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

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chicago: Caroling at Cloud Gate 2012 - info, accessibility. resources...


Celebrate the holidays in Millennium Park, when Caroling at Cloud Gate returns on Friday evenings from November 23 through December 21, 2012 at 6 PM during the holiday season. This free program, presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events showcases Chicago choral groups and invites visitors to participate in a holiday sing-along.

Now in its seventh season, Caroling at Cloud Gate has become a cherished tradition in Chicago, with hundreds of singers gathering each week in the Park. Following the 50-minute caroling session, everyone is encouraged to skate at Millennium Park’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, one of the most popular winter destinations in the city.

Schedule is listed below:
Friday, November 23 - Windy City Gay Chorus & Aria
Friday, November 30 - Merit Conservatory Choir
Friday, December 7 - Chicago Children’s Choir
Friday, December 14 - Janet Sutton and The Voices of ACME
Friday, December 21 - Apollo Chorus of Chicago


Hours:
Fridays, November 23- December 21, 6 – 6:50 PM

Note: Performance may be shorter due to extreme cold conditions

Accessibility:
The following services are available:

Wheelchair loans in the Millennium Park Welcome Center, 201 E. Randolph St.
Integrated spaces for wheelchair seating at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Wheelchair accessible restroom facilities
Assisted listening devices at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion Sound Booth

Public Transportation:
For travel information, visit www.transitchicago.org

Location:
Millennium Park, Chase Promenade Central
N. Michigan Ave. & E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60602


http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/caroling_at_cloudgate.html

Thursday, November 29, 2012

White House World AIDS Day Event Nov 29, 2012 - Secratary Kathleen Sebelius



White House World AIDS Day Event

November 29, 2012
Washington DC


Secratary Kathleen Sebelius
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services;

Thank you for that kind introduction.

Valerie just described a historic shift in our fight against HIV/AIDS.

Our National Strategy has given a new sense of direction and purpose to our domestic response. And we have made it a priority to intensify our efforts in the communities that have been hardest hit by this disease.

Approximately half a million people living with HIV are being served through our Ryan White Programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that in the first three years of their expanded HIV-testing initiative, they provided nearly 2.8 million HIV tests and diagnosed more than 18,000 people unaware of their infection. As a result, an estimated 3,300 new infections were prevented among their partners.

We’re also taking steps to improve how we evaluate our programs. I have asked our department’s senior leaders to identify and implement a set of seven common core program indicators. This data will allow us to make sure our HIV programs are reaching the right people with the right services.

Our department has also used new media to build a cutting-edge response, targeting HIV prevention and testing messages to the people who need them most. We are reaching out through channels like AIDS.gov to meet people where they are, educate Americans about HIV, and reduce stigma and discrimination.

That’s more important than ever at a time when we know youth accounted for nearly 26% of all new HIV infections diagnosed in 2010. The majority of these infections were diagnosed among young black and Hispanic men who have sex with men. And it is another reminder of just how important it is make sure we continue getting young men and women tested – while improving their access to prevention, treatment, and care.

The good news is that today more Americans have better access to these life-saving interventions than ever before.

For years, we had a health insurance market in which insurers made profits by trying to avoid sick people. This was great for insurance companies, but it was terrible for the people with the greatest health needs, including those living with HIV/AIDS. In effect, the people who needed health insurance the most were the ones shut out of the market.

This wasn’t right, and the Affordable Care Act is bringing these days to an end.

Starting in 2014, the law bans insurance companies from turning anyone away because of their health status. Already the law provides protection from some of the worst insurance company abuses. For example, it is now illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to children living with HIV/AIDS. And your insurance company can no longer put a lifetime dollar cap on your benefits, or cut your coverage when you get sick because of an error on a form.

In the past, we had reports about an insurance company that was using a computer program to search the applications of anyone recently diagnosed with HIV, looking for any excuse to cancel their coverage. Now, that practice is gone for good.

In the years to come, the Affordable Care Act will expand Medicaid so that it will be available to many more Americans with HIV/AIDS, including adults without children. As a result, many people living with HIV will no longer have to wait for an AIDS diagnosis to become eligible for Medicaid. And the law is investing in community health centers, and increasing access to testing, treatment, and care -- especially in underserved areas.

What these reforms mean is that far more Americans with HIV/AIDS will be able to get coverage they can count on through Medicaid or the private insurance market. But we have also begun to see another change taking place thanks to the health care law. And that is a new focus on the quality of care people receive once they’re covered.

That starts by making prevention a priority. The law helps eliminate barriers to HIV testing by requiring most private plans to cover HIV testing for women and individuals at high risk at no cost to the patient out-of pocket. They are also now required to cover with no co-pay many other recommended services, like flu shots or mammograms, that will help people living with HIV stay healthy.

In addition, the health care law provides long overdue relief from prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Beneficiaries with HIV/AIDS often quickly hit the prescription drug coverage gap known as the donut hole. Now, when they do, they get a 50 percent discount on their brand-name drugs. And if the AIDS Drug Assistance Program covers their medicines, those payments will count toward moving beneficiaries through the donut hole -- so they don’t get stuck there.

Finally, the Affordable Care Act has made a series of investments to help providers support patients with chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS.

For example, under the law, states can receive extra federal funding -- an enhanced 90% federal match in the first two years -- to support coordinated care through “health homes” for Medicaid beneficiaries with chronic health needs. The goal of a Health Home is to treat the whole person, coordinating all their care from primary and acute care to behavioral health and long-term services.

With our guidance, New York and Oregon have already established health homes specifically to serve individuals living with HIV/AIDS. And we continue to work with other states on their proposals. Today, I am proud to announce that we will be issuing a rule to explicitly include HIV/AIDS on the list of chronic conditions that every state may target in designing effective Health Homes. This will help more states adopt the kind of innovations that we know can improve the care and health of people living with HIV/AIDS.

These are all big steps forward. But we will continue to need the Ryan White program to fill in the gaps of our health insurance system. And we will keep reaching out to providers and community leaders on the frontlines to make sure those programs remain strong.

When President Obama took office four years ago, our nation’s fight against HIV/AIDS had nearly stalled. The number of new infections had plateaued while the general public’s concern about the disease continued to fade.

But we are here today because we refused to accept those trends. Over the last four years, we looked closely at how and where we were using our resources. And together, we made a commitment to help the best approaches reach those most in need.

Out of that collaboration came a powerful national strategy. And today, it provides a roadmap for the months and years ahead. But in order to achieve these goals we will need your continued leadership.

So today, I want to ask you to keep your foot on the accelerator. If we are going to reach our ultimate goal of an AIDS-free generation, we must all challenge ourselves to do more. We need your expertise, your best practices, and your collaboration to make the most of the Affordable Care Act and to realize the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

Together, we can raise awareness to new heights and make our programs even more effective. We can push the boundaries of science even further. And we can help even more people get the support, treatment, and care they need to live long and healthy lives.

###
http://www.hhs.gov/secretary/about/speeches/sp20121129.html

U.S. Access Board Webinar on Accessible Medical Diagnostic Equipment (December 6) - Pre-register

The next webinar in the Board's monthly series will take place December 6, 2012 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and provide an update on the Board’s development of new accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment. These standards will address access to examination tables and chairs, weight scales, mammography equipment, and other equipment used for diagnostic purposes.

To register for this free webinar, visit www.accessibilityonline.org.
Questions for the webinar can be submitted in advance through this website.

For the U.S. Access Board: http://www.access-board.gov/

Jacksonville Developmental Center is CLOSED - NOV 29, 2012


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE- November 29, 2012

Governor Quinn Announces Successful Community Transition
for Jacksonville Developmental Center Residents Historic Milestone for Improving the Lives of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities and Mental health Challenges in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, IL. – November 29, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today announced that the remaining residents at the Jacksonville Developmental Center (JDC) have transitioned to community care. The moves are part of the governor’s rebalancing initiative to increase community care options for people with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges while reducing the number of outdated institutions in Illinois.

“Today is a historic step forward in our effort to improve the quality of life for citizens with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges in Illinois," Governor Quinn said. "I thank all of the family members and committed advocates who worked together to make this transition safe and responsible. I am committed to strengthening community care in Illinois and helping to ensure that all people have an opportunity to reach their full potential."

“Numerous studies show that individuals living in the community have a better quality of life than those living in institutions,” said Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler. “The closure of JDC is major progress for Illinois and how our state cares for people with developmental disabilities. I would like to commend the governor for his extraordinary leadership and thank our many advocates for their continued support on this important issue."

