 27, 2011 - Chicago Tribune

Independence and social services:

Almost two years ago, I moved out of a nursing home into an apartment of my own. Life is much better for me in my own apartment compared to the nursing home. Now I am able to make decisions for myself and am able to do the things that I want to do. In the nursing home, I didn't have much control over my life and I was unable to make any progress.

I am able to live in my own apartment because I get the support of personal assistants. Personal assistants help me with day-to-day things like cooking and cleaning. I hire personal assistants through Illinois Home Services Program. The program costs less money than institutional care, and more importantly, the program provides a lifeline to independence for me and many other people with disabilities.

Without the personal assistant support I have now, I might be forced back into a nursing home. Going back into the nursing home is the last thing I'd ever want to do. But Gov. Quinn's proposed budget limits access to the Home Services program and will cut services of people currently on the program. If Quinn's budget is passed, cuts to Home Services may be the difference between living in an apartment in the community and living in an institution for me and hundreds of others.

I understand that Gov. Quinn has a tough job. I understand that he wants to save money. But cuts to the Home Services program are not the answer. Illinois will end up spending more money to care for people with disabilities in costly institutions, and, many people, myself included, will lose the opportunity to contribute and participate in their communities.

-- Claudette Epting, Chicago

Illinois Budget Cuts - The Efficiency Story: People with Disabilities - slideshow : 2011; FundOurFriends

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Hope comes full circle : The Hope Institute takes on autism

By Scott Faingold : April 28,2011

Springfield, IL
In the late 1950s, when it was known as the Hope School for Blind Children, the future Institute operated out of a series of Springfield residences; today it is housed in a 24-acre, state-of-the-art complex near Lake Springfield. Throughout its history, the Hope Institute has remained in the vanguard of care for children with disabilities. Now Winson is joining forces with new chief executive officer, Dr. Mary Ellen Caron – both were appointed this past March – to expand the organization’s scope ever further, not least in its continuing, groundbreaking work with The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP).

Current Hope board member John Jordan has been intimately connected to the Institute since before its inception. It was his father, Dr. Charles Jordan, who started the Hope School in 1957. His older sister, Judith Ann, was Hope’s first student.

“My sister Judy was born very premature, blind and with multiple handicaps,” recalls Jordan, the second-youngest of the five Jordan children. “She was severely retarded, and had seizure disorders. As she got older, my parents didn’t know what to do with her. They looked all around the country and what they discovered was that nobody, anywhere in the United States, had a facility for children with multiple handicaps – being blind and having seizure disorders, being blind and being disabled. Places either dealt with blind people or they dealt with kids who were retarded, but not the combination. My parents ran into some places that were horrific in their treatments: my sister was strapped down into a bed and left there for the day to soil herself because she wasn’t eating properly, she wasn’t acting properly, you know, she wasn’t doing what you were supposed to do by their standards, and children were penalized at that time for it. And here was a child who had no idea what was going on. None whatsoever. So that’s what started it.”

Years of frustration eventually led the elder Jordan to take matters into his own hands. Financing it independently, he opened the first Hope School for Blind Children in an attempt to provide the kind of care that he had found was unavailable to his daughter elsewhere. When it first opened in 1957, Judith Ann was the sole student, but within a few years she had five or six classmates.

Growing up with a severely disabled older sister along with a father driven to forge solutions to her care, but with no professional caregiving background or technical resources, resulted in an atypical upbringing for the young John Jordan, at least in retrospect.

“I wouldn’t say it was bizarre, because I didn’t know any different,” he says now. “When they started the school in ’57, I was only seven years old and I had grown up with my sister in the household for most of that time. Our household was literally an experiment, ongoing. In the years before Hope, it was very emotional at our house, it was a time of, I would say, considerable emotional upheaval. My three other sisters and myself, y’know, were really pretty much beside ourselves.”

One tragic event in particular contributed to the overall upheaval and perhaps added impetus to his father’s mission. “At around the time Hope started getting off the ground, my oldest sister, [Elizabeth] Farr Jordan, who was a freshman in high school, came home one day in her boyfriend’s car and had passed out. And later on that evening she died. Which obviously compounded everything that was already going on in the household. My father was a dentist, and he was a very career-oriented, very, very intense man. And I think the death of my older sister, his oldest child, the golden child….” he pauses, collecting his thoughts. “I think it really spurred him on to make sure that this whole process, this whole Hope School thing, really took off. I think that’s what kept him going when people kept telling him ‘no.’”

