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

Friday, May 31, 2013

ALERT: Anti-hunger advocates in Illinois are warning the proposed cuts to SNAP (formerly known as food stamps)

as reported by Progress Illinois...
article by Ellyn Fortino ; Friday May 31st

Anti-hunger advocates in Illinois are warning the proposed cuts in the U.S. Farm Bill will cause great devastation to the more than 2 million individuals and families in the state who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Progress Illinois takes a look closer at the issue.

The 2013 farm bills that passed out of the U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committees earlier this month look to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by billions of dollars over the next 10 years.

Anti-hunger advocates in Illinois are warning that the proposed cuts will cause great devastation to the more than 2 million individuals and families in the state who depend on SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.

“I’ve been in a mode of outrage ever since this came out of the House,” said Sessy Nyman, vice president of policy and strategic partnerships at Illinois Action for Children. “The House proposal is so offensive to me that I can barely talk about it without screaming and crying at the same time.”

The House Agriculture Committee approved a proposal to cut SNAP, which provides nutrition assistance to millions of low-income individuals and families, by $20.5 billion over a 10-year period.

The Senate Agriculture Committee also approved a plan to cut the program by $4.1 billion over 10 years.

An amendment to the Senate’s version of the farm bill by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), which aimed to prevent the SNAP cuts via reducing subsidies for crop insurance companies, failed in committee.

One amendment to the Senate’s farm bill that was approved unanimously in committee, however, looks to prevent ex-convicts of certain violent crimes from receiving SNAP benefits for life.

But as Robert Greenstein, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, pointed out in a statement on the center’s website, “a young man who was convicted of a single crime at age 19 who then reforms and is now elderly, poor, and raising grandchildren would be thrown off SNAP, and his grandchildren’s benefits would be cut.”

He also added the amendment, which still has a chance of being modified while on the floor, will likely have “strongly racially discriminatory effects.”

“Poor, elderly African-Americans convicted of a single crime decades ago by segregated southern juries would be among those hit,” he wrote.

On top of the proposed cuts in the farm bills, those receiving SNAP will feel a squeeze beginning November 1, 2013 when benefit increases under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act will end.

Starting in November, a family of four can expect to see about a $25 reduction in monthly SNAP benefits, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

It is already difficult to survive on SNAP, as the average benefit provides about $1.41 per person per meal, said Diane Doherty, executive director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition.

It is hard to make a meal with that money, she explained. Just a can of tuna fish, for example, can cost more than a dollar, Doherty said.

“So to actually have a healthy diet based on $1.41 per person per meal is very, very hard, and then if you were to cut that ... [by] $25 over a month period of time, that’s a huge cut in your ability to provide meals to your family,” she said.

Beverly Henry, associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Northern Illinois University’s College of Health and Human Sciences, said when SNAP recipients go to the grocery store, they are typically spending their own dollars on top of SNAP benefits.

SNAP is aimed to increase purchasing power, Henry explained.

“It’s certainly not money that is going to be free flowing and enable people to go on vacation or something,” she said. “And it’s certainly not enough money to say, ‘I could go do fine dining once a week, because I’m on SNAP benefits.’”

Most of the House bill’s nearly $21 billion in cuts to the program would come from doing away with the “categorical eligibility” option for states.

The option, which Illinois has adopted, lets states provide food assistance to households with gross incomes or assets slightly above federal SNAP limits. But in general, disposable income has to be under the poverty line.

As a result of this option, thousands of more people in Illinois have been able to access the SNAP program, Doherty said.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, eliminating the categorical eligibility option would result in nearly 2 million people being pushed off SNAP. The Congressional Budget Office reports that free school meals connected to SNAP will be lost for 210,000 children in low-income families if they are kicked off of the program.

“Really? What are we doing,” Nyman responded. “It’s a generation that we’re just simply writing off.”

She said research shows that when kids show up to school hungry, they cannot focus and learn.

“The biggest bang for our buck is if we can just make sure these kids are not hungry every day they show up to learn,” Nyman said. “We’ll make huge, huge grounds in terms of educational outcomes for our children.”

The farm bill is a wide-ranging piece of legislation involving funding for the majority of federal food and farm policies, SNAP being included. But cuts to programs in the farm bill that impact children’s health have long-term implications, Henry stressed.

“Every time you take away money and chose to spend your money on supporting Christmas tree growers, not that I have anything against Christmas tree growers, but it really starts to hit the people who are struggling and trying to make the best choices for their family,” she said.

Food Insecurity In Illinois

In April, about 90 percent of Illinoisans on SNAP were in households with children, senior citizens or people with disabilities, Doherty pointed out.

And there are more than 807,000 people in Cook County who are food insecure, which breaks down to be about 1 in 6 people, said Jim Conwell, spokesman for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Hunger disproportionally impacts children, he added.

About 1 in 5 children in Illinois are food insecure, Doherty said. And for many of those children, SNAP is the only reason they do not go totally hungry, she added.

Conwell said federal nutrition safety net programs are extremely vital at a time when the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and many other food banks across the country, are continuing to respond to heightened demands for food assistance as a result of the recession.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository is serving about 77 percent more people than it did five years ago, Conwell added.

The House bill includes SNAP cuts, but at the same time ramps up funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which funds food banks, by $217 million.

That fact is puzzling to Doherty.

“That’s pretty ridiculous, because not every county [or] area has a pantry,” she said.

Also, food pantries may only be open a few days a week, and hours of operation are not always accessible for people, Doherty noted.

It is a “convoluted priority” to say, “We’ll give the funding to charity. We’ll give the funding to food banks, but it’s not to give people food directly, what is what the food stamp program does,” she added.

SNAP benefits give people the wherewithal to be economical. For example, SNAP recipients can shop in places where they can buy in bulk, Doherty explained.

“It boggles the mind that the U.S. Congress would be voting for those kinds of cuts to one of the most important programs that we have in the safety net for people,” Doherty said.

Image: AP/Gregory Bull
# # #



Putting the Profits of IMDs Above the Needs and Interests of People with Disabilities is Unconscionable
The mental health community has been dealt yet another blow by legislative acquiescence to a wealthy and powerful constituency—the owners of Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMDs). With little time to spare, the IMDs quietly proposed an amendment to the widely vetted and widely supported Medicaid expansion bill, SB 26. The IMD amendment was secretly negotiated and then buried in a 600 page amendment filed just hours before it was heard in committee. The goal of the amendment was simple: to refill IMD beds vacated as a result of the Williams v. Quinn consent decree and enable IMD owners to continue to prosper. The means was to expand authorized IMD functions to include those in which these owners have no prior experience and no expertise, with as little oversight as they could get away with. Disability advocates—and ultimately legislators—were thus forced to choose between supporting Medicaid expansion—and thereby supporting expansion of the IMDs—or opposing expansion of the IMDs and likewise opposing the State’s expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. To so callously disregard—and put at risk—the needs and interests of people with disabilities in order to satisfy the special interests of the IMDs is unconscionable and should not be allowed to stand.
Preserving the IMDs Flies in the Face of the State’s Commitment to Rebalancing and May Subject the State to Further Litigation
At a time when the State has committed to rebalancing the system towards increased community-based mental health services—thus moving the State closer to compliance with the ADA and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision—it makes no sense to enact legislation that would allow the IMDs to expand their role and functions. IMDs are large outdated institutions where people with mental illness have been warehoused and languished for decades. Contrary to the goals of rebalancing, IMDs do not promote the independence and recovery of people with mental illness. They are about keeping clients and maintaining profits. In spite of this history, SB 26 authorizes IMDs to provide an array of services in which they have no expertise, in locations that do not reflect overall need and to do so in the same institutional settings that have failed people with mental illness in the past. Rather than pave the way for IMDs to refill the beds emptied by individuals who have transitioned into the community under the Williams consent decree, the State should focus on increasing the quality and availability of community mental health services in the settings and locations where they will be most effective. Enabling the IMDs to expand in this manner may not only undermine the State’s compliance with the Williams consent decree, it may also subject the State to new litigation under Olmstead.
Foregoing Assured Federal Match Funds for Community-Based Services in Order to Keep IMDs Open and Profitable is Fiscally Irresponsible
Currently, services provided in IMDs are not reimbursable under the Medicaid program, which means that these privately-owned institutions are completely state-funded. It is unknown whether the expanded services the IMDs propose to offer will affect their ineligibility to receive federal matching funds. Yet this change was made without review by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), much less assurances that HFS could, or would, seek approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). There is no question that the State is eligible to receive federal Medicaid reimbursement for mental health services provided in the community. There is also no question that services provided in the community are far more effective in treating people with mental illness. In this time of extreme fiscal crisis, the State must take full advantage of known avenues for receiving federal match funds, not gamble on an unknown and, given Illinois’ recent experience with seeking federal approval of changes to our Medicaid program, the unlikely possibility that the new IMD-provided services will be approved for a federal match.