Each JDC resident went through a thorough, person-centered planning process, including assessment, consultation with families and guardians, and planning sessions with providers to determine needs and ensure safe transitions. Community settings allow individuals to receive the care they need, including 24-hour care. Community care is also significantly less costly than institution-based care. The average cost for JDC was $200,000 per year per resident while the average cost for a JDC resident living in the community is $84,000 per year.

JDC currently costs the state approximately $27.9 million per year to run. After accounting for state costs under community care, Illinois will realize approximately $11.7 million per year in savings, after $16.2 million in community investment. All AFSCME employees were offered other positions within state government. Of the 310 AFSCME employees at JDC, 130 filled positions at IDHS and other state agencies, eight decided to retire and 172 employees chose the layoff option.

In 2011, Governor Quinn announced his commitment to rebalance Illinois’ use of institutionalization for the care of people with developmental disabilities and provide more community care options. Illinois has lagged behind the rest of the nation in the utilization of person-centered, community-based care. Community-based care has been proven to empower people with developmental disabilities to lead more active, dynamic lives. The governor's Rebalancing Initiative dovetails with the administration’s recent settlement of a series of court cases related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, requiring the expansion of community care settings.

http://www3.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=2&RecNum=10744

Hiring a Personal Care Assistant - article

By Guest Blogger Ruth Harrigan, Esq.

I jokingly tell friends that when I hire a personal care assistant, I’m hiring an arm and a leg. This is because I have quadriplegia, paralysis in all four limbs, as the result of a spinal cord injury. When I hire an assistant, I seek someone who can help me with everything from meal preparation and personal care to paperwork assistance relative to my own employment.

Having a good personal care assistant – someone who is reliable, caring and flexible – has a real impact on my quality of life. Finding someone like this involves a process that includes placing ads, sorting through applications, completing several interviews and making the best choice I can from among those who apply. Because my career as an attorney requires time and attention, I’ve learned how to streamline this process without losing sight of the fact that spending a little extra time during the hiring process can save me a lot of aggravation later on.

I begin the process by drafting an ad in which I list what the job pays per hour, which is higher on weekends, and work shifts I need to fill. I always emphasize how the applicant must have reliable transportation to get to the job and to run errands, and that a criminal background check and references are mandatory.

Describing what my assistant will be doing helps eliminate applicants who aren’t going to be flexible. For example, I‘ve received responses from people who will do meal preparation, but no light housekeeping. This helpful information helps me screen people out, because I need those who are willing to do both since I can’t do either. Your situation might be different. Perhaps you have a relative who can bring meals over or do the tasks a personal care assistant doesn’t want to do. Still, I strongly advise caution when hiring anyone who wants to do only certain tasks. Be sure to find out if that prospective aide is willing to set aside preferences during emergency situations.

After several decades of hiring personal care assistants, I’ve learned ways to assess whether a person will be flexible and responsible. I set up an initial phone call with qualified applicants I’ve chosen from the ad response and explain job duties in more detail. I ask about other jobs and responsibilities that would affect their availability, and if they have related experience working with someone with a disability. These questions often elicit answers that eliminate people. For example, if someone already has three other jobs and I know I’ll need occasional backup, it’s unlikely they’ll be available to meet that need. Applicants have rarely thought all this through and my questions help them do that.

After the initial phone interview, I call back at a random time to set up a personal interview rather than setting one up during our first conversation. I’ve discovered all kinds of things from doing it this way. Some people don’t check voice messages or respond for days, which tells me they aren’t as available as they claim. Once in a while someone will question why I expect them to do “another interview.” Of course, I never hire anyone who will not meet with me in person and neither should you!

By this time, I’m getting a feel for whether I’d be comfortable working with this person. Each personal care assistant I hire requires a different approach. Some need to be micromanaged, while others can work well from a written list. Every now and then, I’m fortunate enough to find someone who cannot only work independently, but also follow written and verbal instructions. These are important qualities for me, since I have to delegate tasks while I’m busy working.

Much of the interaction during our in-person interview reveals the applicant’s personality style. I ask for assistance to discover if he or she follows my directions or becomes frustrated at having to do it according to my preferences and needs. Does the person remain pleasant while assisting me? Inexperience is one thing, but an inability to complete a simple task with a pleasant way helps me decide whom to hire, or not.

All of this may sound overwhelming, but keep in mind that over time you’ll be better able to spot who will meet your needs. Even if you start with a pool of 40 applicants, which isn’t unusual, it will become easier to zone in on five people who are potential hires after going through this process more than once.

Set boundaries from day one. This means not only not being taken advantage of, but also not taking advantage of your assistant. For example, neither should borrow money from each other. Plan your care carefully so emergency calls for help outside their hours are rare. Be clear about how you like things done, but don’t be petty. Don’t be afraid to cut short personal conversations if you hire a chatty person who likes to talk more than work. After all, you’re paying the person to do a job. On the other hand, keep in mind that you’re an employer and if the person comes to you with a personal problem, you’ll need to address it if it affects their job performance.

A personal care assistant may be one of the most important resources available to you as someone with a disability. It may seem obvious, but treat your assistant as you’d like to be treated and then expect the same in return. Both your lives will be enriched if you cultivate an atmosphere of mutual respect from the very beginning.

Ruth Harrigan is an attorney with a B.A. from Rutgers College and a J.D. from Wayne State University. She is a member of the NJ Coalition for Inclusive Ministries and started her blog, Wheelie Catholic, to raise awareness of the need for inclusion of people with disabilities. Ruth also writes poems, essays and fiction about disability issues, which can be read on her other blog, A Different Light. Ruth enjoys skiing and was nationally ranked as a wheelchair tennis player.

As posted at Disability.gov:
http://usodep.blogs.govdelivery.com/2012/11/28/hiring-a-personal-care-assistant/

Marc D. Guthrie Appointed to the U.S. Access Board | Nov 2012

President Barack Obama has named Marc D. Guthrie of Newark, Ohio to the U.S. Access Board. Guthrie is the Director of Development and Advocacy for the American Council of the Blind of Ohio and an at-large member of the Newark City Council. He previously served as a member of the Access Board from 1996 to 2005 and as Executive Director of United Cerebral Palsy of Central Ohio from 1995 to 2001. Elected offices in Ohio previously held by Guthrie include President of the Newark City Council, Heath City Councilman, County Commissioner in Licking County, and State Representative from the 77th House District for six terms. As a state legislator, Guthrie authored Ohio’s early intervention law for pre-school age children with disabilities. He also was appointed Administrator of Business and Human Resources for District Five of the Ohio Department of Transportation by Governor Ted Strickland in 2009.

The U.S. Access Board is an independent Federal agency that provides leadership in accessible design under the ADA and other laws. Its governing Board is structured to function as a coordinating body among Federal agencies and to directly represent the public, particularly people with disabilities. The Board is comprised of 13 members from the public appointed by the President and representatives from 12 Federal departments.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Illinois Legislature delays vote on legalizing medical marijuana | Nov 28, 2012

(Reuters) - The Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday put off a vote to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes because the measure lacked the support for approval, its chief sponsor said.

Democratic Representative Lou Lang did not request a vote on his proposal because he did not want it to fail.

"He didn't call it because he was short of the votes," said Lang's spokeswoman, Beth Hamilton. Lang had earlier predicted the measure would pass if a few undecided members shifted to support.

The proposal for a three-year pilot program would make Illinois the second most populous state in the nation after California to allow medical marijuana. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Colorado and Washington state voters decided on November 6 to allow recreational use of cannabis.

Lang said he could try again to pass the proposal when the Illinois legislature meets in early December.

The Illinois bill would be the most restrictive in the country, according to Lang.

Some Republicans in the Illinois House said they opposed legalizing medical marijuana because it could be a "gateway drug" to abuse of other illegal substances. Others said they were not convinced that the benefits of smoking marijuana for certain medical conditions outweighed the potential negative consequences.

Under the Illinois bill, patients would have to be diagnosed with one of 30 debilitating medical conditions, register with the Department of Public Health and have written certification from their physician. Patients would be limited to no more than 2.5 ounces (70 grams) of marijuana every two weeks.

Under U.S. federal law, marijuana is considered an addictive substance and distribution is a federal offense. Federal law prohibits physicians from writing prescriptions, so many have issued "referrals" or "recommendations." The administration of President Barack Obama has discouraged federal prosecutors from pursuing people who distribute marijuana for medical purposes under state laws.