“There was a fellow by the name of Maurice ‘Maurey’ Tretakoff, ” John Jordan explains today, “who worked with disabled children in New Jersey at the time. Around 1958, my father contacted him and flew him out to Springfield, to look at the program. So Maurey came out and looked at the facility, stayed a few days, and told my father that he should really just close up shop. Just close it all down and tend to his own business of being a dentist and get out of the mental health business. My father really didn’t take that very well, and he said: ‘Fine, I’ll work on it.’

“So about a year later, my father called Maurey Tretakoff back and said, ‘We’ve made some great improvements, I wish you would come out again and take a look at it.’ So again, Maurey came out, looked at it for a few days and basically told my dad the same thing. He said: ‘You’ve made improvements, but you are really completely out of your field. You don’t know what you’re doing, you really should close your doors.’ And my father looked at him and said: ‘Okay, I believe you. How about if you move here, you set up the program, you run the place, and I’ll find the money for it.’ And within a short period of time, Tretakoff moved from New Jersey and designed the initial program for Hope School. And my father devoted his time and energies to raising money.” Tretakoff became the school’s first executive director, a position he would hold until his departure in 1972.

The kinds of changes introduced by Tretakoff included some clever transformations of the physical environment of Hope. A variety of textures were added to the walls and floors of the rooms and hallways to alert the vision-impaired students of where they were on the grounds at any given moment as well as where they were headed. This idea has persisted throughout the years and is still employed today, even as the Institute’s therapeutic focus has shifted.

“You’ll notice that all the hallways are color-coded,” says Jordan. “In the current Learning Center they use a lot of icons and colors because the kids don’t often understand the written word. The most prominent example is the yellow stripes in the hallways which lead to the yellow school buses. So here we are, almost 50 years later, still using, really, Maurey Tretakoff’s original ideas but in a different fashion.

“All those years ago there wasn’t any program for children like my sister,” he reiterates. “We tried to treat each child as a whole person, not as a freak, not like ‘here’s a blind kid,’ or ‘here’s a kid that’s retarded’ or whatever. Things have changed now, we’ve made great strides with the kids who have visual impairments. Now it’s kids with autism and autism spectrum disorders who are becoming much more prevalent in our society and they are the kids, now, who need the kind of support that my sister once needed, a place where they can live and grow and become the people that they were really destined to be.”

While Hope’s mission to provide resources for children with disabilities has remained constant, the Institute’s founders could scarcely have predicted the sheer magnitude of expansion their little organization would experience over the coming half-century. The Institute currently employs 585 people, more than 500 of them in Springfield. As for the number of kids, the Hope Learning Center in Springfield boasts a current enrollment of 171 children, 127 of whom live on the grounds (the rest are bused in each day from their homes). Hope has also developed a formidable presence beyond Springfield, particularly in Chicago where the Hope Institute Learning Academy – a Chicago Public Schools contract school administered by Hope – is now attended by 321 non-residential students.


As John Jordan mentioned, today only a tiny minority of visually impaired children are being served by Hope, with the Institute’s overall focus shifting largely towards young people with diagnoses on various points of the autism spectrum.

“A lot of the children with autism spectrum disorders who are currently served at the Hope Institute are late-to-treatment individuals,” explains new executive director Winson, formerly chief program officer of The Autism Program from 2003 until her recent appointment at Hope. “We know that if we can diagnose kids early, and we intervene early, that their long-term prognosis is greatly improved. Right now, the average age of diagnosis is four years old. But we know we can reliably diagnose kids as early as 18 months old.”

“Failure of early detection can result in a situation where parents are going down a path that isn’t really going to work for them,” says Caron, who has spent many years as an administrator in the Chicago public school system, most recently serving as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services. “Often, children and families get labeled early on and then they’re on a road that they can’t possibly get off. I think that’s one of the things that Hope has to offer, along with trusting the instincts of mothers and fathers and family members.

“One of the things I really hope that we will be doing moving forward,” Caron continues, “is expanding the knowledge of teachers out in the communities to be able to help children in the regular classroom. Because there are all kinds of children on the autism spectrum and some of them just need somebody to do things in a different way. And I hope that we’ll be able to work with teachers and schools and principals to offer some of what we’ve learned at The Hope Institute in the last 10 years to help them with their practice in the classroom.

