An advocate wearing a "disability rights are human rights" t shirt poses with past Wisconsin governor Scott Walker

The Arc Responds to Passage of Criminal Justice Reform by Congress

Washington, DC – Last week, both chambers of Congress passed a bill focusing on criminal justice reform, which President Trump signed into law. The legislation shortens sentences and supports job training and other programs for some prisoners with disabilities.

“We are pleased that Congress has chosen to begin comprehensive reform of our criminal justice system. While this is a step in the right direction, our hope is that future legislation provides support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) involved in all phases of our criminal justice system, whether as victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, or prisoners.

“This legislation funds training on de-escalation techniques for federal prison staff; this is particularly important for individuals with I/DD who are incarcerated. It is essential that future legislation supports training for law enforcement through all branches of government on recognizing and supporting the needs of individuals with disabilities. This training can ensure that an individual’s rights aren’t compromised and that they are provided the appropriate accommodations ensuring they are treated justly and don’t experience conditions that can be detrimental to their physical or mental health.

“The bipartisan support of this legislation is heartening, and we are grateful to Members of Congress for their work on this important issue. The Arc plans to be at the table as further criminal justice reform is discussed in the 116th Congress to ensure the interests of people with disabilities are included in future legislation,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

While people with I/DD comprise 2 to 3% of the general population, they represent 4 to 10% of the prison population. Earlier this year, The Arc’s Criminal Justice Advisory Panel was launched. The panel is the latest addition to the organization’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability’s® (NCCJD) ongoing advocacy to protect the rights of people with I/DD involved in the criminal justice system.

Established in 2013, NCCJD is the only national center of its kind serving as a bridge between the I/DD and criminal justice communities that focuses on both victim and suspect/defendant/prisoner issues. The Center provides training and technical assistance; resources for professionals, people with disabilities, and their supporters; as well as educates the public about the intersection of criminal justice reform and the advancement of disability rights. Pathways to Justice®, NCCJD’s signature training tool, is a comprehensive, community-based program facilitated through chapters of The Arc that helps criminal justice professionals understand their legal obligations toward people with disabilities. NCCJD is building the capacity of the criminal justice system to respond appropriately to gaps in existing services for people with disabilities, focusing on people with I/DD, who often remain a hidden population within the criminal justice system, with little or no access to advocacy supports or services.

Two event attendees stand smiling with their arms around each other's shoulders.

The Arc Responds to Texas U.S. District Court Judge’s Ruling on the Affordable Care Act

The Arc Responds to Texas U.S. District Court Judge’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional:

“This ruling by District Court Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas v. Azar is of great concern. To strike down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) puts the health of millions at risk, but we know that this case will be appealed. While the ruling does not impact the law immediately, it has raised concerns and fears for millions who have benefited from the ACA. The ACA includes historic health care coverage expansions, nondiscrimination and health insurance reforms, numerous enhancements to Medicare, Medicaid, and other provisions that benefit people with disabilities. The fact remains that the ACA is the law of the land and health care coverage will not be impacted by this decision without further court appeals and decisions. We must also remember that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act twice.

“This is about people’s lives – their health, independence, financial stability, and so much more. The Arc remains steadfast in our commitment to advocate for and protect this law and the benefits it provides for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer for Public Policy for The Arc.

The Arc Responds to Food and Drug Administration’s Intent to Ban Use of Electric Shock Devices

Today, The Arc released the following statement in response to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) announcement that it intends to ban the use of an electric shock device called Gradual Electronic Decelerator or GED. These devices are used with residents of the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), an institution in Massachusetts for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and mental health issues. The devices are worn by residents of JRC; staff members use remote controls to administer a shock to the resident wearing the device with the intent of changing the individual’s behavior. Substantial evidence exists in the FDA’s records that this practice is painful and traumatizing to the individuals who have been shocked.

“There is a well-established body of evidence proving that there are alternative methods for behavioral supports for people with disabilities and other needs that do not include excessive force, pain, and fear. The actions of the JRC remain a civil rights issue. While we are glad that the FDA has shared its intent to ban use of these electric shock devices, we urge the agency to finalize this rule as soon as possible.

“With every day that passes without this rule being finalized, the rights of people with disabilities and mental health issues will continue be violated as they endure painful abuse. The Arc won’t rest until this barbaric practice is halted and use of these devices is banned at the JRC and nationwide. We remain a resource to FDA and other administration officials as they work through implementing this ban,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc has a long history of opposition to the use of aversive procedures, such as electric shock, deprivation, seclusion, restraint, and isolation on people with I/DD and other disabilities. For many years now, The Arc has joined other organizations raising concerns about the health, safety, and welfare of residents of the JRC, including commenting on the rule that The Arc is now requesting the FDA to finalize.

December 2018 #HandsOff: Taking my advocacy to Tennessee!

#HandsOff is a series on The Arc Blog where individuals and families across The Arc’s network share their stories about how some of today’s key policy issues impact their day to day lives.

This year The Arc was excited to be able to offer a limited number of scholarships to individuals with disabilities to attend the National Convention in Nashville, Tennessee One of the scholarship winners, Ivanova Smith from Washington, shares her experience below.

By: Ivanova Smith

Ivanova Smith takes a selfie and smiles with her husband and child to her right. On November 7th,  I got to go to Tennessee for the first time for The Arc’s National Convention! It was a blast. When I found I won the scholarship, my husband and I saved up so he and my daughter got to come with me and see the sights.

While they were out having fun in the giant Gaylord hotel, I was gaining tons of knowledge and networking at the Conference! One of the first things I got to do was participate in the National Council of Self-Advocates Symposium. It was great getting to hear from other professionals and leaders with disabilities speak on topics such as transportation, housing, and how to be effective in advocacy around public transportation. I even got to speak during an open mic session!