By Renita Young
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois | Wed Nov 28, 2012
(Editing by Greg McCune, Mohammad Zargham and Leslie Adler)

Equip for Equality Victory Allows Kindergartner with Autism to Remain in Her Neighborhood School



[Nov 2012] Equip for Equality recently achieved a due process victory on behalf of Angela, a six year old girl with Autism, allowing her to remain in her neighborhood kindergarten classroom in Lanark Illinois, located in Northwestern Illinois. Eastland school district wanted to transfer Angela to a segregated school 30 miles away from her home. Concerned that Angela would be forever segregated from her community peers, Angela's mother wanted her daughter to learn alongside other children from her town, to make friends with children who could be communication role models, to play with classmates who did not share her socialization difficulties and, most importantly, to continue to be a part of her school community.

Equip for Equality represented Angela at a five-day due process hearing and obtained an order that will allow Angela to become a full member of the kindergarten class at her town's elementary school. In addition, Angela will receive needed supports and services to foster her success in the general education setting.

To enable Equip for Equality to help more students with disabilities, please support the Equality for Kids Campaign:
https://www.z2systems.com/np/clients/efe/donation.jsp?campaign=1935626429&test=true

For Equip for Equality: http://www.equipforequality.org/

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

U.S. ADA PARATRANSIT SERVICES - Demand Has Increased, but Little is Known about Compliance | Report GAO Nov 2012

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)
GAO-13-17, Nov 15, 2012

What GAO Found

Little is known about the extent of transit agencies' compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paratransit service requirements. FTA does receive some assurance that agencies are complying with federal statutes and regulations, including ADA paratransit requirements, because transit agencies that receive FTA funding are required to self-certify and assure that they are complying with the Department of Transportation's ADA regulations. Additionally, FTA conducts specialized ADA paratransit compliance reviews that examine multiple aspects of an agency's paratransit services; however, few transit agencies are selected for review each year. FTA generally relies on complaints, media reports, experience with an agency, and other information to select agencies for review, but does not have documented criteria for selecting agencies. This informal selection process does not align with federal guidance on internal controls related to communication, documentation, and monitoring. Lastly, according to FTA officials, all finalized ADA paratransit compliance review reports are to be available on FTA's website, but GAO identified nine final review reports--conducted from 2004 to 2010--that have not been posted to FTA's website.

Based on GAO's survey, the demand for ADA paratransit trips increased, since 2007 for some transit agencies, and costs for providing the trips remain high. The average number of annual ADA paratransit trips provided by a transit agency increased 7 percent from 2007 to 2010; from 172,481 trips in 2007 to 184,856 trips in 2010. Increases in demand for ADA paratransit services were driven by the 10 largest transit agencies, measured according to the population size of their service areas. Also, ADA paratransit trips are much more costly to provide than fixed-route trips. Similarly, the average cost of providing an ADA paratransit trip in 2010 was $29.30, an estimated three and a half times more expensive than the average cost of $8.15 to provide a fixed-route trip. The average cost of providing an ADA paratransit trip increased 10 percent from 2007 to 2010. GAO's analysis of ADA paratransit data available in FTA's National Transit Database (NTD) found that, according to GAO standards for data reliability, the data are not sufficiently reliable for the purpose of assessing changes in ADA paratransit demand and costs. For example, GAO found discrepancies, such as incomplete data, that may understate or overstate the number of ADA trips and amount of ADA expenses. According to FTA officials, some transit agencies fail to report these data, while others misunderstand the data fields and make reporting errors as a result.

Transit agencies are taking actions such as coordinating with other transportation providers, offering travel training, and improving accessibility to address changes in ADA paratransit demand and costs. According to GAO's survey, about 59 percent of transit agencies are coordinating with health and human services providers to improve ADA paratransit services or address the costs of providing such services. About 44 percent of transit agencies are coordinating with other local transportation providers. Additionally, about 55 percent are using travel training to help paratransit riders' transition to fixed-route services. Furthermore, GAO's survey results showed that over 62 percent of transit agencies have made accessibility improvements to their fixed-route systems since 2007.

Why GAO Did This Study

The ADA, a civil rights law enacted in 1990, provided that it shall be considered discrimination for a public entity that operates a fixed-route transit system to fail to offer paratransit service to disabled individuals that is comparable to services provided to those without disabilities. FTA is responsible for overseeing compliance with ADA requirements for paratransit services. As requested, GAO examined: (1) the extent of compliance with ADA paratransit requirements, (2) changes in ADA paratransit demand and costs since 2007, and (3) actions transit agencies are taking to help address changes in the demand for and costs of ADA paratransit service. GAO analyzed FTA's ADA compliance reports; conducted a generalizable web-based survey of 145 transit agencies; interviewed federal officials; and interviewed officials from 20 transit agencies, chosen based on a variety of characteristics, including geographic diversity.

What GAO Recommends

The Secretary of Transportation should direct the FTA Administrator to (1) document and make publicly available a formal approach for selecting transit agencies for ADA paratransit compliance reviews, (2) post the backlog of ADA's compliance-review final reports and establish a process for the timely posting of future reports, and (3) provide guidance to transit agencies on how to accurately complete existing ADA paratransit data fields in the NTD.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Recommendation:To help ensure that FTA's ADA paratransit compliance reviews adhere to GAO recommended internal controls and grantee oversight best practices, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FTA Administrator to document and make publicly available a formal selection approach for selecting transit agencies for review.
Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Transit Administration
Status: In Process
Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

Recommendation: To help transit agencies and stakeholders have access to up-to-date ADA paratransit compliance reviews and compliance findings, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FTA Administrator to post the backlog of ADA compliance review final reports on FTA's website and establish processes for the timely posting of future compliance review reports.
Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Transit Administration
Status: In Process
Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

Recommendation:o improve NTD data collection for ADA paratransit,the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FTA Administrator to provide guidance to transit agencies on how to accurately complete existing ADA paratransit fields.
Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Transit Administration
Status: In Process
Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

TO VIEW REPORT (PDF, 45 PAGES) :
http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/650079.pdf


http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-17

The Arc at the Table with President Obama to Discuss Tax Cuts for the Middle Class, Budget and Medicaid Nov 2012

Posted on November 16, 2012 by The Arc (blog)

Washington, DC-Today, The Arc’s CEO Peter Berns participated in a small meeting with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and senior economic advisors about the President’s goal to stop middle class tax increases and to raise revenues to help invest in the nation and reduce the deficit. The discussion centered on the urgency of passing a plan to avert raising taxes on the middle class and to raise revenues to finance the federal government without allowing drastic cuts to programs that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and other vulnerable groups rely on, like education, housing and employment. These cuts are scheduled to take place on January 1, 2013, along with the expiration of a variety of tax provisions. Without a deal this year, The Arc is very concerned about the future of Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, along with Social Security and Medicare.

“I think everyone agrees that raising taxes on the middle class will hurt families, and that it would be particularly troubling to those that have a loved one with I/DD. These families report that they already don’t have the money they need for the care and support their loved ones need to live a decent life in the community. What will they do if they suddenly have a bigger tax bill come January 1st?” Berns said.

“We welcome the President’s framework for generating revenue and protecting low income families,” Berns added. “Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income, which are lifeline programs for people with disabilities, should not be at risk in these budget negotiations. This approach from President Obama would help keep our nation’s commitment to people with disabilities.”

The Arc has been on the front lines of the recent budget battles to protect Medicaid, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare from cuts. As the nation faces this January 1 deadline, known as the “fiscal cliff”, The Arc is urging Congress to restore the scheduled cuts in non-defense discretionary programs and find other ways – specifically through increasing revenues as included in President Obama’s plan – to move the nation forward. This effort is critical to protecting the people that rely on Medicaid, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare from losing these critical services and supports.

“We can’t afford to not protect Medicaid. Medicaid is the lifeline keeping people with disabilities from unfathomable alternatives – like being institutionalized and losing their independence – and preserving all that we have worked for as a nation over the last 60 years to bring people with disabilities out of the shadows and into society,” said Berns.

Berns was joined at the White House by Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK, Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign, Wade Henderson, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Deepa Iyer, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Ben Jealous, NAACP, Marc Morial, National Urban League, Janet Murguia, National Council of La Raza, Barry Rand, AARP, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, MomsRising.org, Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network, Aaron Smith, Young Invincibles, and Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners.

Please visit The Arc at: http://www.thearc.org/

Chicago: Handicap Accessibility Problems Plague Many Metra Train Stations | Nov 2012

CHICAGO (CBS2) –Steep ramps, broken concrete and inoperable doors are safety and accessibility problems CBS 2′s Investigators uncovered at various Metra train stations.