“On a personal level,” she adds, “I also think that whenever you go to a new position, you stand on those who went before you. I think Joe [recently departed Hope CEO Dr. Joseph Nyre] has a clinical background that is unmatched, and he worked very hard to move the clinical things forward. And now I think that my educational background is a good one in terms of taking what Joe did with the clinical aspect of Hope and moving that into education.”

“The story of The Hope Institute really started with the needs of one individual and one family,” enthuses Winson. “In the last 50 years that has continued to where we’re impacting the state of Illinois – and really impacting the nation, through some of our federal grants. It all comes down to families and individuals. On an everyday basis this means that we have the Noll Dental Clinic, so families will get dental care; we have vocational grants to support young people who need training in order to join the workforce; a family can get a diagnosis or a family can just come to the resource center and learn about their child with disabilities.”

“People in general are more and more aware of those with disabilities,” adds Caron. “You may not have anyone in your own family who has a disability, or who has autism, but you’re still interested in finding out about it because it’s so much more out in the open than it was in the past.”

It is undoubtedly true, and heartening, that both public perception and quality of care for those with disabilities are on the rise. However, as Dr. Caron points out, there can still be major problems for those trying to navigate the system. John Jordan recently learned this firsthand in relation to the care of his now 63-year-old sister, Judith Ann.

“Hope is only for kids from five through 21, after 21 they age out and go into adult facilities – so my sister did the same thing,” he explains. While there are currently no such services being offered, Hope is, in fact, licensed to advocate on behalf of adults. The license was sought in order to pave the way for an eventual adult facility, as there is an acute awareness that adults with autism are severely underserved. “When they leave Hope, they receive probably 10 percent of the care, the resources, that they were getting as kids,” says Jordan.

“Judy’s been in a variety of different situations over the years, but she had been with the same caregiver for 18 years. Then, almost two years ago, [the agency responsible for her care] removed her from that home and put her in a group home. I spent the next six months trying to get my sister and her caregiver reunited using a different agency and just didn’t get anywhere.

“So I was talking to Dr. Nyre about it one day and he looks at me and he goes: ‘We have this adult licensure -- why don’t we see if we can bring Judy back home to Hope?’ And so, not this past Christmas, the Christmas before that, we went to pick up my sister, with her caregiver, and brought her back under the umbrella of Hope.”

And just like that, Hope’s first child became Hope’s first adult

“Here we are, 50-some years later, and it literally has come full circle,” Jordan continues, his voice becoming thick with emotion. “We were able to move Judy back into the home where she spent the last 18 years. And I mean, you could see the relief on my sister’s face and in her motions. She knew exactly where she was again, she could maneuver through the whole household and she just sat down in her chair and started rocking and started humming, which is her natural behavior, and I looked at her and we all kind of looked at one another and said: ‘You know, my God, this child’ – to me she’s a child, just like she was when I was six, seven years old, – we looked at her and said, ‘You know, this woman, this woman-child, has no concept, has no idea of what she has started, of all the children that she has affected.’ And since the day Hope was started, how many thousands and thousands of kids and families have benefited from this woman, who’s just sitting there and she’s got a big smile on her face, and she’s rockin’ and she’s hummin’ and you know, she wants spaghetti for dinner. It was quite a moment, really.”

Scott Faingold is a novelist, a journalist and a musician. He is currently working on his master’s degree at UIS

Please read more of article/pictures at: http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/article-8585-hope-comes-full-circle.html

The Hope Institute for Children and Families: http://www.thehopeinstitute.us/

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Medical marijuana could become legal in Illinois - April 27, 2011 - Chicago Tribune

Medical marijuana could become legal in Illinois

By Todd Wilson, Tribune reporter : April 27, 2011

SPRINGFIELD —— A stricter set of rules and a surprise political alliance are helping build momentum for a long-thwarted effort to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Illinois.

Some lawmakers are looking to make cannabis available for people seeking relief from symptoms of maladies that include multiple sclerosis, cancer and HIV/AIDS.

To pick up support, they must allay fears by opponents concerned that the measure is the first step toward decriminalizing marijuana and worried that Illinois will end up like California, where pot is easily available to anyone with a doctor's note and complaints about headaches or anxiety.

