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Welcome to Achieva's Compass, an e-publication to help guide you through the world of disability.
Volume #15 | Issue #20
October 7, 2021
image of house on a game of Jenga with the caption, "We're beginning to see the collapse of the system"

Agencies that serve people with disabilities call for more funds to pay staff

90.5 WESA | By Kate Giammarise | Interview with Nancy Murray, Senior Vice President of Achieva and President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh

As the economy continues to reemerge from the pandemic, many employers say they are having a hard time hiring enough workers for all their open positions. But one sector was already facing major staffing shortages prior to the coronavirus – providers for home and community-based services for people with disabilities.

The inability to hire and retain workers – in part driven by low wages due to low government reimbursement rates – was already a crisis, but now threatens to collapse the system, advocates say.

Direct support professionals, or DSPs, do everything from aiding people with medical appointments, helping with housework and cooking, assisting with complex medical care, and helping people with activities of daily life like brushing their teeth, bathing, and getting dressed.

“The inability of organizations to recruit and retain staff has been with us for quite a few years now. And then the pandemic hit. And we lost many DSPs, many DSPs found that they had to stay home with their family members. Others decided maybe it was time to find another profession. The work is hard. And for what we're able to pay DSPs, they could go to other employers in all different sectors in the economy and receive a higher wage,” said Nancy Murray, president of the Arc of Greater Pittsburgh and senior vice president at Achieva.

“Now that now that we're seeing a recovery, we don't we don't have the staff available to us any longer at the rate of the salaries that we're able to pay them with the rates that we receive to keep pace with, other sectors of the economy, whether it's Wal-Mart or Sheetz or, you know, some restaurants, we just can't, we just can't pay our staff what they can earn in in other places,” Murray said.

Read More & Listen to the Interview

Lawmakers must increase funding to support those who care for people with disabilities

A guest editorial on by Gary Blumenthal

Collecting Stories About Your Experiences Regarding Dental Care

By Nancy Murray, Senior Vice President of Achieva and President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh

Patient at dental officeAchieva is working with the PA Coalition for Oral Health (PCOH) to collect stories from people in all 67 counties about their experiences regarding their dental care. Many people struggle to find a dentist or find a dentist that will accept their insurance. We also want to know if you have had to go to an emergency room to get dental care or if you cannot get dental care at all.
People with disabilities often have difficulty finding a dentist who will accept Medicaid and has experience caring for patients with disabilities. Some people with disabilities also lack transportation to get to dental appointments. Others, with physical disabilities, may need a dentist who has a dental chair to accommodate their disability. And, some people who have hearing or visual disabilities may require other accommodations.
We are working with health care policymakers, legislators, insurers, and dental professionals to make the necessary policy and funding changes so that people can get the dental care they need. Your story will help us make the case that Pennsylvania needs to do more to ensure that everyone receives the dental care they need.
We would like to hear from you! Please click on the button below to share your message.
Submit Your Story

Register For The Achieva Family Trust Virtual Future Planning Conference

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Please join us on Wednesday, November 10, 2021, for a day-long virtual conference dedicated to future planning for people with disabilities. The purpose of the conference is to educate and inform families, professionals and self-advocates about the importance of Future Planning for Individuals with Disabilities. Below is the schedule of presentations.

8:30 a.m. Start time

8:40 - 9 a.m. Welcome Remarks: Amy Strano, Esq., President Achieva Family Trust; and Kelly Frey, WTAE Newsperson and Family Member

9 - 9:55 a.m. - Future Planning with Special Needs Trusts and ABLE Accounts
Presenter: Jacki Connell, Esq., Director of Legal and Trust Administration Services, Achieva Family Trust

10 - 10:55 a.m. - Housing Options for Individuals with Disabilities
Presenters: Michelle Stockunas, Vice President, Home and Community Supports, Achieva; & Melissa Allen, Director, Center for Independent Living, Disability Options Network

11 - 11:55 a.m. - Understanding Decision Making, Including Powers of Attorney/Guardianship
Presenter: Nora Gieg Chatha, Esq. Tucker Arensberg P.C. 

12 - 1:30 p.m. - Family Panel Regarding Future Planning
This panel will include a discussion of future planning from a parent’s perspective. What have been the experiences of the families, and what have been the obstacles that they have faced? What advice would these families give to other individuals/families who are contemplating future planning?

1:30 - 3 p.m. - Understanding Government Benefits
Presenters: Elaine Cole, MS, Public Affairs Specialist, Social Security Administration; and Janice L. Meinert, MSW, Paralegal, PA Health Law Project


New "Voices of Change" Video Features Sisters' Memories of Longtime Polk Center Resident

From the Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium

The Consortium announces the premiere of a new video in its “Voices of Change” series. The video features an interview with Virginia Flavin Pribanic and Carol Flavin Pursehouse, sisters of Danny Flavin, who lived for 56 years at Polk Center in Venango County.

Danny Flavin (1946-2018) was one of seven children in a large Irish American family in a Pittsburgh suburb. He was born with a genetic condition that resulted in intellectual disabilities. His childhood took place in a time when few services were available for children with disabilities. Nevertheless, the Flavins raised their son at home amid a loving family.

When Danny was 16 years old, his parents became concerned about aggressive behaviors that had become a risk to his safety and the safety of others. No support services were available to help the family keep Danny at home. His parents made the difficult decision to move him to Polk State School and Hospital (now Polk Center), a large institution with about 3,000 residents at that time.

Continue Reading & Watch Video
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Additional News of Interest

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Picture of a school bus and a student waiting to board.

ELC Issues Updated “Back-to-School” Guide 

Join the Pittsburgh Buddy Walk

10 Ways to Join Disability: IN for Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM)

A Proclamation on National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Achieva Family Trust Webinar

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Successful Strategies for Self-Advocacy Part 2

Date in November and panel to be determined

Come hear this panel of self-advocates discuss the importance of the involvement and support for self-advocates in advocacy efforts. They will review the principles of self-awareness, self-advocacy, and self-determination for optimal outcomes.

More information to follow.

Previously recorded webinars.

FISA Foundation Webinars

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From Classroom to Dorm Room: Serving Survivors with Disabilities on Campus

Wednesday, October 20, 2021
2 -3:30 p.m. ET


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