CBS 2′s Dave Savini began investigating after being contacted by George Flores, a paralyzed disability-rights advocate, who said riding public transit can be difficult for those with various disabilities.

The 2 investigators and Flores traveled the rails together to identify some troubled spots.

At the Western Avenue stop, Flores tried to maneuver his wheelchair along the ramp, but got stuck on broken concrete. It’s supposed to be a wheelchair-accessible ramp, but it has turned into one of many obstacles Flores says causes problems for people with disabilities trying to use Metra daily.


Another problem — Flores said he got stuck on a train at Union Station, when a Metra worker — who was supposed to lower a lift — forgot about him.

“I have no way to get off this train,” said Flores in video he shot of himself on a Metra train. “He left me on the train and I can’t get off because of my wheelchair.”

Flores said he shouted until someone found a conductor to let him off.

“There you are,” said Flores as he is helped off the train. “Unbelievable.”

He had other safety and accessibility complaints, too, including the lack of hooks or straps on trains to lock in wheelchairs.

“No way to secure myself other than to physically hold on,” Flores said while recording himself on a train. “There is literally nothing holding this 300- to 400-pound wheelchair from rolling backwards into myself.”

Next, at the Cicero Avenue station, Flores would have been stranded, had CBS 2 not been with him. The system that opens the door, leading to the elevator he requires to exit the platform, was not working.

“I’m trapped at this station,” Flores said. “This is horrible.”

After pushing a nearby call button a Metra operator said, “Well, things do break.”

At the Jefferson Park station, the Metra website indicated there would be parking and access for people with disabilities. In reality, the parking was blocks away. To get from there to the station, a wheelchair-bound person had to travel through tunnels, down city streets, past a bus depot, up steep ramps and through difficult doors to catch a train.

Flores said he would not consider this equal access for people with disabilities.

The website for the Irving Park stop also said there is parking for those with disabilities, but again that information was wrong. There is a small loading zone leading to a mountain of ramps that a person in a wheelchair would have to overcome just to get to the platform.

Without designated parking spots or clear paths, Flores was forced into the street to enter platforms at the Irving Park station.

The Cicero Avenue station also was advertised on Metra’s website as having parking for people with disability placards, but there was no parking for them at all at that stop either.

Finally, we did find parking at the Western Avenue station, but a Metra worker was parked in the only other spot reserved for commuters with disabilities.

A Metra official said they will fix their website to correctly indicate parking accessibility. They also said they are going to fix broken concrete and examine the slope on ramps.

The elevator access door at Cicero has been repaired, but they said — by law — they do not have to install wheelchair locking mechanisms on trains, because Metra trains are regulated under heavy rail transportation standards and locking mechanisms are not required.

A Metra official also said Flores was not forgotten on the train. They claimed the conductor was making sure everyone else was off the train before he came back to service Flores.

Flores has, however, now been invited to speak before Metra’s disability-related committee.

2 Investigators:
Reporting Dave Savini (ty Dave) CHICAGO (CBS2) November 20, 2012
http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/11/20/2-investigators-handicap-accessibility-problems-plague-many-metra-stations/

ADA Requirements: Accessible Pools revised final regulations 2012

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section


ADA Requirements: Accessible Pools - Updated May 24, 2012

Accessible Pools
Means of Entry and Exit
The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title II (State and local government services) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010, in the Federal Register. These requirements, or rules, clarify and refine issues that have arisen over the past 20 years and contain new, and updated, requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design ("2010 Standards").

Overview
Providing equal opportunity to people with disabilities is the fundamental principle of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This publication is designed to help title II and title III entities understand how new requirements for swimming pools, especially existing pools, apply to them.

People with disabilities were, for too long, excluded from participating in many recreational activities, including swimming. The revised 2010 Standards change that. For the first time, the 2010 Standards set minimum requirements for making swimming pools, wading pools, and spas (pools) accessible. Newly constructed and altered pools must meet these requirements. Public entities and public accommodations also have obligations with respect to existing pools. State and local governments must make recreational programs and services, including swimming pool programs, accessible to people with disabilities. Public accommodations must bring existing pools into compliance with the 2010 Standards to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so.

The requirements for newly constructed and existing pools will ensure that, going forward, people with disabilities can enjoy the same activities—a community swim meet; private swim lessons; a hotel pool—at the same locations and with the same independence, ease, and convenience as everyone else.

The 2010 Standards establish two categories of pools: large pools with more than 300 linear feet of pool wall and smaller pools with less than 300 linear feet of wall. Large pools must have two accessible means of entry, with at least one being a pool lift or sloped entry; smaller pools are only required to have one accessible means of entry, provided that it is either a pool lift or a sloped entry.

There are a limited number of exceptions to the requirements. One applies to multiple spas provided in a cluster. A second applies to wave pools, lazy rivers, sand bottom pools, and other pools that have only one point of entry. For more information on the specific requirements and exceptions, see sections 242 and 1009 of the 2010 Standards.

Existing Pools

Title II Program Accessibility

Individuals with disabilities cannot be excluded from or denied participation in State and local government programs, services, or activities because a facility is inaccessible or unusable. This means that all programs, services, and activities, when viewed in their entirety, must be accessible to individuals with disabilities unless doing so results in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program or in an undue financial and administrative burden. This requirement is known as "program accessibility."

Program accessibility applies to all pool-related programs, services, and activities (swimming programs). Program accessibility does not typically require that every pool be made accessible. However, if a public entity has only one existing pool, it must take steps to ensure that its swimming program at that pool is accessible.

A public entity determines which method it will use for meeting its program accessibility obligations. When structural changes are made to existing pools, including installation of a fixed pool lift, the changes must comply with the 2010 Standards. If a public entity chooses to acquire equipment (e.g., a portable lift) to provide program accessibility, the entity should select equipment that includes features required by the 2010 Standards, including independent operation by individuals with disabilities. Sharing accessible equipment between pools is not permitted, unless it would result in undue burdens to provide equipment at each one. Accessible pool features must be available whenever the facility is open to the public. When choosing to purchase equipment or to make structural changes, the public entity should factor in staff and financial resources required to maintain program accessibility.
Over time, a public entity will need to reassess its compliance with program accessibility, and it may become necessary to acquire new accessible equipment or make structural modifications. For more information about program accessibility, see the title II regulations at Section 35.150.

To determine which pools must be made accessible, public entities should consider the following factors:
How to provide swimming programs in the most integrated setting appropriate;
The ways in which people participate in the programs (e.g., individually, in families, in youth groups);
Locations where the programs are offered;
What programs are offered at each pool and to which constituencies (e.g., family swims, children's swimming lessons, older adult exercise classes, high school swim meets);
Which pools are accessible and to what extent; and
Level of dispersion of the accessible locations and convenience to reach them (e.g., one pool in each quadrant of the town, all on accessible mass transit).

Title III Readily Achievable Barrier Removal

Title III of the ADA requires that places of public accommodation (e.g., hotels, resorts, swim clubs, and sites of events open to the public) remove physical barriers in existing pools to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so (i.e., easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense).

Determining what is readily achievable will vary from business to business and sometimes from one year to the next. Changing economic conditions can be taken into consideration in determining what is readily achievable.

For an existing pool, removing barriers may involve installation of a fixed pool lift with independent operation by the user or other accessible means of entry that complies with the 2010 Standards to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so. If installation of a fixed lift is not readily achievable, the public accommodation may then consider alternatives such as use of a portable pool lift that complies with the 2010 Standards. It is important to note that the barrier removal obligation is a continuing one, and it is expected that a business will take steps to improve accessibility over time. When selecting equipment, the public accommodation should factor in the staff and financial resources needed to keep the pool equipment available and in working condition at poolside. For more information about barrier removal, see the title III regulations at Section 36.304.

If you have purchased a non-fixed lift before March15 th that otherwise complies with the requirements in the 2010 Standards for pool lifts (such as seat size, etc.), you may use it, as long as you keep it in position for use at the pool and operational during all times that the pool is open to guests. Because of a misunderstanding by some pool owners regarding whether the use of portable pool lifts would comply with barrier removal obligations, the Department, as a matter of prosecutorial discretion, will not enforce the fixed elements of the 2010 Standards against those owners or operators of existing pools who purchased portable lifts prior to March 15, 2012 and who keep the portable lifts in positon for use at the pool and operational during all times that the pool is open to guests so long as those lifts otherwise comply with the requirements of the 2010 Standards. Generally, lifts purchased after March 15, 2012 must be fixed if it is readily achievable to do so.

