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Welcome to Achieva's Compass, an e-publication to help guide you through the world of disability.
Volume #15 | Issue #19
September 23, 2021

Advocates Say Low Pay & Unreliable Funding is Putting Intellectual Disability System at Risk of Collapse

From WITF Radio, Merideth Bucher with Nancy Murray, Senior Vice President of Achieva and President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh

Staffing Crisis Impacting CareDisability advocates are sounding the alarm over the funding and staffing crisis impacting care. They say the problem is so severe that the system risks an eventual collapse unless the state government takes immediate action.

Gary Blumenthal is the vice president of InVision Human Services, in Wexford and Reading, Pa., and his organization is advocating for an immediate increase in funding. He says to prevent a collapse of the care system, the state must do two things immediately.

First, increase pay to direct support professionals; some earn almost 40 percent less if they work in a non-state-owned center. Second, the community programs must be staffed and stable for people using the services. Turnover of employees is so high that the programs suffer, as do the users.

Gary Blumenthal joined Smart Talk to discuss these issues and how the state government has failed to review program costs. Joining him was Nancy Murray, Senior Vice President of Achieva and President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services provided this statement following the Smart Talk broadcast:

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many challenges that existed before March 2020, and this includes workforce shortages within the healthcare and human services systems. To address the shortage of workers within the intellectual disability/autism service system, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) has committed to both one-time funding to support provider recruitment and retention efforts and to proactively engage in the process of refreshing the data that informs the department’s reimbursement rates for providers serving individuals with intellectual disabilities/autism. By regulation, the process of refreshing the data that informs the department’s reimbursement rates is to occur on a three-year timeline and is due to be conducted in October 2022. DHS has proposed to engage in this process one year in advance as part of its proposal to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) for use of enhanced federal funds for home and community-based services under the American Rescue Plan Act. DHS is awaiting approval from CMS to move forward with this plan. Additionally, the department continues using flexibilities allowed through an agreement with CMS under the federal Public Health Emergency to operate the Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waiver program for people with intellectual disabilities and autism. Some of the flexibilities are aimed at addressing pandemic-related staffing issues.

Listen to the Smart Talk Interview

RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council delivers report; recommendations for improving support to family caregivers

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living
(Nancy Murray, Senior Vice President of Achieva and President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh is a co-chair of the RAISE Council of the RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council)

The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, & Engage (RAISE) Family Caregiving Advisory Council delivered its initial report to Congress. The culmination of a two-year, multi-faceted effort that gathered input from family caregivers across the country, the report provides an overview of many of the issues faced by family caregivers nationwide and provides recommendations for addressing them.

  • Increasing Awareness of Family Caregivers to increase public understanding of the contributions caregivers make, including helping individuals self-identify as caregivers so that they can get the support they need.
  • Engaging Family Caregivers as Partners in Healthcare and Long-Term Services and Supports to better integrate family caregivers into healthcare processes and systems.
  • Improving Access to Services and Supports for Family Caregivers including counseling, respite care, peer support, training on common in-home medical tasks, and practical assistance like transportation. Also included is a recommendation for strengthening the paid caregiver workforce.
  • Financial and Workplace Security for Family Caregivers to decrease the impact family caregiving can have on the financial well-being and professional lives of caregivers.
  • Generating Research, Data, and Evidence-Informed Practices to help create policies and interventions that meaningfully help family caregivers.
Read More

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Additional News of Interest

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Transition to Postsecondary Education

The Arc of PA Webinar Presented by Karen Oosterhous, Achieva Advocate

Logo for AAPD

Apply for the 2022 Paul G. Hearne Emerging Leader Award Before October 27, 2021

Counting Down to National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Are You a Student or Alumnus With A Disability Who Is Interested in a Job with The Federal Government? 

Our Goal - A Hunger-Free Pennsylvania

Podcast: Behavioral Evaluation and Approach in Older Children (Down Syndrome Center at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh)

Achieva Family Trust Webinars

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Successful Strategies for Self-Advocacy Part 1

Tuesday, October 5, 2021
10 a.m. - 12 p.m.

The target audiences for this webinar are providers, family members, and people with disabilities. The purpose of this webinar is to provide an overview of the basics for successful strategies when advocating for issues of importance for people with disabilities. The basic strategies relate to advocating across disability groups.

Presenters: Nancy Murray, Senior Vice President of Achieva and President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh; Luciana Randall, President, Autism Connection of PA; Nikki Dawson, MSW, Advocacy Director, and Aleta Barnett, Adult Mental Health Advocate, both with NAMI Keystone PA; and Katie Smith, Independent Living Coordinator, Disability Options Network


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.

Raise Center Accessibility 101 Webinars

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Technical Assistance & Resources for RSA-funded Parent Training and Information Center


Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Accessibility

Monday, September 27, 2021
2 -3:30 p.m. ET


FISA Foundation Webinars

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FISA Foundation and Southwest PA Says No More are partnering with the Vera Institute of Justice's End Abuse of People with Disabilities initiative.

Meeting the Needs of Human Trafficking Victims with Disabilities

Tuesday, September 28, 2021
1 - 2:30 p.m. ET




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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