The provisions of SB 26 to expand the IMDs are intended solely to serve the financial interests of the IMDs, not to address the pressing needs of people with mental illness. This is wrong. Moreover, the State of Illinois cannot afford the legal and financial risks posed by expanding the roles and authority of the IMDs.

We therefore STRONGLY URGE the Governor to amendatorily veto SB 26 by removing the provisions of the Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Act of 2013.
# # #

To take action Contact Access Living: CLICK HERE

# # #

PRESS RELEASE May 30, 2013
Access Living

Kim Morreale

Statement in Response to Federal Judge Issuing Temporary Restraining Order Preventing Residents from Transitioning into the Community and Out of State Institution

“Today’s ruling is disappointing and sends the wrong message about people with disabilities. While the judgment is temporary, it will continue to delay the integration into the community that hundreds of people with disabilities enjoy today. It is not acceptable to segregate people with disabilities by confining them to a state institution, in this case the Murray Developmental Center. We are confident that the judge will ultimately rule in favor of giving people with disabilities the opportunity to live in a neighborhood of choice.”

Going Home is an advocacy campaign dedicated to full inclusion and equality for people with disabilities. The group supports transitioning people from state institutions to a community of choice. Visit www.goinghomeillinois.org to meet people who have made successful transitions into he community and to learn more about the Going Home Campaign.


AAPD’s anti-bullying campaign - Half way there : American Association of People with Disabilities

My friend!

I’m off to a great start, but I still need your help.

You may or may not have already heard from me. If you have, thank you very much for your willingness to listen to my story. If you haven’t, my name is Jon Harmatz, and I’m trying my best to raise $10,000 to fund AAPD’s anti-bullying campaign.

I’m about half way there; can I count on you to help me reach my goal?

Please rise up to the challenge and contribute $15, $50, $100, $250 or whatever you can to help make a difference in the lives of the 65% of people with disabilities who are bullied on a daily basis.

AAPD’s anti-bullying campaign is powered by the realities of everyday Americans.
Last week, I answered a phone call from a young woman who was bullied in the work place for not having any fingers on her left hand.

Last year, George Hodgins, an autistic adult was murdered by his caregiver and public discussion focused on expressing sympathy for his killer.

A mother of four is diagnosed with bipolarity and her friends never look at her the same way ever again.

An accomplished professional is denied a promotion and relegated to the back of the office because her prosthetic arm broke the company’s desired aesthetic.

A 14-year old special needs student in Ohio is bullied by her teachers to such an extent that she starts harming herself in order to stay away from school.
We live in troubled times, and we must make a difference today.

Donate today! And, I will make sure that someone from our team personally reaches out to you, and keeps you posted about the progress of our work!

Thank you for your incredible support of AAPD!


American Association of People with Disabilities
2013 H Street NW, 5th Floor | Washington, DC 20006

Illinois Murray Developmental Center - temporary restraining halted closing

The Associated Press; May 30, 2013

CHICAGO (AP) - A federal judge has agreed to enter a temporary restraining order to halt the movement of residents out of a southern Illinois institution for the developmentally disabled.

U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen's Thursday action will continue a move announced last week to stop transfers from Murray Developmental Center in Centralia until a hearing is held on an injunction.

Gov. Pat Quinn ordered the facility closed last year to save money. Parents of Murray residents sued to stop or delay the closure, saying residents wouldn't get the care they needed elsewhere.

The parents' lawyer says the move will allow the "status quo to be maintained at Murray."

The state's Human Services Department called the decision "short term" and said it is looking forward to making a strong case before the court.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

U.S. Access Board Advisory Committee on Medical Diagnostic Equipment to Hold Teleconference June 17, 2013 RSVP

The Access Board’s Medical Diagnostic Equipment Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee will convene by teleconference on June 17 from 1:00 – 4:30 (ET). Members will review the committee’s work to date, including the latest draft of its report to the Board. The meeting will be open to the public and interested persons can follow the proceedings by phone or online real-time transcription.

Further details are posted on the Board’s website: CLICK HERE
For more information, contact Rex Pace at pace@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0023 (v), or (202) 272-0052 (TTY).

Teleconference of the MDE Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee
June 17, 1:00 – 4:30
Dial: (888) 603-7094
Passcode: 6317703
Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART): https://global.gotomeeting.com/meeting/join/156105405

State of Illinois 23rd Anniversary ADA Celebraton: Breaking Down the Barriers - Chicago July 16, 2013

as posted by State of Illinois Department of Human Services...

ADA Breaking Down the Barriers

Join Us In Commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the Signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Sponsored by the Illinois Department of Human Services in cooperation with numerous State Agencies and Councils.

James R. Thompson Center
100 West Randolph Street, Chicago
(Between Lake and Randolph & Clark and LaSalle Streets)

July 16, 2013
10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Interactive and informational workshops on ADA issues
Supported in part by Equip for Equality, Great Lakes ADA Business and Technical Assistance Center and the Illinois ADA Project

Job Fair and employment workshop

Arts and Sports Activities

ADA Help Table

Exhibits from federal, state, and local organizations

Entertainment provided by performers with disabilities

The entire event is free and accessible
For more information call: 312-793-0034 (Voice) 888-614-2385 (TTY)
E-mail: DHS.ADACelebration@illinois.gov

ADA Breaking Down the Barriers in Spanish: CLICK HERE

For the State of Illinois Department of Human Services homepage: CLICK HERE

Illinois Council of the Blind ICB Summer Fest Fundraiser August 3, 2013

What happens when you combine great music, a delicious buffet dinner, good
friends and a chance to help people who are blind or visually impaired with
accessing reading materials, college financial assistance and other things?
You get the first annual Illinois Council of the Blind (ICB) Summer Fest

When: Saturday, August 3, 2013, 4-9 p.m. Where: 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W.
115th Street, Merrionette Park, Illinois (708) 388.8881.

The music: "Blind Reflexx" will play all your favorite music as part of
their "Start Me Up" tour. Learn more about them at www.blindreflexx.com.
The food: a delicious buffet dinner, along with free draft beer (Budweiser
and Bud Light), wine and soft drinks. What else? Raffles, door prizes, an
auction and fun.

How much? It's a great bargain for all of this fun and excitement. Advance
tickets are just $30 for adults, and $15 for children and young adults (ages
6-20). Children under 5 are admitted free. Tickets will cost $40 for
adults and $20 for children and adults ages 6-20 at the door.

How do I get tickets? It couldn't be easier.
Contact our office at 217-523-4967, icb@icbonline.org to purchase tickets, or, you can purchase
tickets on-line by going to www.icbonline.org/icb-sf-fundraiser/.

Proceeds will help ICB provide scholarships for students who are blind, provide
reading materials through our Dots for Tots program and other things.

If you like good music and good food, come join us Saturday, August 3 at 115
Bourbon Street. Please contact us if you have questions or need more
information. Also, if you can't attend yourself, please forward this
announcement to family, friends and colleagues whom you think would be

For the Illinois Council of the Blind homepage: CLICK HERE
as shared by Ray Campbell, Treasurer, Illinois Council of the Blind.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

U.S. Access Board Webinar: Accessible Fire Alarm Systems - June 6, 2013 - rsvp

The next webinar in the Board’s free monthly series will take place June 6 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will cover requirements in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards for fire alarm systems. A representative from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) will join Board staff in conducting the session to review technical criteria in the referenced NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm Code.

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 homepage: CLICK HERE

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Illinois Senate Bill 26 - MEDICAID-HEALTH BENEFITS SERVICE ; passes legislator, Gov Quinn to sign

PRESS RELEASE May 28, 2013

Statement from Governor Pat Quinn on Senate Passage of Senate Bill 26
Historic Legislation to Advance President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is Headed to the Governor’s Desk

– Governor Pat Quinn released the following statement on today’s final passage by the Illinois Senate of Senate Bill 26, which increases access to health coverage for the uninsured under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The bill was one of Governor Quinn’s legislative priorities in his 2013 State of the State address:

“I applaud Senate sponsor Heather Steans, House sponsor Sara Feigenholtz and all the members of the General Assembly who voted to pass Senate Bill 26 and fully embrace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“All people deserve access to decent health care. This bill will not only expand access to health care for the uninsured, it will also strengthen our efforts to transform Illinois’ health care sector into a wellness system that focuses on preventative services and provides better quality treatment when people do become sick.