To determine which pools must be made accessible, public accommodations should consider the following factors:
The nature and cost of the action;
Overall resources of the site or sites involved;
The geographic separateness and relationship of the site(s) to any parent corporation or entity;
The overall resources of any parent corporation or entity, if applicable; and
The type of operation or operations of any parent corporation or entity, if applicable

New Construction and Alterations

New Construction
The 2010 Standards, which set requirements for fixed elements and spaces, require that all new pool facilities built by State and local governments, public accommodations, and commercial facilities must be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.

Alterations
A physical change to a swimming pool which affects or could affect the usability of the pool is considered to be an alteration. When pools are altered, the alterations must comply with the 2010 Standards, to the maximum extent feasible. Changes to the mechanical and electrical systems, such as filtration and chlorination systems, are not alterations. Entities must ensure that an alteration does not decrease accessibility below the requirements for new construction. For example, if a hotel installs a fixed pool lift powered by water pressure, it must ensure that the hose connecting to the lift does not create a barrier across the accessible route to the pool.

Compliance Dates

On or after March 15, 2012
All newly constructed or altered facilities of public entities and public accommodations, including pools, must comply with the 2010 Standards.

On or after March 15, 2012
All existing facilities of public entities and public accommodations, except pools, must comply with the 2010 Standards to the extent required under title II program accessibility or title III readily achievable barrier removal requirements.

On or after January 31, 2013
Subject to other provisions of this guidance, all existing pools of public entities and public accommodations must comply with the 2010 Standards to the extent required under title II program accessibility or title III readily achievable barrier removal requirements.

For more information on effective dates, see the Department's publication called ADA 2010 Revised Requirements: Effective Date and Compliance Date and the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design.

Maintenance of Accessible Features

Accessible pool features must be maintained in operable, working condition so that persons with disabilities have access to the pool whenever the pool is open to others. For example, a portable pool lift may be stored when the pool is closed but it must be at poolside and fully operational during all open pool hours.

An entity should recognize that certain types of equipment may require more staff support and maintenance than others (e.g. ensuring there are enough batteries for a pool lift to maintain a continued charge during pool hours). Entities should plan for these issues and modify operational policies as needed to provide accessible means of entry while the pool is open.

Staff Training

Ongoing staff training is essential to ensure that accessible equipment (particularly pool lifts) and pool facilities are available whenever a pool is open. Staff training should include instruction on what accessible features are available, how to operate and maintain them, and any necessary safety considerations.

Tax Credits and Deductions

Title III entities may be able to take advantage of federal tax credits for small businesses (Internal Revenue Code section 44) or deductions (Internal Revenue Code section 190) for barrier removal costs or alterations to improve accessibility regardless of the size of the business. See the IRS website www.irs.gov for more information.

For more information
about the ADA,
ADA Website: www.ADA.gov

ADA Information Line
800-514-0301 (Voice) and
800-514-0383 (TTY)
24 hours a day to order
publications by mail.

M-W, F 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.,
Th 12:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time)
to speak with an ADA Specialist.
All calls are confidential.

For persons with disabilities,
this publication
is available in alternate formats.

Duplication of this document
is encouraged.

May 2012

ADA Requirements: Accessible Pools - Updated May 24, 2012
PDF Version of this Document also available
http://www.ada.gov/pools_2010.htm

Paralyzed Vet (former Marine Sgt. Joseph Smith) Files Lawsuit For Mistreatment At Chicago O’Hare Airport | Nov 2012

CHICAGO (CBS2) – A former U.S. Marine, who was left in a wheelchair following his service in Afghanistan, is filing a lawsuit alleging he was injured and left soaked in his own urine after he was mistreated by airline and airport workers at O’Hare International Airport nearly two years ago.
{Wheelchair file photo (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)}


WBBM Newsradio’s Terry Keshner reports former Marine Sgt. Joseph Smith was wounded in Afghanistan in 2004, and confined to a wheelchair.

Smith is suing Air Serv Corporation and United Airlines for $300,000 in damages, claiming an Air Serv employee carelessly dumped him out of his wheelchair at O’Hare in November 2010, after ignoring warnings a wheel had become stuck.

At the time, Smith was traveling as part of a Paralympic shooting team, and trying to catch a connecting flight at O’Hare when the worker tipped his chair over while boarding the plane.

“I flew out of my chair, hit my head on the left side of my head. … I landed on my head,” Smith said.

He suffered a concussion, and said he was denied an aisle seat on his United Airlines flight, and was forced to drag himself to his seat without help. His catheter bag spilled in the process, soaking him with urine.

His attorney, Alex Hattimer, said, “the catheter bag ruptures, he ends up with urine spilled all over him. He drags his urine-covered, limb body down the aisle.”

Smith said the lawsuit is about dignity, more than money.

“Apparently some people out there, they just don’t get it. So, I want to make sure this never happens to someone else,” he said. “I just want people out there to know that … people with disabilities, we’re not invisible. We’re people, too.”

Calls to Air Serv and United were not immediately returned.

WBBM Newsradio’s Terry Keshner Reports : November 14, 2012
http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/11/14/paralyzed-vet-sues-airport-airline-workers-for-mistreatment-at-ohare/#at_pco=cfd-1.0

November is National Family Caregivers Month: Because Caregivers Matter

What began as a celebration of family caregivers during the week of Thanksgiving in 1997 has grown into a month-long acknowledgement and celebration of family caregivers—those extraordinary people who make such a difference in the lives of their loved ones. Family caregivers provide more long-term care in our country than any other group, by far.

Family caregivers’ roles vary greatly, ranging from transportation, meal preparation and housekeeping to more complex help, such as medication management, wound care, and financial planning. What’s more, family caregivers are often the single constant in lives fraught with rapid change and uncertainty. Their commitment may be the only thing preventing the long-term institutional placement of medically fragile people. Supporting family caregivers is essential.

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) is proud to support the innovative Lifespan Respite Care Program, which provides states the opportunity to improve access to respite services for family caregivers, no matter the age of the person they are caring for.

State-based Lifespan Respite Care Programs are coordinated systems of accessible, community-based services for family caregivers of people with special needs, no matter their age.

For the past 12 years, the Administration on Aging, now part of ACL, has funded states to provide support to caregivers of people who are 70 years and older through the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP).

NFCSP supports state programs that include:

Information and referral to programs in local communities,

Help finding respite care so a caregiver can take care of personal business or just take a break,

High-quality advice and training, to learn how to be an even better caregiver, and

Support groups to discover they are not alone in the challenges they face–and even find a safe place to share a joke and a shoulder to cry on.

By Kathy Greenlee, Administrator, Administration for Community Living and Assistant Secretary for Aging, HHS

Lifespan Respite Care Program :
http://www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/AoA_Programs/HCLTC/LRCP/index.aspx

National Family Caregiver Support Program (OAA Title IIIE):
http://www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/AoA_Programs/HCLTC/Caregiver/index.aspx

Find more resources for family caregivers :
http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Health/caregivers.shtml

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jacksonville Developmental Center closing is going by the book : by Kevin Casey IDHS

By Kevin Casey - Guest Columnist : The State Journal-Register | Posted Nov 16, 2012

When Gov. Pat Quinn took office in 2009, the state of Illinois operated nine state-operated developmental centers/large institutions, for individuals with developmental disabilities. Never mind that 14 other reform-minded states have already moved forward to close institutions and invest in community care, which numerous studies show provide a higher quality of life.

Fortunately for all citizens, that time is now behind us.

Last week, the Health Facilities Services and Review Board voted to close the Jacksonville Developmental Center. Under Quinn, one such facility has closed and 600 individuals will transition into community settings over the next couple of years.

Quinn and the Illinois Department of Human Services are taking a historic step forward in the rebalancing initiative that will increase community care options for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness and reduce the number of outdated institutions.

IDHS has worked closely with families and guardians on a person-centered planning process that ensures safe transitions for JDC residents. Over the past several months, JDC residents have gone through a thorough planning process, including assessment, consultation with families and guardians and planning sessions with providers to determine specific needs.

Each and every person will visit their potential new home and have a transition meeting prior to discharge. Residents are only transitioned to licensed programs and will move in safe and appropriate means of transportation. The process of transitioning individuals out of JDC is going according to plan — it has been and will continue to be careful and deliberate.