In Illinois, doses would be dispensed from a limited number of highly regulated not-for-profits, rather than drugstores. Penalties including potential prison time would discourage attempts to turn a medical prescription into dime bags on the street.

In January, the issue fell four votes shy during a lame-duck session where lawmakers approved such controversial measures as a major income-tax increase, civil unions for same-sex couples and a death penalty abolition.

This time, House Republican Leader Tom Cross has dropped his opposition. He came on board after being approached by several constituents who pressed him to allow marijuana use for "the worst-of-the-worst medical conditions," a spokeswoman said.

Sponsoring Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, who has championed the issue for three years, said he thinks he can finally pass a medical marijuana bill out of the House. The Senate approved a less restrictive version last year.

Whatever the final form, an Illinois law can't come too soon for residents who now use medical marijuana illegally. Julie Falco said she's been using cannabis since 2004 to manage symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Falco said she felt she had no other choice because prescription drugs left her feeling lethargic and depressed and came with side effects such as hearing loss.

"I was contemplating taking my own life," said Falco, who lives on the Far North Side. "I didn't have any hope."

Scientists and physicians say medical research has shown scant evidence that marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for many of the afflictions the Illinois bill would cover.

A handful of uses in the bill — like pain suffered by people with AIDS and cancer — are supported by some solid scientific evidence. But none meets the standards, such as large, well-designed clinical trials, required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in approving new drugs.

Fifteen states, including Michigan, have legalized medical marijuana. The sponsors of Illinois' bill are trying to make it the most restrictive in the nation.

Those with a prescription would not be allowed to grow their own marijuana but would have to buy it from a state-licensed dispensary. The bill would limit the number of outlets to 59 — one per Senate district.

The latest version would legalize medical marijuana for three years, then lawmakers would review how it went. Democratic Sen. Bill Haine, a former state's attorney in Madison County, said the new safeguards should help the legislation gain support.

"Many people just flat don't accept that marijuana can do any good, but it's a natural substance that can be good, just as many prescription drugs are good for some uses and not for others," Haine said.

For Cross, the House GOP leader from Oswego, supporting the measure represents a change from January, when he voted against the idea.

Cross, who has a child with diabetes, sponsored a law that ensures researchers could work with embryonic stem cells in Illinois.

"I've seen him evolve on this thing," said Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano, R-Elmwood Park. "It fits his philosophy on not limiting tools to the medical community to treat these diseases."

Saviano has long supported legalizing marijuana for medical use. He watched his father die of cancer in 2001 after suffering side effects of chemotherapy. Saviano said he believed that marijuana could have helped reduce his father's nausea and increase his appetite at a time when he lost a lot of weight.

Supporters can't exhale yet. The lame-duck lawmakers are no longer in office and the measure needs to pass the House, Senate and be signed by Gov. Pat Quinn if it's to become law.

Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said this is not an issue Cross or Republican leadership will "twist arms" on to get support. Durkin, a former prosecutor, voted "no" in January but said he is keeping an open mind on the new version.

A law has been on the books since the late 1970s allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana in pill or plant form to treat glaucoma, the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer patients or other procedures deemed medical necessities. But the physician must get authorization from the Department of Human Services and written approval from the state police.

A state human services spokeswoman and a state medical society representative say they're not aware that any doctor has ever asked permission to prescribe marijuana in Illinois.

Lang, the House sponsor, said he's aware of the existing law but argues his proposal is a tighter and more workable measure.

"What we have done is take the best ideas on the topic from America and in Illinois during debate to gauge the tolerance of colleagues and make the best and tightest bill in the country," Lang said.

Our View: People with disabilities deserve better from Illinois - April 27 2011 - Rockford Register Star

Our View: People with disabilities deserve better from Illinois
RRSTAR.COM EDITORIAL : Posted Apr 27, 2011

In the state’s proposed budget, the cost to keep one person with disabilities in an institution will rise to $192,000. And not one of the 21,000 children and adults will move off a waiting list for community services.

The cost of care to support one person living in the community is just $50,000 — or about one-quarter of the cost of institutional care.

If it were a dollars-and-cents issue only, it would be bad enough. But view it in human terms: A person with disabilities should not live in an institution if he or she can function well in a community setting.

Illinois has its priorities exactly backward, and the silence on the issue from the governor’s office is deafening.