“This bill will improve the health of the people of Illinois and create thousands of good jobs in the health care field.

“I look forward to signing this legislation and making the promise of the Affordable Care Act a reality in Illinois.”


# # #
From the Illinois General Assembly website...

Bill Status of SB0026 98th General Assembly

Last Action
Date Chamber Action

5/28/2013 Senate Passed Both Houses

Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Medical Assistance Article of the Illinois Public Aid Code. Beginning January 1, 2014, extends benefits under the State's medical assistance program to persons aged 19 or older, but younger than 65, who are not otherwise eligible for medical assistance under the Code, who qualify for medical assistance under specified provisions of the Social Security Act, and who have income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level plus 5% for the applicable family size. Provides that the 4-year moratorium on the expansion of medical assistance eligibility through increasing financial eligibility standards shall not apply to this new class of persons. Provides that such persons shall receive coverage for the Health Benefits Service Package. Defines "Health Benefits Service Package". Provides that if Illinois' federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) is reduced below 90% for persons eligible for medical assistance under the specified provisions, medical assistance eligibility for this new class of persons shall cease no later than the end of the third month following the month in which the reduction in FMAP takes effect. Effective immediately.

Amends the Hospital Provider Funding Article of the Illinois Public Aid Code. Provides that an annual assessment on outpatient services shall be imposed on each hospital provider in a specified amount for the portion of State fiscal year 2012, beginning June 10, 2012 through June 30, 2012, and for State fiscal years 2013 through 2014, and July 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014 (rather than for State fiscal years 2013 through 2014, and July 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014). Provides that for the period beginning June 10, 2012 through June 30, 2012, the annual assessment on outpatient services shall be prorated by multiplying the assessment amount by a fraction, the numerator of which is 21 days and the denominator of which is 365 days. Provides that for the portion of State fiscal year 2012, beginning June 10, 2012 through June 30, 2012, and State fiscal years 2013 through 2014, and July 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014 (rather than for State fiscal years 2013 through 2014, and July 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014), a hospital's outpatient gross revenue shall be determined using the most recent data available from each hospital's 2009 Medicare cost report as contained in the Healthcare Cost Report Information System file, for the quarter ending on June 30, 2011, without regard to any subsequent adjustments or changes to such data. Provides that certain assessments on outpatient services for the portion of State fiscal year 2012 beginning June 10, 2012 through June 30, 2012, and for State fiscal year 2013 and each subsequent State fiscal year (rather than for State fiscal year 2013 and each subsequent State fiscal year) shall be due and payable in monthly installments, each equaling one-twelfth of the assessment for the year, on the 14th State business day of each month. In a provision concerning disbursements from the Hospital Provider Fund, provides that moneys shall be disbursed from the Fund for State fiscal year 2013, for the purpose of increasing by 21/365ths the transfer of the moneys resulting from the assessment for outpatient services and received from hospital providers for the portion of State fiscal year 2012 beginning June 10, 2012 through June 30, 2012 and transferred into the Hospital Provider Fund to the Health Care Provider Relief Fund not exceeding $2,870,000 in that State fiscal year. Makes other changes.

Senate Floor Amendment No. 2
In a provision concerning assessments imposed on hospital providers that did not conduct, operate, or maintain a hospital in 2005, provides that for State fiscal years 2009 through 2015 (rather than for State fiscal years 2009 through 2014) the assessment for that State fiscal year shall be computed on the basis of hypothetical occupied bed days for the full calendar year as determined by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Restores language concerning monetary transfers from the Hospital Provider Fund to other specified funds in State fiscal years 2013 and 2014 in each State fiscal year during which an annual assessment for inpatient services is imposed. Provides that for State fiscal year 2013, hospital access improvement payments shall be increased by 21/365ths; and that the funding source for these additional payments shall be from a specific increased assessment on outpatient services that was received from hospital providers for the portion of State fiscal year 2012 beginning June 10, 2012 through June 30, 2012. Removes language requiring the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to submit a State Medicaid Plan Amendment to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services to implement certain payments within 30 says of June 14, 2012 and instead provides that the Department of Healthcare and Family Services must submit a State Medicaid Plan Amendment to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services to implement certain payments.

Replaces everything after the enacting clause. Reinserts the provisions of the engrossed bill with the following changes and additions. Deletes a provision of the engrossed bill concerning findings. Creates the Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Act of 2013 concerning the licensing and operation of specialized mental health rehabilitation facilities. Repeals the Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Act. Changes references from the Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Act to the Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Act of 2013 or deletes references to the Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Act in various Acts. Amends the Community-Integrated Living Arrangements Licensure and Certification Act by providing that the Division of Mental Health of the Department of Human Services shall oversee the creation of comparable programs for the services contained in the Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Act of 2013 for community-based providers to provide certain services. Amends the Children's Health Insurance Program Act and the Covering ALL KIDS Health Insurance Act by providing that determinations of eligibility shall be made in accordance with specified federal laws and regulations and by making other changes. Amends the Illinois Public Aid Code by making various changes concerning: medical assistance eligibility; hospital provider assessments; exemption of property in Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled eligibility determinations; eligibility of children with a disability who are medically fragile and technology dependent; medical services; rates of reimbursement; Safety-Net Hospitals; use of vendors to verify eligibility for medical assistance; hospitals dedicated to medical research and medical education; creation of the Medicaid Research and Education Support Fund; Medicaid enhancement payments to certain academic medical centers; Accountable Care Entities serve any children and parents or caretaker relatives of children eligible for medical assistance; hospital reimbursements; and other matters. Amends the Veterans' Health Insurance Program Act of 2008 to provide that the operation of the Veterans' Health Insurance Program may be changed to simplify its administration and to take advantage of health insurance coverage that may be available to veterans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Amends the Renal Disease Treatment Act and the Hemophilia Care Act by providing that coverage under the Acts shall be coordinated with the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and by making other changes. Amends the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act by authorizing adoption of emergency rules to implement specified provisions. Amends the Workers' Compensation Act. Provides that, if payment is made by the employee, the employee's health benefit plan, or the Department of Healthcare and Family Services for medical services that should be a compensable medical benefit, the payments made by the employee, the employee's health benefit plan, or the Department of Healthcare and Family Services shall be reimbursed by the employer or workers' compensation insurer. Provides that the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission shall establish a program to provide limited workers' compensation case information to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and to health benefit plans providing accident, health, or disability insurance benefits to residents of the State, sets forth components of the program, and authorizes the Commission to provide a limited set of workers' compensation case record elements to a participating health benefit plan. Amends the Personnel Code in relation to partial exemptions of certain positions in State service from jurisdictions A, B, and C. Inserts an Article with the short title of the Resident First Act. Amends the Nursing Home Care Act. Provides that before a licensee enters into a contract with a resident or prospective resident, it shall provide the resident or prospective resident and his or her guardian, if any, with a copy of the licensee's policy regarding the assignment of Social Security representative payee status as a condition of the contract when the resident's or prospective resident's care is being funded under Medicaid. Requires the Department of Public Health to implement a single survey process that includes an enhanced complaint investigation initiative. Amends the Illinois Public Aid Code. Requires the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to establish procedures under the Medical Assistance program to permit skilled care facilities licensed under the Nursing Home Care Act to initiate monthly billing claims. Requires the Departments of Human Services and Healthcare and Family Services and the Department on Aging to establish an expedited long term care eligibility determination system. Amends the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code. Provides that the Division of Mental Health of the Department of Human Services shall oversee the creation of comparable programs for the services contained in the Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Act of 2013 for community-based providers to provide specified services. Makes other changes. Effective immediately.