To date, more than 80 residents have transitioned out of JDC and most are adjusting quite well to their new environment. The current census at JDC is 82 and approximately 40 residents are scheduled to transition over the next couple of weeks. Active and ongoing transition work is being done for these and other remaining residents.

Some families and guardians have chosen to transfer their loved ones to another developmental center. As a result of those transfers, residents of the impacted developmental centers will then have the opportunity to move into the community.

The governor’s initiative to rebalance the state’s approach to care for individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions is designed to better align Illinois with the national trends, standards and expectations in the delivery of services. A number of organizations from across the state commend these efforts, including Equip for Equality, Illinois Association for Retarded Citizens and Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities.

In addition, earlier this year, The Arc of Illinois presented Quinn with the 2012 President’s Award for his leadership to improve life for people with developmental disabilities.

Numerous studies show that individuals living in the community have a better quality of life than those living in institutions. Community settings allow individuals to receive the care they need, including 24-hour care. Community care is also significantly less costly than institution-based care.

The average cost for JDC is $200,000 per year per resident while the average cost for a JDC resident living in the community is $84,000 per year.

Unfortunately there has been misinformation communicated by those opposed to the closure that can only harm the process. Neither IDHS, nor its contractors have changed client records. To do so would be a violation of both state and federal regulations. Any employee or contractor who did so would be subject to severe sanctions.

The staffing levels at JDC are above those of any other developmental centers in the state. Contract medical staff are fully trained and qualified and expected to follow the same rules and regulations as bargaining unit staff.

As we draw closer to the closure date, we remain committed to communicating and working closely with JDC residents, families and guardians to ensure that all residents are transitioned to a quality setting of their choice.

Kevin Casey is director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities in the Illinois Department of Human Services.

As posted by The State Journal-Register | Springfield, IL
http://www.sj-r.com/opinions/x871170474/Kevin-Casey-JDC-closing-is-going-by-the-book?zc_p=0

Friday, November 16, 2012

CTA Holiday Train Schedule 2012


YouTubeUploaded by CTAConnections on Dec 16, 2011

About the train
The Chicago Transit Authority is getting into the holiday spirit with our popular Holiday Train! Santa and his elves will ride the train passing out candy canes and season's greetings.

The spectacular train is an amazing sight - during the daytime and at night. The outside of the six-car train is adorned with holiday seasonal images. Thousands of twinkling lights outline the shape of the train and windows, with even more lights running across the tops of the cars.

Interiors of the cars are decked out with thousands of multi-colored lights, red bows, garland, and red and green overhead lighting. The hand poles are wrapped to look like candy canes.

As the train pulls into each station, Santa waves to the boarding passengers from his sleigh on an open-air flatcar carrying his reindeer and decorated holiday trees.

Charity food delivery
The Holiday Train also continues a more-than-20-year agency tradition of supporting Chicago communities. Every year, CTA employees embrace the spirit of the holidays and donate time and money to purchase groceries and assemble food baskets that are distributed to community organizations across the city. CTA will donate approximately 300 food baskets to 30 local community organizations.

Each food basket contains all the ingredients for a complete meal including a canned ham, potatoes, mixed vegetables, muffin mix, macaroni and cheese, fruit cocktail, green beans, corn and desert. The Holiday Train delivers the food baskets on three separate days over the holiday season.

Schedule
The Holiday Train will travel all CTA rail lines in November and December as part of regular rail service. Normal CTA fares apply.

The train generally operates from about 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on select weekdays (schedules for each rail line will vary), and will make stops at all stations along the respective routes.

The schedule continues as follows, with more detailed plans to follow on the train's site: http://www.transitchicago.com/holidaytrain/#schedule

Detailed Holiday Train Schedule
Detailed schedules will be posted as they become available.
Green Line 11/23 - Fri
Green Line 11/24 - Sat
Green Line 11/28 - Wed
Orange Line & Brown Line 11/29 - Thu
Orange Line & Brown Line 11/30 - Fri
Orange Line & Brown Line 12/1 - Sat
Pink Line 12/5 - Wed
Blue Line 12/6 - Thu
Blue Line 12/7 - Fri
Blue Line (+ photo-only stop on Pink Line) 12/8 - Sat
Red Line 12/12 - Wed
Purple Line 12/13 - Thu
Red Line 12/14 - Fri
Red Line & Purple Line 12/15 - Sat
Red Line 12/18 - Tue
Purple Line 12/19 - Wed
Yellow Line 12/20 - Thu
Red Line & Purple Line 12/22 - Sat

The holiday train tradition began in 1992 when a "Season's Greetings from the CTA" sign was affixed to the front of a train delivering food to charities. The train first carried passengers in 1996 and, since then, has become just one of the city's most popular trademarks of the holiday season.

The train is so revered that it inspired a play, opening Nov. 24, based on locals' experiences of catching a ride on the colorful, cheerful chariot.

For CTA Accessibility information: http://www.transitchicago.com/accessibility/




http://www.transitchicago.com/holidaytrain/default.aspx

DOJ: Chicago Psychiatrist Allegedly Submitted At Least 190,000 False Claims to Medicare and Medicaid | Nov 2012

U. S. Department of Justice
Press Release THURSDAY NOVEMBER 15, 2012

CHICAGO PSYCHIATRIST ALLEGEDLY SUBMITTED AT LEAST 190,000 FALSE
CLAIMS TO MEDICARE AND MEDICAID; LAWSUIT ALLEGES KICKBACKS TO
PRESCRIBE ANTIPSYCHOTIC MEDICATION FOR NURSING HOME PATIENTS


CHICAGO — A Chicago psychiatrist received illegal kickbacks from pharmaceutical
companies and submitted at least 140,000 false claims to Medicare and Medicaid for antipsychotic medications he prescribed for thousands of mentally ill patients in area nursing homes, according to a civil health care fraud lawsuit filed today by the United States. The defendant, Dr. Michael J.
Reinstein, also submitted at least 50,000 claims to Medicare and Medicaid, falsely stating that he provided “pharmacologic management” for his patients at more than 30 area nursing homes and long-term care facilities, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit seeks triple damages under the False Claims Act, plus a civil penalty of $5,500 to $11,000 for each alleged false claim.

“This is the largest civil case alleging prescription medication fraud against an individual ever brought in Chicago,” said Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. He announced the lawsuit with William C. Monroe, Acting Special Agent-inCharge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Regional Office of the HHS-OIG. The investigation is continuing, they said.

Reinstein, 69, of Skokie, has provided psychiatric medical services in the Chicago area since 1973. Since at least 1999, he has maintained an office in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, which has the densest concentration of mentally ill nursing home residents in Illinois.

According to the lawsuit, Reinstein routinely prescribed antipsychotic and other psychiatric medications knowing that, because most of his patients are indigent nursing home residents, pharmacies dispensing the medications submitted claims to Medicaid, and beginning in 2006, to Medicare Part D. Reinstein also submitted Medicare and Medicaid claims for pharmacologic
management of his patients, knowing that he did not engage in substantive evaluations of his patients’ medical and psychiatric conditions to properly manage their medications. Instead, he allegedly prescribed medications to his patients based on his receipt of kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies.

The lawsuit involves Reinstein’s use of clozapine, a rarely-used medication that has serious potential side effects and is generally considered a drug of last resort, particularly for elderly patients. While clozapine has been shown to be effective for treatment-resistant forms of schizophrenia, it is also known to cause numerous side effects, including a potentially deadly decrease in white blood cells, seizures, inflamation of the heart muscle, and increased mortality in elderly patients.

Prior to August 2003, Reinstein prescribed Clozaril, the trade name for clozapine
manufactured by Novartis, and he often had more than 1,000 patients using the medication at any given time. For many years, Novartis paid Reinstein to promote Clozaril, the complaint alleges. After Novartis’ patent for Clozaril expired in 1998, Reinstein resisted pharmacy and drug company efforts to switch his patients to generic clozapine and he continued to be the largest prescriber of Clozaril to Medicaid recipients in the United States. In July 2003, Novartis notified Reinstein that it would be withdrawing its support for Clozaril, and ended the regular payments that it had been making to Reinstein.

In August 2003, Reinstein finally agreed to switch his patients to generic clozapine
manufactured by Miami-based IVAX Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the suit alleges, if IVAX agreed to pay Reinstein $50,000 under a one-year “consulting agreement;” pay his nurse to speak on behalf of clozapine; and fund a clozapine research study by a Reinstein-affiliated entity known as Uptown Research Institute. IVAX agreed and Reinstein immediately began switching his patients from Clozaril to IVAX’s clozapine. He quickly became the largest prescriber of generic clozapine in the country.