Tony Paulauski spoke to the Editorial Board this month as executive director of The ARC of Illinois, an organization that represents 220,000 infants, children and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families. Paulauski explained that community-based services allow people with disabilities to be employed, perhaps bagging groceries, greeting shoppers, assembling products or working at a bakery.

Community-based services provide the coaching and training for these individuals to get and keep jobs. They offer the hygiene, socialization and behavioral help for a person with disabilities to live well with others. In addition, people with disabilities can live among their family and friends — who wouldn’t want that?

Even so, the proposed state budget invests $30 million in state institutions while cutting community services by $76.3 million.

Is it any wonder why Illinois is ranked 51st in the nation for supporting citizens in their communities?

The ARC’s Paulauski testified at a Senate Human Services appropriation hearing April 12 that Illinois has 840 caregivers 80 years of age and older whose adult children with disabilities remain on the waiting list for community-based services. It has 1,542 caregivers, 70 to 79 years old, waiting for the same.

We fear they may die waiting, leaving their loved ones to be placed in institutions. It’s a terrible legacy for our state — one that we don’t have to tolerate.

Copyright 2011 Rockford Register Star. Some rights reserved
Read more at: http://www.rrstar.com/carousel/x401817005/Our-View-People-with-disabilities-deserve-better-from-Illinois

Pace Suburban Bus Wins Service Award From Statewide Advocacy Organization - Illinois - April 27 2011

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill.: PR Newswire : April 27, 2011

ARC of Illinois presents Distinguished Service Award to Pace

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill., April 27, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pace Suburban Bus accepted the Distinguished Service Award today from the ARC of Illinois at the group's annual conference in Lisle. Pace was nominated for the award by Dan Strick, President and CEO of SouthSTAR Services, a nonprofit organization serving people with disabilities based in Chicago Heights. "We're extremely proud to receive this award," said Pace Chairman of the Board Richard Kwasneski. "The ARC of Illinois is a highly prestigious organization with a long history of serving people with disabilities, and for them to honor us for our service is a true honor."

Besides the fixed route bus service and ADA paratransit service available to people with disabilities, Pace also provides accessible vans to nonprofit agencies such as SouthSTAR for transporting clients to job sites and participation in workshops through the ADvAntage Program. Ridership on the ADvAntage program totaled more than 805,000 throughout 2010.

In the award nomination presented for consideration to the ARC of Illinois and The Autism Program, Pace was hailed for its commitment to efficiency, maintaining dialogue with the disability community, and providing a range of services for people with disabilities to be able to enjoy an independent lifestyle.

Scientists Identify Genetic Risk for Major Depression : Apr. 27, 2011

ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2011) — A new study reveals a novel gene associated with major depression. The research, published in the April 28 issue of the journal Neuron, suggests a previously unrecognized mechanism for major depression and may guide future therapeutic strategies for this debilitating mood disorder.

Major depression is a psychiatric disorder that is responsible for a substantial loss in work productivity and can even lead to suicide in some individuals. "Current treatments for major depression are indispensible but their clinical efficacy is still unsatisfactory, as reflected by high rates of treatment resistance and side effects," explains study author Dr. Martin A. Kohli from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany. "Identification of mechanisms causing depression is pertinent for discovery of better antidepressants."

While is likely that a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors contribute to major depression, identification of risk-conferring genes has been challenging due to the complexity of the genetics and the considerable environmental factors associated with the disease. Dr. Kohli and colleagues performed a stringent genome-wide association study of patients diagnosed with major depression and matched control subjects with no history of psychiatric illness. They identified SLC6A15, a gene that codes for a neuronal amino acid transporter protein, as a novel susceptibility gene for major depression. The finding was confirmed in an expanded study examining over 15,000 individuals.

The researchers examined the functional relevance of the genetic association between SLC6A15 and major depression. Already nondepressed subjects carrying the risk-conferring genetic variants showed lower expression of SLC6A15 in the hippocampus, a brain region implicated in major depression. Moreover, using human brain imaging, risk variant carriers with a positive life history of major depression showed smaller hippocampi. Finally, in a mouse model, lower hippocampal SLC6A15 expression was linked to the effects of chronic social stress, a proven risk factor for depression.