In the Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Act of 2013, created under House Amendment No.1, makes the following changes: (i) defines "abuse" to mean any physical or mental injury or sexual assault inflicted on a consumer other than by accidental means in a facility; defines "identified offender"; (ii) provides that the Department of Public Health is empowered to promulgate any rules necessary to ensure proper implementation and administration of the Act; adds provisions concerning screening prior to admission and criminal history reports; (iii) provides that informed consent shall be required for restraints consistent with the requirements contained in the Nursing Home Care Act; (iv) in a provision concerning abuse or neglect, provides that it is the duty of any facility employee or agent who becomes aware of such abuse or neglect to report it "to the Department within 24 hours"; (v) changes all references to "triage" and "triage units" to "triage center" and provides that consumers shall be free to leave a triage center at any time; if a consumer in a triage center expresses a desire to contact a third party for any purpose, the facility staff shall contact that third party on behalf of the consumer; (vi) provides that the Department shall by rule establish criteria, hearings, and procedures for involuntary discharge; (vii) adds provisions providing that (a) no consumer shall be subjected to experimental research or treatment without first obtaining his or her informed, written consent; (b) no facility shall permit experimental research or treatment to be conducted on a consumer, or give access to any person or person's records for a retrospective study about the safety or efficacy of any care or treatment, without the prior written approval of the institutional review board; and (c) the institutional review board may exempt from ongoing review research or treatment initiated on a consumer before the individual's admission to a facility and for which the board determines there is adequate ongoing oversight by another institutional review board. In a provision concerning surveys and inspections, provides that the Department shall conduct surveys (rather than scheduled surveys) to determine compliance and may conduct surveys (rather than unscheduled surveys) to investigate complaints; provides that the Department shall review the records or premises, or both, as it deems appropriate for the purpose of determining compliance with this Act and the rules promulgated under the Act (rather than with the Act only); and that the Department shall have access to and may reproduce or photocopy any books, records, and other documents maintained by the facility to the extent necessary to carry out this Act and the rules promulgated under the Act. Provides that notwithstanding the existence or pursuit of any other remedy, the Department Director may, in the manner provider by law, upon the advice of the Attorney General who shall represent the Department Director in the proceedings, maintain an action in the name of the State for injunction or other process against any person or governmental unit to restrain or prevent the establishment of a facility without a license issued pursuant to the Act, or to restrain or prevent the opening, conduction, operating, or maintaining of a facility without a license issued pursuant to the Act. Changes references to "standards" to "Act and the rules promulgated under this Act". Makes other technical changes. Further amends the Illinois Public Aid Code. Provides that facilities uniquely licensed as pediatric skilled nursing facilities that serve severely and chronically ill pediatric patients shall have a specific reimbursement system designed to recognize the characteristics and needs of the patients they serve. Provides that for dates of services starting July 1, 2013 and until a new reimbursement system is designed, pediatric skilled nursing facilities that (1) serve exceptional care patients and (2) have 30% or more of their patients receiving ventilator care shall receive Medicaid reimbursement on a 30-day expedited schedule. In a provision concerning expedited long-term care eligibility determination and enrollment, provides that the lead agency shall file interim reports with the Chairs and Minority Spokespersons of the House and Senate Human Services Committees no later than September 1, 2013 (rather than September 1, 2014) and on February 1, 2014 (rather than February 1, 2015). Further amends the Nursing Home Care Act. In a provision concerning inspections of nursing facilities for possible violations, provides that violations shall be determined no later than 75 (rather than 60) days after completion of each inspection, survey, and evaluation. Provides that to meet the requirement of a single survey process, the portions of the health and life safety survey associated with federal certification and State licensure surveys must be started within 7 working days of each other, with certain exceptions (rather than the federal certification and State licensure surveys and health and life safety survey must each be started within 5 working days). Deletes the provisions amending the Workers' Compensation Act.


Veterans disability benefits backlog : Law schools offer assistence

By BROCK VERGAKIS ; Associated Press ; May 27, 2013

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Dustin Allison was riding in an armored vehicle at the head of a convoy in Iraq one morning in 2007 when an improvised explosive device went off, killing the driver and leaving Allison badly wounded.

Shrapnel struck the Utah National Guard platoon leader behind his left ear, fracturing his skull and taking off a small piece of his ear. The radio behind his head was destroyed.

"I was definitely lucky," said Allison, a former Utah State Trooper from the Salt Lake City suburbs who had volunteered for duty in Iraq.

But unlike many wounded in war, Allison bore few outward signs of having been badly hurt. He has a scar, but once he returned to Utah he also found out he was incapable of running without getting sick. He also says he experienced vertigo as a result, but that can be difficult to prove to government bureaucrats looking to safeguard against fraud.

"If you lose your leg it's pretty clear what happened, whereas if you get hit in the head and you get migraines and dizzy and vertigo and all kinds of more subjective things that happen, that makes it harder" to diagnose, said Allison, who now lives in Baltimore.

He joined thousands of others struggling to navigate the Veterans Administration's benefits claims process. But his choice to attend business and law school at the College of William & Mary in 2008 allowed him to become one of the school's first clients for a veterans benefits legal clinic its law school was starting.

The clinic uses law students and a faculty member to tackle complex cases on a pro bono basis in which veterans can have difficulty providing the evidence they need to substantiate their claims. Veterans receive disability compensation for injuries and illness incurred or aggravated during their active military service. The amount of the compensation is based on a rating assigned by the VA.

The cases the clinic takes on often involve post-traumatic stress disorder either from warfare or a sexual assault that there may be no record of. In one case, a World War II veteran who injured his knee in basic training in 1943 didn't report a claim until 1971; the claim was repeatedly denied until the clinic stepped in.

The clinic is being touted by members of Congress as a national model for inexpensively dealing with the Veterans Administration's backlog. Between 2009 and August 2012, the clinic has helped 46 clients with submission of 343 claimed injuries or illnesses.

"At 50 clients you're directly representing at a time, that's certainly not going to impact the backlog in a way that It needs to be. But if you get more law schools across the country to do this work then you're exponentially leveraging the passion and the experience of law students across the country to help with that backlog," said Patty Roberts, director of clinical programs at William & Mary's law school.

The VA has come under heavy criticism for the number of disability claims pending longer than 125 days - about 570,000. That's nearly two-thirds of all claims pending.

"We want to respect our veterans, but when you've got people waiting, often times in excess of a year to get their claims processed, that's not a good sign," said U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. "This is a national embarrassment."

Warner has urged Senate colleagues to work with law schools in their states to create similar legal clinics. He also urged VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to help move that process along.

The Williamsburg college has been contacted by White House officials to see what could help replicate the program elsewhere. In response, the school developed a playbook for starting similar legal clinics. So far, Warner's office has forwarded that playbook to about 10 law schools, including those at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Colorado and Oregon State.

On Thursday, the effort gained momentum when U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., introduced a bill that authorizes the VA to provide support to law school programs that provide legal assistance to veterans. The Veterans Legal Support Act of 2013 would allow the VA to spend up to $1 million a year assisting those programs.

Shaheen's office says that since 2008, 30 law schools in 18 states have developed clinical programs that specifically assist veterans in some manner.

Financial assistance is one of the things that could help schools currently helping veterans take on more clients or get other schools' programs off the ground, said Stacey-Rae Simcox, an Army veteran who serves as the managing attorney at William & Mary's Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic.

School officials said it's difficult to pinpoint the exact cost of the clinic because it uses existing space and faculty, but Simcox said William & Mary's program runs on a 'shoestring' budget. Still, she spends part of her time fundraising to help make ends meet and pay for things like psychological assessments and travel to homeless shelters where many veterans reside.

"These clinics don't require that much of an investment, but they do require some," Simcox said.

Simcox said she got the idea to help veterans because she and her husband, who was also an Army lawyer, had such a difficult time navigating the benefits' claim process after he left the military.

"It was complicated and there was a lot of paperwork and the rules were complex. And we realized that if two JAG attorneys were having issues understanding how the system works and figuring out all the paperwork and stuff, that the average soldier or Marine is never going to be able to do it by themselves," she said.

That's something Allison said he has personal experience with.

"It's truly impossible to do it well by yourself," said Allison, whose claims took about two years to resolve. "If you don't provide the evidence, they're going to deny you. If you don't know what you need to provide or what that standard of proof is on your own, you need support somehow."

After his claims were resolved in a little less than two years, Allison spent his final year in law school last year helping out other veterans by working at the clinic.

"I had been in a wounded warrior unit. I know what people have to go through. I was very fortunate. It was an easy choice to feel like I needed to pay it back," he said.


College of William & Mary http://law.wm.edu/academics/programs/jd/electives/clinics/veterans/

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Illinois 2013 Veterans benefits guide released by Illinois Attorney General's office

Press Release : May 25, 2013


Attorney General’s Latest Publication Provides Much-Needed Guidance for Veterans, Family

—In recognition of Memorial Day, Attorney General Lisa Madigan today announced the release of a new, updated publication detailing the federal and state benefits afforded to Illinois service members, veterans, their families and survivors.