“Reinstein’s inordinate prescribing of clozapine stands in stark contrast to its extremely limited use by other physicians,” the lawsuit states. While generally only four percent of schizophrenia patients who were prescribed antipsychotics received clozapine, during the time Reinstein was alegedly accepting kickbacks from IVAX, more than 50 percent of his patients were prescribed IVAX’s clozapine. At one nursing home, Reinstein had 75 percent of the 400 residents on IVAX’s clozapine.

Between 2003 and 2006, Reinstein allegedly requested, and IVAX provided, additional
direct and indirect benefits to Reinstein and his associates, including:

< paying airfare, lodging, meals, and entertainment expenses for a pharmacy owner and spouse, Reinstein’s nurse, his accountant and spouse, his administrative assistant and spouse, and Reinstein and his wife to travel to IVAX’s headquarters in Miami. IVAX also paid for Reinstein and his entourage to go on a fishing trip, a boat cruise, and a golf outing; < annual renewal of Reinstein’s $50,000 “consulting agreement;” and < tickets to sporting events and free IVAX-manufactured medication for Reinstein’s personal use.

In January 2006, IVAX became a subsidiary of Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries, Ltd., an
Israeli company. About seven months before the merger, Reinstein began moving large numbers of his patients to a form of clozapine manufactured by a competitor of IVAX/Teva. In April 2006, Teva paid all expenses for Reinstein and his entourage to travel to Miami, including a $2,300 boat cruise, and at least two dinners costing more than $1,700 each. During this trip Teva employees asked Reinstein what the company could do to induce Reinstein to prescribe more clozapine, and Reinstein suggested that Teva hire an associate of his from Chicago, the lawsuit alleges. Teva
agreed and in the months after the hiring Reinstein put several hundred patients back on Teva’s clozapine.

From 2007 to 2009, the suit alleges, Teva and Reinstein entered into annual “speaker
agreements” that resulted in Teva paying Reinstein more than $100,000.

The suit alleges that Medicaid received and paid more than 100,000 false claims from
various pharmacies for IVAX/Teva clozapine prescriptions written by Reinstein between August 2003 and July 2011 as a result of illegal kickbacks he solicited and received from IVAX and Teva. Between 2006 and July 2011, Medicare Part D received and paid more than 40,000 false claims involving similar kickback-induced prescriptions.

Likewise, between August 2003 and July 2011, Reinstein allegedly submitted more than
40,000 false claims and received payment from Medicaid for purported pharmacologic management, as well as more than 10,000 similar false claims to Medicare.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric S. Pruitt.
A civil lawsuit contains merely allegations of unlawful conduct. In civil cases, the
government has the burden of proving the allegations by a preponderance of the evidence.
# # # #
http://www.justice.gov/usao/iln/pr/chicago/2012/pr1115_01.pdf

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Some Still Upset With RTA Chairman Gates Comparing Paratransit Service To Limos

CHICAGO (CBS) – There’s more criticism from within the Regional Transportation Authority over comments by the RTA’s chairman about its paratransit service.

The “limousine service” comment made last month by RTA Chairman John Gates in reference to the area’s paratransit service still sticks in the craw of the advocates on the RTA’s own ADA advisory committee, despite the board’s approval Wednesday of a measure that is expected to put 130 more accessible taxis on Chicago streets and provide better navigation on the CTA for the visually impaired and on Metra for the hearing impaired.

ADA Advisory Committee Chair Barry Taylor said the entire RTA board needs awareness training about disabilities.

“Even if you have experience with the disability community, we think having that training is really important because disability issues evolve over time,” he said.

That is especially important when it comes to terminology, he said. For instance, he said the term “mental retardation” now provokes outrage in many quarters and suggests use of the phrase “intellectual disability” instead.

Gates said he would consider such training and asked RTA Executive Director Joseph Costello to determine how it would be done. Board member Donald Totten suggested special taxi stands at downtown train terminals specifically for cabs equipped for those in wheelchairs.

Reporting Bob Roberts | WBBM Newsradio
http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/11/14/some-at-rta-still-upset-with-chairmans-comparing-paratransit-service-to-limos/
###

Previous post on RTA Chairman Gates comments:

Limo service? RTA chairman laments cost of paratransit

Article updated: 10/15/2012
Article By Marni Pyke
The Daily Herald

But before those dollars are awarded, paratransit is funded first — this year receiving about $136 million.

“It's a civil right. It has to come right off the top,” Gates said. “You send out a van every time somebody schedules one. The more volume you have, the more money you lose.

“It's not like other systems ... where the more volume you have, the more money you make or the less money you lose. That's the issue, and as the population ages and gets more infirm, the volumes go up faster than the rest of the system,” Gates explained.

“It's a limousine service, but it's a federally mandated limousine service that we have to provide,” he added. “The farebox pays 10 percent, we lose a ton of money. ... It's hugely expensive, but it's something we have to do. It's the law. It's a civil right.”


For the full article; http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20121015/news/710159935/

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

DOJ files lawsuits against the City of San Jacinto, California, Alleging Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities

Press Release - Nov 13, 2012
Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Justice Department Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against the City of San Jacinto, California, Alleging Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities

The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the city of San Jacinto, Calif., alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act based on its treatment of group homes for persons with disabilities. This lawsuit is part of the Justice Department’s continuing effort to enforce civil rights laws that require states and municipalities to end discrimination against, and unnecessary segregation of, persons with disabilities.

The lawsuit, filed on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that the city has impermissibly restricted the ability of group homes for people with disabilities to operate within the city. Under the city’s zoning code, group homes that are not required to be licensed by the state, as well as some licensed homes, are not permitted uses in any zoning district within the city, and their ability to operate in multi-family zones is restricted. The United States’ lawsuit further alleges that the city targeted housing for persons with disabilities for enforcement actions, including a November 2008 sweep in which city and county officials, including armed and uniformed police officers and sheriff’s deputies, appeared at homes unannounced and interrogated residents with disabilities from a prepared questionnaire that included intrusive questions targeted to persons with mental disabilities. The complaint also alleges that the city has conditioned the grant of reasonable accommodations on the adoption of unwarranted limitations on the residents of homes for persons with disabilities.

This lawsuit arose as a result of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by the operators of group homes who were impacted by the city’s discriminatory enforcement activities.

The suit seeks a court order preventing the city from enforcing its laws in a way that unlawfully discriminates on the basis of disability, and prohibiting the city from failing to make reasonable accommodations. It also seeks monetary damages to compensate victims and a civil penalty.

“No person should be denied an equal opportunity for housing in his or her community, or suffer harassment or intimidation, because he or she is a person with a disability,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to preventing discriminatory treatment of people with disabilities.”

“This suit is part of my office’s continuing efforts, in partnership with DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, to ensure that all residents of the Central District are accorded the rights to which they are entitled under the law,” said André Birotte Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. “Under the law, people with disabilities, including mental disabilities, must be given the opportunity to live in our community, free from discriminatory efforts to exclude them. This suit seeks to ensure that this opportunity is fully and fairly provided.”
“Local governments may not zone out people with disabilities from the opportunity to live in mainstream communities,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD and DOJ are united in our efforts to combat unlawful interference with the rights of people with disabilities, whether in the form of unfair zoning restrictions, selective enforcement of ordinances, or otherwise.”
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services and activities. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt . Individuals who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination or have information related to this lawsuit can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov , or contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at 1-800-669-9777.

The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/November/12-crt-1348.html

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Are some Chicago area Public Transit agencies using Disabled & Seniors as funding scapegoats? Nov 2012

Paratransit a bumpy ride

Transit agencies navigate serving growing disabled ridership without cutting into funds for regular bus and rail

By Jon Hilkevitch, Chicago Tribune
Nov 14, 2012

The aging population is helping to spur exponential growth in paratransit use across the Chicago area, and the strong demand for the door-to-door service by people with disabilities is taking millions of dollars away from other bus and train operations, transit officials said.

Paratransit is a civil right under the law. Yet if nothing is done to make the service financially sustainable in the long run, the expanding slice of the public-funding pie that is going to paratransit threatens to cannibalize standard bus and rail service, CTA officials said.

Such a development would hurt daily commuters as well as less-severely disabled riders who are being encouraged to switch from paratransit to traditional fixed-route buses and trains whenever possible to help cut costs to themselves and the system, the officials said.

