Advocacy Continues in 2022
As we enter the New Year, disability advocates find ourselves in a very different place than last January. We have a new Governor, a new Commissioner at the Department of Health as well as an Acting Commissioner at OPWDD. While no one could have predicted this remarkable change in leadership, indications are that following nearly 10 years of budget cuts and neglect, both policy and funding for disability services may finally be getting much needed support and attention from Albany.
On January 18th, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul will release her first NYS budget. What will it include? Earlier this week, Governor Hochul’s State of the State speech clearly identified the need for major increases in wages for direct care/home care workers. This is something our Member and Family Advisory Council has been strongly advocating on behalf of LIFEPlan members for well over a year. You can find more details on the Governors website.
Last Year’s Progress
The LIFEPlan MFA Council has built strong relationships with legislators. They have met with Chairs of both Senate and Assembly Developmental Disability Committees to address LIFEPlan member concerns. Senator John Mannion and Assemblymen Abinanti are passionate about improving the lives of individuals with disabilities. Both are fathers of young adult sons with Autism.
A few weeks ago, Senator Mannion and Senator Skoufis were successful in getting the Governor to sign a significant ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) bill (#S1662B Video Introduction). The bill allows Licensed Behavioral Analysts to work with a much larger number of individuals with disabilities who can benefit from this methodology.
In the fall of 2021, Assemblymen Abinanti was able to successfully pass a bill. This bill entitles over-age students with disabilities to compensatory time for services and instruction missed due to COVID. Assemblymen Abinanti sponsored multiple pieces of legislation to improve the lives for individuals with disabilities, outlined here in his year end newsletter.
The LIFEPlan MFA Council looks forward to working closely with OPWDD Acting Commissioner Kerri Neifeld in 2022. Even before final approval, Commissioner Neifeld is already hard at work in Albany. Her year end message gives insight into what may lie ahead. There will certainly be a need for continued advocacy by all of us to support these efforts.
LIFEPlan self-advocates and family members can learn more or join in LIFEPlan MFA Council Advocacy Committee. Contact Tara Klein at Tara.Klein@lifeplanccony.com.