Produced by Madigan’s Military and Veterans’ Rights Bureau, the 2013 edition of Benefits for Illinois Veterans features new information for service members, veterans, family and associated service providers regarding:
Exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune;

Veterans Retraining Assistance Program;

Issues of concern for veterans of the Persian Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom; and

Services for homeless veterans.
“Under the law, veterans and military service members are entitled to certain benefits that reward their commitment to our country,” Madigan said. “We have developed this comprehensive guide so service members and their families will have the information needed to ensure they receive the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifice.”

The Attorney General’s Military and Veterans’ Rights Bureau handles a wide variety of consumer issues affecting the military community, such as financial scams connected to Veterans’ Affairs benefits assistance, education benefits and mortgage-related issues.

Assistant Attorneys General Grant T. Swinger and Akeela White lead the Military and Veterans’ Rights Bureau. To order a paper copy of this publication, the public is invited to call the Bureau’s hotline at 1 (800) 382-3000. The digital copy is available at the following link:

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Human potential wasted when people merely ‘exist’ in Illinois institutions : My View By Tony Paulauski

as published in the Rockford Register Star...

The rebalancing of the developmental disability system will forever change the lives of people with disabilities in Illinois. It’s a life enhancing process that offers promise, freedom and opportunity.

One that will allow even those with the most severe disabilities, like Margaret who spent 50-years at the Howe Developmental Center, to become a neighbor, friend and roommate. Or like David, who recently moved from the Jacksonville Developmental Center, to work at a carwash.

Thanks to Gov. Pat Quinn’s Rebalancing Initiative and support from disability champions in the General Assembly, people with disabilities are being offered the opportunity to achieve their full potential by putting state resources behind transitioning them into a community of choice.

Our policy makers have learned from the success of 14-other states that have closed state institutions. While taxpayers save money with community programs verses keeping antiquated institutions in operation, it’s not about money. It’s a matter of civil rights and providing people with disabilities the opportunity for full inclusion.

I had the privilege to meet several of the residents of the Murray Developmental Center during my trip to Centralia earlier this month. This was not my first visit to a state institution but I thought it was important that I saw for myself what I have heard so many times. People don’t’ “live” in Murray, they “exist”.
I saw people wondering aimlessly down the hollow hallways and others sitting around staring into space. There was no laughter and little activity, mostly wasted potential. I left there with a heavy heart knowing that these residents deserve more.

I had great conversations with a couple of the Murray residents and couldn’t help but think, why are you here? Then there were those who had severe disabilities and at first glance you might not think he could ever survive let alone flourish in the community.
That’s the best part about the rebalancing initiative; it truly is for everyone because each move is planned and customized to meet individual needs. Whether it’s 24-hour care, handicap accessibility or mobility equipment, community living is possible for everyone.

I also know that some of the residents are scared. The Murray Parents Association is intimidating guardians and self advocates by pressuring them not to participate in the transition process. The fact of the matter is that Murray is going to close and resisting the inevitable is only hurting the residents.

A thoughtful person-centered planning process that looks at the possibilities and evaluates the individual’s needs takes time. Evaluators need to get to know the person, their preferences on how they would like to live. They need time to evaluate medical and behaviorial needs to ensure a healthy and safe transition. Providers need time to hire and train the best staff and to purchase equipment.

Stall tactics allow experts less time to develop a comprehensive person centered plan and the outcome might include multiple moves, relocation outside the area and added stress. There is no downside to going through the person-centered process and evaluation because the individual can opt out at anytime.

I understand that change is sometimes scary but rest assured, you are not alone. We have helped families’ transition from the Jacksonville Developmental Center and we are here for Murray families as well. I truly hope that Murray residents see the rebalancing initiative as an opportunity and allow us the privilege of helping them to realize their full potential.

To learn more about the Going Home Campaign, to connect with our team or to access our resources visit www.goinghomeillinois.org.

— Tony Paulauski, executive director, The Arc of Illinois, and a member of the Going Home Campaign

Rockford Register Star
Posted May 25, 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tony Paulauski: Consequences to delaying Murray Developmental Center closure

as submitted to The State Journal-Register, Letters to The Editor 'Opinion' by Tony Paulauski..

Rebalancing the developmental disability system will forever change the lives of people with disabilities in Illinois.

It’s a life enhancing process that offers promise, freedom and opportunity, even for those with the most severe disabilities.

Consider Margaret, who spent 50 years at the Howe Developmental Center and became a neighbor, friend and roommate, or David, who recently moved from the Jacksonville Developmental Center to work at a car wash.

And there are Jennifer, Dinah and Rachael, who transitioned from Jacksonville into a new home where they have made new friends, are eating healthy and are spending more time with family.

Thanks to Gov. Pat Quinn’s rebalancing initiative and support from disability champions in the General Assembly, people with disabilities are being offered the opportunity to achieve their full potential by putting state resources behind transitioning them into a community of choice. Our policy makers have learned from the success of 14 other states that closed state institutions and shifted resources to allow people with disabilities the opportunity to thrive in the community.

There is no question anyone can live a happy and successful life in the community with the proper supports and services. Although taxpayers save money with community programs versus keeping antiquated institutions in operation, it’s not about money. It’s a matter of civil rights and providing people with disabilities the opportunity for full inclusion.

The best part about the rebalancing initiative is that it truly is for everyone, because each move is planned and customized to meet individual needs. Whether it’s 24-hour care, handicap accessibility or mobility equipment, community living is possible for all.

A thoughtful person-centered planning process that looks at the possibilities and evaluates the individual’s needs takes time. Evaluators need to get to know the person, their preferences and how they would like to live. They need time to evaluate medical and behavioral needs to ensure a healthy and safe transition. Providers need time to hire and train the best staff and to purchase equipment.

Stall tactics allow experts less time to develop a comprehensive person centered plan and the outcome might include multiple moves, relocation outside the area and added stress. There is no downside to going through the person-centered process and evaluation because the individual can opt out at anytime.

Ensuring that everyone with a disability has the opportunity to live in the community is the mission of the Going Home Campaign. We are a diverse group of stakeholders dedicated to helping self-advocates and families through the transition process.

I understand that change is sometimes scary, but rest assured, you are not alone. We have helped families transition from the Jacksonville Developmental Center, and we are here for Murray Developmental Center families, too. I truly hope Murray residents see the rebalancing initiative as an opportunity and allow us the privilege of helping them to realize their full potential.

To learn more about the Going Home Campaign, to connect with our team or to access our resources visit www.goinghomeillinois.org.

Tony Paulauski is the executive director of The Arc of Illinois and a member of the Going Home Campaign.

The State Journal-Register
Posted May 25, 2013
# # #

We at Ability Chicago support Mr Paulauski, The Arc of Illinois and so many individuals and organizations in there efforts in Illinois of an Independent Life for People with Disabilities

Kenya's mental hospital drugs, confines patients; may have led to the recent escape of 40 patients

By TOM ODULA ; Associated Press ; May 24, 2013

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Patients at Kenya's only psychiatric hospital are often confined and immobilized using drugs that put them in a comatose-like state, factors that may have led to the recent escape of 40 male patients, an advocacy group said Friday.

Edah Maina, the chief executive officer, of the Kenya Society For the Mentally Handicapped said the Mathari psychiatric hospital is violating its patients' rights under Kenya's constitution.

Patients at Mathari are recognized as people with psychosocial disabilities under the new constitution, which means they should be in a rehabilitation program that does not isolate them from their families, she said.
"They should be in a program ... one that they consent to and is not forced on to them; and among other things, a program that ensures their continued productivity as members of society, not one that immobilizes them through use of outdated/outlawed drugs that turns them into mere zombies," said Maina.
Mathari hospital says that 34 of the patients who escaped 13-days-ago have been brought back by parents, guardians and members of the public.

However, Medical Superintendent at the hospital, Dr Kisivuli Azenga, who is the only one authorized to speak on behalf of the hospital, could not be reached to comment on what triggered the patients' escape.

The hospital, where serious cases of mental illness are referred from the rest of the country, has 675 patients in the general wards.

Azenga said last week the patients escaped after they were incited to run away by a fellow patient after the staff failed to give them drugs on time.

Maina said currently there is no legal and policy framework to ensure patients are treated more humanely.

Poverty, lack of access and the stigma of mental disease prevents many of Kenya's 3.5 million psychologically disabled people from getting the help they desperately need.