The paratransit fare is $3 each way, 75 cents higher than the $2.25 base fare to ride a regular CTA bus. But the actual cost of providing that $3 paratransit ride is estimated at $36.07 this year, according to Pace, which manages paratransit in the six-county region.

"Paratransit is a critical service and a lifeline for people in the disabled community. But the math speaks for itself,'' CTA President Forrest Claypool said.

From 2008 through this year, paratransit expenses have reduced the CTA's share of funding by $239 million and Metra's share by $194 million, according to an analysis of Regional Transportation Authority financial statements by the CTA, which is struggling to cobble together a 2013 budget that avoids fare hikes or service cuts.

"I don't claim to have the answers, but if paratransit growth rates continue, as they are projected to do, (regular) service will be affected'' on the CTA, Metra and Pace, Claypool said.

Paratransit expenses for 2012 are projected to total $137.5 million, according to Pace. That figure is up from $128.1 million in 2011 and up from $69 million in 2005, according to Pace and the CTA. The paratransit financial outlook for 2013 and 2014 projects 5 percent increases each year, according to the RTA.

Travel training

Pace officials say the paratransit funding situation is not as severe a drain as the CTA portrays it to be.

As part of reforms that in 2008 provided for a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax collected for public transit in the Chicago region, the General Assembly created two pots of money. The move effectively built a firewall around some sales tax revenue that pays for regular bus and rail service, and created a new pool of money that pays for paratransit as well as other bus and rail service, Pace officials said. In addition, the state provides a partial match to the second pool of sales tax revenue.

"Traditional bus and rail service funding is safeguarded from expense growth on paratransit,'' Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot said.

But CTA officials point out that paratransit funding is taken off the top of the 2008 sales tax increase and that paratransit expenses are projected to exceed the amount of money generated by 2028, based on trends.

All transit officials agree that the cost of paratransit in the Chicago region has almost doubled over the past seven years, partly because of the growing elderly population.

This year, 5.4 percent of the $2.54 billion operating budget for the RTA system — made up of the CTA, Metra and Pace — is being spent on paratransit, which under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act must be fully paid for and cannot be reduced or cut to lower expenses. Paratransit services are offered in the same geographic areas as standard fixed-route service and during the same hours of operation.

More than 49,000 people are currently registered in the paratransit program in the Chicago area, according to the RTA. The cost averages more than $2,800 a year for each person. The number of paratransit trips provided has grown from 2.4 million in 2007 to 3.4 million last year, according to Pace.

"On regular transit, you would look like a hero if you generated 40 percent ridership growth,'' said Rocky Donahue, Pace's deputy executive director.

Donahue and Pace Executive Director T.J. Ross said Pace has introduced numerous efficiencies to lower the cost of delivering paratransit services, including increasing ride-sharing and aggressively marketing the use of standard fixed-route service for disabled people who can use that option instead of the costly paratransit.

It's a difficult sell, because many paratransit clients, including those who are physically and cognitively able to use standard buses and trains some of the time, still consider paratransit their safety net. Mobility has improved remarkably in recent years for unprecedented numbers of disabled and elderly people who rely on the special public transit service as their connection to society. That's the good news, in the wake of budget cuts in assorted government social services that also reduced or eliminated associated transportation options for clients with physical or behavioral limitations.

Renita Freeman, who has degenerative arthritis and other conditions, is a longtime paratransit customer who gets around mostly in her powered wheelchair that she steers onto the ramp of a paratransit vehicle. But the 60-year-old South Side resident recently started riding buses and trains for the first time since her younger days, thanks to one-on-one travel training provided by a RTA trainer.

"The 'L' and Metra were new for me, and I was terrified to ride the wheelchair on the platform and onto the train,'' said Freeman, who said she has difficulty walking and breathing. "But once (her trainer) told me what to do, it was a piece of cake. Now I can go visit relatives and friends who live way out in the suburbs and I feel safe.''

Frances Thompson, 71, of Evanston, said she uses paratransit and standard bus and train service, depending on the circumstances.

"I call the paratransit when the weather is bad, or when I go to see a friend who lives far away in Chicago,'' Thompson said last week after attending a travel training session that was presented by an RTA trainer to the Foster Senior Group at the Fleetwood Jourdain Community Center in Evanston. Travel training is designed to familiarize senior citizens and some disabled people with how to use traditional bus and train service.

Budget frustrations

The CTA operated paratransit for more than 20 years in Chicago and got out of the business six years ago when the agency handed off the job to Pace, which previously operated paratransit in the suburbs since 1992. The move saved the CTA about $54 million.

But the financial math of paratransit never added up, and it clearly isn't computing today as the CTA and Metra both may be forced to raise their regular fares in 2013 to pay for service improvements and avoid budget deficits, transit officials said.

RTA Chairman John Gates Jr. sparked controversy recently when he pronounced paratransit "a limousine service.'' Gates later apologized for the remark, saying he let his frustrations get the better of him in regard to the struggle to balance the increasing need for paratransit with the increasing financial losses associated with it.

The trend is unsustainable, transit experts say, unless new funding sources are developed or the existing program is modified.

Some transit agencies in the U.S. have tightened the paratransit application screening rules. But in the Chicago area, the RTA accepts about 98 percent of applicants to the paratransit program, records show. RTA officials say the acceptance rate is so high because potential participants are pre-screened before a decision is made to send out an application form.

With 2012 almost over, the CTA finds itself in a serious budget predicament. In this year's budget, agency management assumed, incorrectly, that it would achieve labor union work-rule concessions totaling $80 million to help erase a $277 million budget deficit. But the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents CTA bus drivers, train operators and other workers, has rejected any significant money-saving changes in contract negotiations that have dragged on for months, according to sources on both sides.

In 2013 the CTA must find at least $160 million in savings to help balance its budget, officials have said. Claypool is expected to present the 2013 CTA budget Thursday, and riders are bracing for a possible fare increase.

On the surface, it would appear that disabled and elderly riders who count on paratransit to travel to activities ranging from medical appointments to recreational events are protected from having the federally mandated service withdrawn.

Yet many people still could be left without the transportation. The price-sensitive population that paratransit serves is highly vulnerable to the impact of fare increases, which, if imposed, would likely significantly reduce use of paratransit because fewer people would be able to afford it.

Federal regulations covering ADA paratransit establish a ceiling for paratransit fares that is double the base fixed-route bus fare. It translates to a maximum $4.50 paratransit fare in Chicago (the CTA base fare is $2.25) and $3.50 in the suburbs (the Pace base fare is $1.75).

Other approaches

The Chicago region is hardly alone in feeling the paratransit budget pinch, but some other transit systems are taking creative approaches to deal with it.

In the nation's capital, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority saved more than $25 million in fiscal 2011 by offering free rides on standard fixed-route bus and rail service to paratransit-eligible riders, officials said. More than 559,000 trips were taken using the free benefit last year, the transit authority reported.

In Cincinnati, all potential paratransit clients seeking service from the Southwestern Ohio Regional Transit Authority are required to attend assessments before certification, and they must be recertified every two years to stay in the program.

In the Chicago area, the RTA typically requires paratransit riders to recertify every four years, and they aren't required to do so at in-person interviews or assessments. A mail-in recertification form is sent to riders whose eligibility is deemed unlikely to change, officials said. They justify the process as being "much less burdensome on riders and much less expensive for the RTA.''

Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-paratransit-1114-
20121114,0,5277321.story?track=rss



Friday, November 9, 2012

U.S. Access Board Advisory Committee on Medical Diagnostic Equipment: Meeting Notice Dec 3 &4, 2012

The Access Board’s Medical Diagnostic Equipment Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee will hold its next meeting December 3 and 4 in Washington, D.C. This meeting was originally scheduled for late October but was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy.

Further details, including a preliminary meeting agenda, are posted on the Board’s website. For more information, contact Rex Pace at pace@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0023 (v), or (202) 272-0052 (TTY). Committee meetings are open to the public. Members of the public can follow the proceedings remotely through a toll-free conference line and online real-time transcription.

MDE Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee Meeting
December 3 and 4
Access Board Conference Center
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C.
Note: For the comfort of all participants and to promote a fragrance-free environment, attendees are requested not to use perfume, cologne, or other fragrances.

Call-in option (listening only):
Dial: (517) 308-9365 or (888) 603-7094 (toll-free)
Passcode: 6317703

Real-time transcription:
[The link will be posted on the MDE homepage]

For U.S. Access Board - Medical Diagnostic Equipment webpage:
http://www.access-board.gov/medical-equipment.htm