The authors suggest that reduced SLC6A15 expression might lead to perturbation of neuronal circuits related to susceptibility for major depression. "Our results support the notion that lower SLC6A15 expression, especially in the hippocampus, could increase an individual's stress susceptibility by altering neuronal integrity and excitatory neurotransmission in this key brain region," says senior author Dr. Elisabeth B. Binder. "Because SLC6A15 appears amenable to drug targeting, our results may incite the discovery of a novel class of antidepressant drugs."

Play date-May 31 2011 - An interactive program designed for parents of children with Spina Bifida and their siblings: Chicago: Spina Bifida Association of Illinois

PLAY DATE

A fun time for children with spina bifida and their parents
Date: Saturday, May 21, 2011
Time: 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Place: Shriners Hospital for Children
2211 N. Oak Park Avenue
Chicago, IL 60707
Who: Children with spina bifida 5 years
and younger, their siblings and parents

Parents: Meet other parents, share information
and talk about your shared experiences

Kids: Play in a safe and accessible indoor playground

Snacks and drinks will be provided for all

Please RSVP to fmorgan@sbail.org or
the SBAIL office at 773-444-0305

Play Date is presented by
Spina Bifida Association of Illinois

Supervisor cleared in Illinois Nursing Home Deaths - 12:00pm Chicago Tribune

#UPDATE BELOW (12/14/2011)
###

Supervisor cleared in nursing home deaths - Chicago Breaking News
By Amanda Marrazzo, Special to the Tribune

A former nursing supervisor was found not guilty today of obstruction of justice in a case that stemmed from the suspicious deaths of six residents at a Woodstock nursing home in 2006.

Penny Whitlock, 62, was charged with criminal neglect and obstruction of justice. Authorities said she ignored suspicions that a nurse was overmedicating patients with morphine, and destroyed evidence during a state police investigation.

On Tuesday, in the midst of Whitlock’s trial, McHenry County Judge Joseph Condon dismissed the neglect charges against her, saying prosecutors failed to prove she had turned a blind eye to the alleged crimes of the nurse at the now-shuttered Woodstock Residence nursing home.

Today, Condon ruled that Whitlock was not guilty on the remaining charges and told her she was free to go. He had dismissed the jury in the case Tuesday after Whitlock’s lawyers waived her right to a jury trial.

Whitlock stood stoically as Condon announced his not guilty verdict.

The judge said former coworkers of Whitlock gave conflicting statements during testimony about events that took place five years ago. He said he did not believe that Whitlock did anything improper or had “sinister” intent when she destroyed patient medication that had been kept in her office. He said he found no evidence that she sought to deceive or cover up anything.

The nurse accused of overmedicating the patients at the care center, Marty Himebaugh, is still to be tried later, and prosecutor Phil Hiscock said Himbaugh’s trial will proceed.

“We respect the court’s ruling though we may disagree to the nature of the evidence,” Hiscock said.

The nursing home now operating at the same location is run by a separate entity.

####

‘Angel of Death’ nurse gets probation for criminal neglect of patient

December 14, 2011

Marty Himebaugh dosed an agitated patient at a Woodstock care center with two unprescribed drugs simply to make her nursing job easier, McHenry County prosecutors said Wednesday.

“She viewed him as a problem for her and she pumped him full of medication. That type of conduct cannot be tolerated,” Assistant State’s Attorney Philip Hiscock said as he asked that Himebaugh be sent to prison.

But Himebaugh — who prosecutors said had been dubbed the “Angel of Death” by a co-worker at the nursing home where six patients died suspiciously — instead was placed on two years’ probation and fined $5,000.

She pleaded guilty in October to felony criminal neglect for giving two medications to patient Tony Hodges in 2006, even though he hadn’t been prescribed either drug.

In exchange for her guilty plea, prosecutors dropped five other felony counts against Himebaugh, whose nursing license was suspended by state regulators in 2009 after a probe of patient deaths at the former Woodstock Residence nursing home where she worked.

Authorities began investigating the home in 2006 after receiving reports of six unusual patient deaths there purportedly involving overdoses of morphine, a powerful painkiller. The bodies of three former patients ultimately were exhumed and a pathologist determined one had died of a morphine overdose.

Himebaugh and her former supervisor, Penny Whitlock, were charged in 2008 in connection with their duties at the nursing home, though neither was charged with causing any patient deaths.

Whitlock was acquitted earlier this year of charges she allowed Himebaugh to overmedicate patients with morphine and tried to obstruct the investigation of the nursing home.