University of Nairobi Professor David Ndetei, in an article in the African Mental Health Foundation, says many people in Kenya do not know when they have mental disorders except when "they are grossly disturbed and friends and relatives have to go seeking for hardly available services."

Ndetei however refused to comment about the state of the Mathari hospital. Similarly government officials at the Ministry of Health declined to comment about the state of the hospital.

Currently those who cannot access the right rehabilitation services are locked up and subjected to very inhumane treatments by their families and communities, said Maina, whose organization has about 720,000 members.

She said with the right kind of facilitation by government, treatment for the mentally ill can be affordable.

Maina said misuse of the money government disburses for mental health is the latest challenge the sector faces. She said her society had asked relevant authorities in government to investigate the cases of corruption.

Maina says stigma, which is entrenched in the different traditional believes across Kenya, can be changed if the right kind of awareness and education programs are put in place.

"People with diabetes for instance are not regarded as "sick people." They are people first and anything else including diabetes is a very small part of who they are. We should not allow the different diagnosis in the sector of psychosocial disabilities to define the people with disabilities under that sector. They have a lot more that defines them other than their disabilities," she said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Illinois history of warehousing disabled; Illinois temporarily halts transfers of Murray Developmental Center residents

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois officials agreed Thursday to temporarily halt the movement of residents out of an institution for the developmentally disabled in the southern Illinois city of Centralia.

At the request of U.S. Northern District Court Judge Ruben Castillo, the state agreed to stop the transfer of all but one resident out of Murray Developmental Center until a hearing next week on a temporary restraining order requested by residents' families.

The lone resident who Castillo said can be moved is returning to his mother's home.

Gov. Pat Quinn ordered Murray and several other facilities closed last year as part of an effort to save the state tens of millions of dollars. But parents of Murray residents sued to stop or delay the closure, saying residents wouldn't get the care they needed elsewhere. Earlier this month, a panel of Illinois lawmakers voted against closing the center, as well as two of the state's prisons.

But Quinn announced in April that the state had started moving residents out of the Centralia facility.

Judy Sherwin, an attorney who represents the Murray Parents Association, said she was pleased with Thursday's decision but would not speculate what it could indicate about a potential court ruling on the closure itself, or its timing.

"We're very happy about it," Sherwin said. "These are the most vulnerable and in many ways helpless people. ...This is a place where they can receive treatment and they live their life there."

The state has until Tuesday to file a response with the court to the request for the restraining order. The hearing will be held May 30.

A spokeswoman for Quinn said the plaintiff's motion is without merit.

"The state is acting safely and responsibly to transition residents to community care, which numerous studies show provides a better quality of life," said Brooke Anderson. "Gov. Quinn is committed to rebalancing the state's system of caring for people with developmental disabilities so they can live more independent, fulfilling lives in the community."

Anderson pointed out the Quinn administration has closed two institutions for the developmentally disabled and has invested more in community care. She said the governor has been honored by disability groups for his action.

Chicago arts groups want to help the blind see and the deaf hear

[photo: Courtesy of Access Living: Counter Balance / Britten Traughber
A dancer performing at Access Living's "Counter Balance."]

Can live theater be made accessible for a blind theatergoer? How can a museum make its exhibits understandable for a child with autism? Should galleries be more welcoming of artists with disabilities who explore their experiences through their work?

The Chicago arts community is tackling these and similar questions in attempts to be more inclusive to those living with disabilities. Advocates want venues to go beyond federal regulations regarding accommodations to better include disabled artists.

Bodies of Work -- a festival of arts and culture of the disabled -- is spotlighting professional artists, playwrights, performers, authors and advocates with disabilities. Participants want full access to the same art experiences those without disabilities already enjoy. Advocates also want to promote an arts culture specifically representing the disabled.

“There are tons of barriers getting our work out into the public at all,” said Carrie Sandahl, associate professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Those are things like inaccessible theaters -- they may be accessible to audience members but not to the artists,” Sandahl said.

Theaters like Victory Gardens and the Raven Theatre now offer “touch tours” before some performances for those with vision impairments. Patrons can walk around, touching the set and meet the actors in order to hear their voices to better follow the performance.

But despite the efforts, Sandahl said the complications of universal accessibility can start in a child’s earliest years.

“Inaccessible training facilities -- all the way from kindergarten through higher education -- there are teachers who don’t really know how to accommodate students with disabilities in teaching the arts.”

The Chicago Children’s Museum is taking steps to be innovative in its techniques to include children with a wide range of abilities.

Lynn Walsh is the manager of guest access and inclusion at the museum. She said their efforts include storybook guides including the pictures of exhibits and staff so parents can read to their child with autism before they come to the museum. Walsh said there are “quiet rooms” to give children a break from the hustle and bustle of a busy museum.

“We make sure there’s seating, not only chairs with arms but some without arms; materials like regular pencils and chubby pencils, different types of scissors. Not everyone has the same motor skills,” Walsh said.

“We always have a staff member who may be verbally describing the exhibit. We have signs that include not only words, but also pictures because everyone learns differently. Everything can be touched,” Walsh said.

Carrie Sandahl, who is also an organizer of the Bodies of Work festival, said beyond accessibility, there’s a growing arts culture unique to the disabled community.

“We’re exploring the disability experience in new and unexpected ways,” Sandahl said.

“We’re really trying to figure out who we are as a community, how our particular bodies, minds, sensory experiences and mental health status … give us different perspectives that you don’t see in the main stream media.”

Spotlighting those perspectives, the Woman Made Gallery in River West has debuted “Humans Being II,” through June 20. About 40 artists with a wide range of disabilities have their work, varying from photographs, paintings and sculpture on display.

Riva Lehrer, curator of the exhibit, said her goal was to garner international submissions from professional artists with disabilities, rather than pieces from art therapy outlets. The gallery had done the same “Humans Being” exhibit in 2006, but this year, Lehrer said she received four times more submissions than she could put into the show.

“I was really impressed with the submissions we got, there’s a lot more work now around impairment,” Lehrer said. “What mainstream art people tend to think is that art about disability is exclusively therapeutic … rather than art schools and galleries.”

“What a festival like this does, and one of my biggest goals, was bringing artists from the U.S., and also internationally, to work with our local artists,” Sandahl said.

“And when we all come together and we start to see each other’s work, it really lifts the work for all of us.”

The Bodies of Work festival runs through May 25.

Article BY LINDSEY PETERSON ; Medill Reports ; MAY 23, 2013
©2001 - 2013 Medill Reports - Chicago, Northwestern University. A publication of the Medill School.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Marijuana tied to better blood sugar control - The American Journal of Medicine study

article by By Genevra Pittman | Reuters News

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who had used marijuana in the past month had smaller waists and lower levels of insulin resistance - a diabetes precursor - than those who never tried the drug, in a new study.

The findings, based on surveys and blood tests of about 4,700 U.S. adults, aren't enough to prove marijuana keeps users thin or wards off disease. And among current pot smokers, higher amounts of marijuana use weren't linked to any added health benefits, researchers reported in The American Journal of Medicine.

"These are preliminary findings," said Dr. Murray Mittleman, who worked on the study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

"It looks like there may be some favorable effects on blood sugar control, however a lot more needs to be done to have definitive answers on the risks and potential benefits of marijuana usage."

Although pot smoking is a well-known cause of "the munchies," some previous studies have found marijuana users tend to weigh less than other people, and one suggested they have a lower rate of diabetes. Trials in mice and rats hint that cannabis and cannabinoid receptors may influence metabolism.

The new study used data from a national health survey conducted in 2005-2010. Researchers asked people about drug and alcohol use, as well as other aspects of their health and lifestyle, and measured their insulin and blood sugar levels.

Just under 2,000 participants said they had used marijuana at some point, but not recently. Another 600 or so were current users - meaning they had smoked or otherwise consumed the drug in the past month.

Compared to people who had never used pot, current smokers had smaller waists: 36.9 inches versus 38.3 inches, on average. Current users also had a lower body mass index - a ratio of weight to height - than never-users.

When other health and lifestyle measures were taken into account, recent pot use was linked to 17 percent lower insulin resistance, indicating better blood sugar control, and slightly higher HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.

However, there was no difference in blood pressure or blood fats based on marijuana use, Mittleman's team found.


Mittleman said that in his mind, it's still "preliminary" to say marijuana is likely to be responsible for any diabetes-related health benefits.

"It's possible that people who choose to smoke marijuana have other characteristics that differ (from non-marijuana smokers)," and those characteristics are what ultimately affect blood sugar and waist size, he told Reuters Health.