Judge Joseph Condon — who acquitted Whitlock — rejected a prison term for Himebaugh and instead sentenced to her probation, noting he still had “serious doubts” about the allegations levelled against both women.

When she pleaded guilty, Himebaugh admitted giving Hodges the anti-anxiety medication Ativan and another drug, Risperdal.

Hodges fell several hours later and suffered a head injury, though defense attorney Sam Amirante contended the fall couldn’t clearly be linked to the drug, which he said Himebaugh administered in an effort to calm Hodges.

“At the time, she thought it was the right thing to do,” said Amirante, who described Himebaugh as an “angel of courage, of compassion, of decency.”

Hodges’ sister left the courtroom in tears, but declined to comment on the sentence.

#Source Chicago Sun Times BY DAN ROZEK
http://www.suntimes.com/news/crime/9444884-418/angel-of-death-nurse-gets-probation-for-criminal-neglect-of-patient.html

More states moving to managed-care plans for Medicaid - April 26 2011

By Phil Galewitz | Kaiser Health News : Tuesday, April 26, 2011


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Lobbying battles are being fought in state capitals across the country as more than a dozen governors try to contain the cost of Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor and those with disabilities, by requiring more people to go into managed-care plans.

With billions of dollars at stake, insurance companies, hospitals and doctors are fighting over money and control.

About half the nation's 50 million Medicaid recipients are in private managed-care plans, which the states typically pay a set amount per patient each month. These plans limit patients' choices of doctors and hospitals. The other half has more freedom to choose where to go for medical care, with the Medicaid program paying a fee for each visit and procedure.

Medicaid increasingly is becoming a managed-care program, a significant trend as the states gear up for a massive expansion required by the new federal health care law. Beginning in 2014, an estimated 16 million more Americans are expected to qualify under the law's expanded eligibility criteria.

Medicaid managed-care plans are gearing up. UnitedHealthcare, the largest plan, with about 3.4 million Medicaid recipients, announced this month that it plans to add another 300,000 this year.

While some patient advocates worry about the quality of managed care, the most powerful opposition to the states' expansion plans this year is coming from hospitals, doctors and nursing homes.

"Whenever you are changing the way you do business," said Matt Salo, the executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, "you are going to have winners and losers."

Opposition by health care groups has held up plans in Maine and Louisiana to require Medicaid recipients to enroll in managed care plans. Maine's doctors are leery of managed care plans getting in the way of treating patients and getting paid, said Andrew MacLean of the Maine Medical Association.

"Doctors are worried about losing local control of the program," he said.


In Louisiana, doctors and hospitals have said managed care could discourage provider participation in the Medicaid program. Hospitals also fear losing the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding they receive for treating large numbers of poor people.

The state hopes to launch a program next year to require most of its 1.2 million Medicaid recipients to enroll in HMOs or less-restrictive types of managed care overseen by physicians.

In January, Mississippi became one of the latest states to institute managed care for Medicaid. But hospitals and doctors successfully lobbied to limit the program to 15 percent of Medicaid recipients and to end it in June 2012. The health industry also made sure that managed care companies couldn't lower reimbursement rates to providers or reduce benefits to recipients. Those provisions left managed care companies little wiggle room to control costs.

State Medicaid officials said they expected resistance.

"We have organizations who make a living off of sick people and they are less anxious to lessen the amount of money into their pockets," said Francis Rullan, a spokesman for Mississippi Medicaid.

Texas is moving toward expanding mandatory managed care into the Rio Grande Valley, beyond the cities where it's required now: Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Virginia plans to expand its program into the southwestern part of the state next year.

Michigan, which has had mandatory managed care for most of its Medicaid recipients since the late 1990s, added 21,000 foster care children this year and next year plans to include 20,000 children with special health needs such as hemophilia and spina bifida.

South Carolina joined the trend this year, and began requiring most of its 830,000 Medicaid recipients to enroll in managed-care plans. Previously, participation in managed care had been voluntary and people who "could benefit the most from coordinated care" weren't signing up, "so we were not getting the kind of cost containment we had hoped for," said Jeff Stensland, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, signed a bill earlier this year that aims to push half of Illinois' Medicaid patients into managed care organizations by 2015. Today, only about 8 percent of Illinois Medicaid patients receive care this way.


Florida has wrestled for years with whether Medicaid managed care should be required. Today, about 40 percent of recipients are in private managed-care plans, but participation is required in only five counties; some recipients elsewhere participate voluntarily. The drive to expand the requirement statewide took off after Republican Rick Scott, a former hospital executive, became governor in January and the state's Republican-dominated Legislature embraced managed care to help solve its budget woes.

Medicaid is the second largest program in Florida's budget, behind public education; its cost this fiscal year is expected to be about $20 billion. The federal government typically pays about 56 percent of Florida's Medicaid costs.


In late March, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that would require most Medicaid recipients to join managed care plans, and the Senate appears ready to adopt a similar bill this month. But hospitals, doctors and nursing homes have extracted sweeteners.

Doctors, who oppose the expansion of managed care, would get medical liability relief so they face lower caps on damages in malpractice suits from Medicaid patients.

Nursing homes are hopeful that managed-care plans won't be able to control their reimbursement rates; that power would remain with the state under the House bill, but not in the Senate bill.

Hospitals appear likely to win legislative approval to form their own "provider sponsored networks" that will compete with HMOs but will have the advantage of still being paid for each service, instead of the fixed per-patient monthly rate that HMOs receive. Doctors and community health centers also could do this.

The Florida Association of Health Plans is upset that hospitals, which are the most eager to create their own plans, wouldn't face the same financial risks or meet the rigorous financial solvency requirements imposed on HMOs.

"We just want a level playing field," said Michael Garner, the group's president

Our Opinion: New FOIA law getting no respect - Springfield, IL - April 27 2011 The State Journal-Register

Our Opinion: New FOIA law getting no respect - Springfield, IL - The State Journal-Register

We’ve written a lot over the last 16 months about the strange culture of secrecy that pervades government at all levels in Illinois. We have noted repeatedly that in Illinois, the default position is to conceal information unless and until that option is exhausted.

We continue to hope that eventually the culture will change; that information will be assumed public unless it fits a narrow definition otherwise. Government continues to test our optimism.

The latest example comes from the Illinois Department of Transportation, which in February lost a lawsuit filed by 16 former employees who said they were fired in 2004 because they were Republicans. In March, lawyers for both sides negotiated a monetary settlement for the plaintiffs.

As of last week, the state had paid out $257,000 to 13 of the 16 former employees.

Naturally, we’d like to know the terms of these taxpayer-financed settlements. We believe most taxpayers also would like to know. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Don Craven, said last week that signed settlement agreements from his clients have been filed with the state.

With Illinois law very clear that settlement agreements involving governmental bodies are public records, this should be a simple matter of IDOT releasing the information, which The State Journal-Register initially requested more than a month ago.

But while Illinois law may be clear on this subject, we still are in Illinois, so this is not simple.
IDOT last week declined to release the agreements, even though the comptroller’s office confirmed that settlement money already was being paid to at least some of the plaintiffs.

“When all 16 agreements are in place, with all documents and issues related to the settlement package complete and the federal court is no longer engaged in the negotiation process with attorneys from both sides, details will be made public. Until the package is complete, details made public could negatively affect the state’s negotiating position and hinder the final resolution of the remaining issues. It is our hope and intent to resolve all issues and report to the U.S. court that all issues are resolved within a two-week time period,” an IDOT spokesman wrote in response to the newspaper’s request.

So our government can pay our tax dollars to people it wrongly fired seven years ago, but we’re not entitled to know anything about it. Even though the lawyer who negotiated the settlements says he has filed signed agreements from his clients with the state, IDOT says there is more negotiating to do.

Huh?

We’ll acknowledge here that the plaintiffs’ lawyers still are negotiating with IDOT over what they should be paid for this case. Two weeks ago, they offered to settle for $1.9 million, well below the $2.5 million they believe they are owed. (This we know because, thankfully, IDOT has no control over federal court filings, which are public records.)

Even for Illinois, where secrecy remains a beloved privilege despite a strong new open records law to the contrary, this case is ridiculous in its contempt for both taxpayers and the principle of open government.

Gov. Pat Quinn embraced the new open government statute last year with great fanfare. But we’ve seen very little evidence of Quinn confronting the culture of secrecy that still pervades state government, especially in agencies — like IDOT and the Illinois State Police — that are under his control. It’s one thing to applaud a new statute on the books; it’s another matter entirely to institute a culture that respects the spirit of that statute.