Dr. Stephen Sidney from the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, said he wonders if cigarette smoking may partially explain the association. Marijuana users are also more likely to smoke tobacco, he told Reuters Health.

"People who use tobacco oftentimes tend to be thinner," said Sidney, who has studied marijuana use and weight but didn't participate in the new study. "So I really wonder about that."

Another limitation with this and other studies, Sidney and Mittleman agreed, is that all of the data were collected at the same time, so it's unclear whether marijuana smoking or changes in waist size and blood sugar came first.

"The question is, is the marijuana leading to the lower rate (of diabetes) or do they have something in common?" said Dr. Theodore Friedman, who has studied that issue at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.

He and his colleagues think the link is probably causal. "But it's really hard to prove that," Friedman, who also wasn't involved in the new research, told Reuters Health.

One possibility is that the anti-inflammatory properties of marijuana help ward off diabetes, he said. But he agreed that more research is needed to draw out that link.

"I want to make it clear - I'm not advocating marijuana use to prevent diabetes," Friedman said. "It's only an association."

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/10Ty3La The American Journal of Medicine, online May 16, 2013.

ALERT: Jury Duty Scam Hits Illinois Residents | May 2013

as reported by WICS ABC Newschannel 20 - Springfield, Illinois

Due to high-profile court cases in the public's eye, from national coverage of the Jodi Arias trial to the local ongoing Harris trial, the spotlight of jurors and being summoned for jury duty has raised some questions.
This comes especially after reports of jury duty identity theft phone scammers targeting people right here in Illinois.

Getting called for jury duty is something many people go through during their lifetime. But now, scammers are calling up innocent people saying they're local jury duty coordinators.

They then tell the victims they are facing certain penalties for missing jury duty, which local officials say is not how the system works.

"This is just another one of those scams somebody came up with," Springfield police Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher said. "It sounds legitimate. I'll call and say, 'I'm from the county and you've been summoned for jury duty and I need all your information to verify it.' And people don't think and they give that out. And then they are using all your information to open accounts and that, and they are getting all of your money."

Getting all of your money is exactly what these jury duty scammers are trying to do. They are armed for identity theft, tax fraud, and hacking into your bank accounts, leaving you left with nothing but questions.

"They're calling them, telling them, 'You got jury duty. We need to verify your name, your social security number, your address and all that,'" Buscher said. "That's never going to happen."

Getting a phone call for jury duty is the number one clue that shows it's a scam.

"You're going to be sent a questionnaire, you fill out the questionnaire and then about three and a half weeks before you're actually going to be called to serve, you're going to get a notice," Judge Leslie Graves of the 7th Judicial Circuit said. "Never a phone call. You are to call in once you receive the summons, but no one will ever call."

State officials say jury duty is always arranged by mailed letters and never by the phone.

Government officials don't harass people over the phone, and are advised to report any issues to local law enforcement officials.

Never give out private or personal information over the phone, such as your social security number or credit card information, and if you are ever in doubt, get the caller's information and make sure you tell local authorities.

Graves wants to remind the public if you are summoned for jury duty, make sure you show up.

"This is a very important process, and if we don't have people to serve on juries, we can't do our jobs," Graves said.

Sangamon County officials also say the juror summoning process is fairly simple and you are advised to contact local law officials if you have been involved in this jury duty scam.


Illinois Governor Quinn Honors Achievements in Hiring and Promotion of People with Disabilities

PRESS RELEASE May 22, 2013
Administration of Governor Quinn Honors Achievements in Hiring and Promotion of People with Disabilities
SPRINGFIELD -- The state of Illinois today honored the achievements of those who have done an exceptional job of supporting persons with disabilities in the workplace, including the Illinois Tollway, Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), Schnucks grocery store and four employees of the Illinois Department of Human Services. The awards were presented by Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) Director Rocco J. Claps and Department of Illinois Human Services Secretary (IDHS) Michelle R.B. Saddler at a ceremony of the state’s Interagency Committee on Employees with Disabilities (ICED).

"Our Illinois is a state where every person has the opportunity to chase their dreams and reach their full potential," Governor Pat Quinn said in a statement. “Today we honor those who have helped other people achieve their dreams. As I said in my State of the State address, I'm committed to making Illinois the nation's leading employer of people with disabilities.”

The ceremony at the State Fairgrounds also featured a demonstration of a support dog program called Helping Paws, run by the Illinois Department of Corrections out of the Logan Correctional Center. ICED (www.state.il.us/iced) represents the interests of more than 3,000 employees with disabilities in state government. The Awards Program promotes independence, access, and opportunities for employees with disabilities.

“On behalf of the administration of Governor Quinn it is a privilege to be here today to shine a light on the truly exceptional performance of these organizations and individuals who have all worked so hard to create opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in the workforce,” said IDHR Director Claps. “Rep. Harris has worked tirelessly as an advocate for persons with disabilities. And the Illinois Tollway was deservedly singled out for recognition for its outstanding affirmative action record in employing people with disabilities, including recruitment, hiring and accommodation practices.”

“IDHS is proud that four of our employees - among so many who work hard every day to to serve and empower persons with disabilities around the state – were singled out for special recognition today,” said IDHS Secretary Saddler. “We also salute the Tollway, Rep. Harris and all the other honorees for their dedication to creating a workplace environment that gives every worker an opportunity to fulfill their potential.”
ICED honored Rep. Harris as the Legislator of the Year in recognition of his dedicated work on behalf of people with disabilities, particularly in the area of abuse and neglect prevention.

The ICED’s Agency of the Year award recognizes the Illinois Tollway as a leader among state agencies for its approach to implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act by fully engaging in a flexible and interactive process to explore reasonable, effective and sometimes creative accommodations. The Tollway currently employs 176 people with disabilities, about 12 percent of its workforce of nearly 1,500 employees.

“The Illinois Tollway values the diversity of our workforce and we are continually striving to improve access to our employment opportunities,” said Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. “While we have become more proactive when it comes to addressing the needs of people with disabilities, we always look to deepen the Illinois Tollway’s talent pool by hiring the best and brightest people available.”

ICED gave Certificates of Award to the following state agencies for hiring employees through the successful Disability Opportunities Program: The Departments of Military Affairs, Children and Family Services, Public Health, Natural Resources, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and Human Services as well as the Gaming Board and the State Retirement System.

The ICED award for Employee of the Year went to Richard Jonathas, a ten-year employee of DHS’s Division of Rehabilitative DRS Services in Waukegan. Jonathas is described as a knowledgeable and dependable worker who empowers customers on a daily basis with his caring, positive approach. DHS employees Elisabeth Mann of Rockford and Benro Ogunyipe of Chicago received Certificates of Award.

The ICED award for a non-profit or business went to Schnucks Springfield Montvale grocery store. The award recognizes Schnucks for hiring a number persons with disabilities, many of whom are longtime employees.

Certificates of Award in the non-profit/business category went to Hope Church Deaf Ministry; Mary Miller, Director, WalMart Zion; and North Chicago VA Medical Center
In the media category, ICED awarded a Certificate to the Geneseo Republic in Northwestern Illinois for its fair depiction of the diversity in the lives of people with disabilities.

The ICED Advocate of the Year award went to Wanda Bethel Satkas, a DHS employee at the Ludeman Developmental Center in Park Forest. Satkas advocates on behalf of her son and others with autism. She started an autism organization 16 years ago that has made a real difference in the lives of countless parents and persons with disabilities.

One of the highlights of the Awards Ceremony was a demonstration of the Helping Paws support dog program run by the Illinois Department of Corrections at Logan Correctional Center. Under the program female inmates train support dogs and the trained dogs are subsequently provided to people with disabilities. The program is supported by Purina One which attended the event and announced a donation of a pallet of Purina One dog food to the Helping Paws program.

For additional information on ICED, please contact Susan Allen at the Department of Human Rights, at (217) 785-5119 (V), 1-866-740-3953 (TTY), or Susan.Allen@Illinois.gov.


RTA (Chicago) Seniors and People With Disabilities to Receive Informational Mailing about Transition to Ventra Fare Cards

From the RTA Newsletter May 23, 2013...

The RTA began mailing notices earlier this week, notifying its customers about the transition of RTA's Reduced Fare, Ride Free and ADA Paratransit programs to Ventra. More than 550,000 customers currently enrolled in the agency's programs will receive new permits this fall that will enable them to take advantage of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Pace's new contactless fare payment system, using a single card to travel throughout the region.

"The RTA is excited to bring enhancements to the transit experience for seniors and people with disabilities through the new Ventra system," said Joe Costello, RTA Executive Director. "The Ventra system will mark the first time Reduced Fare customers will be able to load reduced fare 30-day passes to their permits and manage their transit accounts online or over the phone."

The informational mailer lets customers know that they will receive their new Reduced Fare, Ride Free and ADA Paratransit permits this fall and urges permit holders to contact the RTA Customer Service Center at 312-913-3110 if their address or contact information has changed recently to ensure they receive their permit and any future mailings. Additionally, the mailer encourages customers to visit RTA's website to view FAQs or call the Customer Service Center to learn more about the transition to Ventra.

This fall, the RTA will mail new contactless permits, at no charge, to customers who are enrolled in the RTA's Reduced Fare, Ride Free and ADA Paratransit programs. Once activated, RTA customers will be able to add CTA and Pace transit value, or load a reduced fare 30-Day pass, to their permits at CTA rail stations, online, over the phone and at over 2,500 retail locations across Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Unlike the current magnetic stripe permits, the transit value and passes loaded to the new permit will be protected if the permit is lost or stolen.

To pay reduced fares on CTA and Pace, customers will simply "tap" their permits to the new Ventra card readers at CTA Rail turnstiles or when boarding CTA and Pace buses. The "tap" transaction will be faster than inserting cash or magnetic-stripe cards into fare equipment, which will speed boarding and improve service. Customers will also be able to manage their transit accounts online and over the phone.

Customers will use their new permits on Metra just as they do today. Reduced Fare customers will present their permits to a Metra ticket agent or conductor when purchasing their ticket. Ride Free customers will simply present their permit to the Metra conductor.

ADA Paratransit riders will continue to pay for their rides using cash or Pace ADA One Ride tickets. ADA Paratransit customers will be able to use their permits to pay for their rides on ADA Paratransit vehicles at a later date.

The new permits will be provided to customers free of charge; however if an RTA Reduced Fare Customer goes 18 consecutive months without using their Ventra Transit Account, the CTA will charge a $5.00 dormancy fee that will be deducted from their stored transit value each month. Just one transit ride will reset the dormancy timeframe. Riders will not be charged if there is no transit value in their account.

ventrachicago.com. For RTA fare programs information, visit RTAchicago.com.


Illinois legislation to hire more disabled people, integrate workforce passes General Assembly | May 2013

A bill that would provide more working opportunities for disabled people sailed through the Illinois General Assembly last week with the leadership of Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston).

The Senate unanimously voted May 14 to send The Employment First Act to the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn. The legislation would reform a statewide working environment for disabled people that has been defined by sub-minimum wages and segregation, supporters of the bill say.

“People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to work,” said Rep. Robyn Gabyl (D-Evanston), who signed on to the bill as a co-sponsor.

Disability rights groups have lobbied to make Illinois an “Employment First” state as part of a national movement to direct more state and federal dollars to integrated work settings instead of sheltered workshops, also known as facility-based work settings, which mainly employ disabled people.

Equip For Equality, a Chicago-based disability rights group, has worked with the government to shape the legislation, said Barry Taylor, vice president for civil rights and systemic litigation. Many state-run institutions such as the Kiley Developmental Center in Waukegan, Ill., are in need of changes to provide more opportunities to disabled people, Taylor said.

Taylor is a member of the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities task force, which recommended the reforms to the Illinois General Assembly for a vote.

Quinn has signaled his support for the bill while reviewing the legislation with disability rights groups, said Tony Paulauski, executive director of The Arc of Illinois. The legislation has potential to foster an atmosphere of opportunity outside the workplace by extending to special education programs, Paulauski said.

He said the reforms have encouraged employers in the private and public sectors to hire workers with disabilities. Jewel-Osco and other large corporations have begun to realize the opportunities available in the untapped work force, Paulauski said.

“Increasingly they are recognizing this is a viable and underutilized work force,” Paulauski said.

Michael Kaminsky, director of The Arc of Illinois Life Span, said the legislation fits in with the organization’s efforts to allow disabled people to work independently, free from the financial binds of social security disability payments. The group has relied partially on Work Incentives Planning and Assistance, a federal program that provides funding to community organizations involved in developing the careers of people with disabilities.

In the midst of the economic downturn, however, funds for WIPA dried up, Kaminsky said. If the bill is passed, the state will establish goals to create a more integrated workforce through a task force.

“If you can work and earn money, you’re a little bit more free than those who can’t,” Kaminsky said.

May 22, 2013
The Daily Northwestern

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

DISABILITY COMMUNITY URGES SWIFT VOTE OF TOM PEREZ; as U.S. Secretary of the Department of Labor



May 16, 2013 | AAPD Press Team

Today the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted along party lines for Tom Perez’s nomination as Secretary of the Department of Labor. Perez’s extensive record of enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act mobilized 64 disability organizations, led by American Association of People with Disabilities, to endorse his nomination.

With the disability unemployment rate at 79 percent, Americans with disabilities urgently need leadership at the Department of Labor to address the underlying causes and the negative consequences of this high level of joblessness. Perez has a strong and lengthy record on disability issues, which makes him the most experienced and qualified person for the job in the eyes of the disability community. AAPD urges the Senate to move swiftly on a vote to confirm Tom Perez.

Mark Perriello, the President and CEO of AAPD, said “I am glad that Tom Perez will receive a full vote by the US Senate on his nomination to be Secretary of Labor. There is a strong bi-partisan tradition of support for disability issues, and I invite Republican Senators to continue that tradition by recognizing that no one is currently fighting harder to improve the lives of people with disabilities than Tom Perez, and by voting to allow him to continue that work at the Department of Labor with a new focus on addressing our community’s dire employment situation.”

As the nomination proceeds to the full Senate, AAPD looks forward to educating Senators on both sides of the aisle about the obstacles people with disabilities face with employment opportunities. AAPD believes Tom Perez is uniquely qualified to address these issues and urges Senators to focus on the needs of all Americans. Tom's strong record on disability issues will help achieve progress for everyone who is a part of the workforce or seeking to join it.

# # #

Take action now on Tom Perez: CLICK HERE

The American Association of People with Disabilities is the nation's largest disability rights organization. We promote equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation for people with disabilities. Our members, including people with disabilities and our family, friends, and supporters, represent a powerful force for change.

To learn more, visit the AAPD Web site: www.aapd.com.

U.S. Access Board Forms Advisory Committee on Rail Vehicle Accessibility

The U.S. Access Board has organized an advisory committee as part of its review and update of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles. The Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee will develop consensus recommendations for the Board's use in updating sections of the guidelines that cover vehicles of fixed guideway systems, including rapid, light, commuter, intercity, and high speed rail. These guidelines, which were originally published in 1991, serve as the basis for standards that apply to new or remanufactured vehicles required to be accessible under the ADA. The committee's work will not extend to portions of the guidelines that address buses and vans, which the Board is already in the process of updating.

Members of the Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee include:
Alstom Transportation
American Council of the Blind
Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living
Bombardier Transportation
California Department of Transportation, Division of Rail
Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access
Community Transportation Association of America
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
Federal Railroad Administration (ex officio member)
Hearing Access Program
International Centre for Accessible Transportation
Maryland Transit Administration
Metra & Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation
National Association of the Deaf
National Association of Railroad Passengers
National Council on Independent Living
National Disability Rights Network
National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)
Parsons Brinckerhoff
RailPlan International
Ricon Corporation
South West Transit Association
Talgo, Inc.
United Spinal Association
The committee is structured to represent a balanced cross section of stakeholders and interested parties, including rail vehicle manufacturers, transit providers, disability groups, and others, as indicated in a published notice. Members were selected based on responses to a request for nominations the Board issued in February. The Board regrets not being able to accommodate all requests for committee membership. Committee membership is voluntary, and members are not reimbursed for their services.

The committee’s work will be conducted in accordance with regulations governing Federal advisory committees. All committee meetings will be open to the public and will provide opportunities for any interested parties to provide information or offer comment. In addition, non-members may have the opportunity to participate in the work of any subcommittees formed by the committee. Details on the committee’s first meeting will be released at a later date.

For further information, visit the Board's website or contact Paul Beatty at rvaac@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0012 (voice), or (202) 272-0072 (TTY). Those interested in this rulemaking and the work of the committee can sign up to receive further updates.

For the U.S. Access Board homepage: CLICK HERE