I enjoyed the workshops around people who help women with disabilities who were victims of sexual assault. I also really enjoyed the general session where they spoke about legislative priorities and I got to meet new friends!

I support The Arc’s national efforts in wanting to improve education and promoting self-determination! Friday we got to celebrate awardees who worked on efforts on better inclusion at the Catalyst Awards. One of them is actually my Facebook friend, James Meadours. His speech inspired me to keep advocating in my home state of Washington. On the last day, we got to enjoy Nashville and listen to live music! It was a wonderful time!

Want to learn more about The Arc’s 2018 Convention? Check out pictures here.

 

The Arc Responds to Final Passage of the Farm Bill

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement following final passage of the 2018 Agriculture and Nutrition Act:

“We applaud the Senate and House of Representatives for their bipartisan work on the Farm Bill (H.R. 2), passed this week in the Senate by a vote of 87-13 and in the House by a vote of 369-47. We are pleased that the version of the bill that was passed rejects cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, which more than 11 million people with disabilities across the United States rely on to help them eat. Once signed into law, this bill will preserve access to basic food assistance for people across the country, including those with disabilities who rely on SNAP to put food on the table. We urge President Trump to sign this bill into law as soon as possible,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Office of Public Policy, The Arc.

Welcome the New NCE Steering Committee Members

In 2019, the NCE Steering Committee will welcome new leadership and new members. The steering committee serves as NCE’s governing body and is responsible for supporting the development and implementation of a robust professional development program for executives, management staff, and volunteer leaders in The Arc. Please join us in thanking Carrie Hobbs Guiden and the 2017-2018 committee for their time, energy, creativity, and commitment — and please welcome your 2019-2020 committee members:

Chairperson: Karen Shoemaker, Executive Director, The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties, PA

First Vice-Chair: Chris Stewart, President/Chief Executive Officer, The Arc of Central Alabama, AL

Second Vice-Chair: Kim Dodson, Executive Director, The Arc of Indiana, IN

Immediate Past Chair: Carrie Hobbs Guiden, Executive Director, The Arc of Tennessee, TN

 

Regional Representatives

Region 1: John Nash, Executive Director, The Arc of North Carolina, NC

Region 2: Jean Phelps, Chief Executive Officer, LifeLinks/The Arc of Greater Lowell, MA

Region 3: Lori Opiela, Vice President for Day and Employment Services, United Cerebral Palsy Seguin of Greater Chicago, IL

Region 4: Kevin Fish, Executive Director, The Arc of Sedgwick County, KS

Region 5: Robert Malone, Executive Director, The Arc of Prince George’s County, MD

Region 6: Jon Meyers, State Director, The Arc of Arizona, AZ

 

At Large Members

Frank Adu, Chief Executive Officer, The Arc Middlesex County, NJ

Leslie Green, Chief Executive Officer, Stonebelt Arc, IN

Teri Hawthorne, Executive Director, The Arc of Greater Beaumont, TX

Mark Keeley, President and CEO, St. Louis Arc, MO

Charity Moore, Executive Director, The Arc of Laramie County, WY

Stanfort Perry, Executive Director, AHRC Nassau County, NY

Melanie Soto, Executive Director, Y.E.S. The Arc, AZ

Mary Van Haneghan, Chief Executive Officer, The Arc of the Capital Area, TX

 

Regional Key

Region 1: AL, FL, GA, MS, NC, SC

Region 2: CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT

Region 3: IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, WI

Region 4: AR, KS, KY, LA, MO, ND, NE, OK, SD, TN, TX, WY

Region 5: DC, DE, MD, NJ, OH, PA, VA, WV

Region 6: AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, NM, MT, OR, UT, WA

Spotlight: A Farewell to NCE Steering Chair Carrie Hobbs Guiden

After two wonderful years, we bid farewell to Carrie Hobbs Guiden as our NCE Steering Committee Chair. Carrie reflected on her tenure as chair with us, as well as how to get more involved with NCE and take advantage of all that it has to offer!

 

Your time as NCE steering committee chair is coming to a close after 2 years! What’s your most memorable moment (funny, ridiculous, triumphant, or otherwise) from your time as chair?

The two years have gone by so quickly that it is hard to pick out just one particular moment. I think my most memorable moment as NCE steering committee chair has been handing out the awards at the NCE Awards Luncheon both in San Diego and Nashville.  It was such a privilege to meet and honor the amazing leaders in our network and hear their stories.  And while this isn’t a specific “moment,” per se, I’ve really cherished the time I’ve spent working with the two Vice Chairs – Karen Shoemaker and Chris Stewart.  We’re not only close professionally, but personally as well.  We have supported each other through some challenging personal situations that helped us really become a cohesive team.

What was your most challenging moment?

For me the most challenging moment was making the call to tell two steering committee members that they would be rolling off. There is this internal struggle between not wanting to lose that contribution from members that have been extremely passionate, involved and committed but also knowing that the only way to bring new people onto the committee is to allow for that changeover. Change is always difficult for me anyway, but I have found as I get older I can deal with it more effectively. 

Do you have any advice for those wanting to get more involved with NCE, either in a leadership or participatory capacity?

Just do it! NCE has many different task groups – events planning, silent auction, awards, chapter resources – that provide opportunities for anyone interested in becoming more involved in NCE to do so without an extensive time commitment. These task groups also give you the opportunity to decide if you want to get more involved and serve on the NCE steering committee. My initial involvement came as an invite to be on what used to be the NCE Membership Committee. For me, being involved in NCE at any level has been a great way to get more connected to the professionals in The Arc network. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day that happens in your own state and forget that we have a national network of leaders from which to seek information, learn new ideas, and get support.  When I reach out to others in NCE, I often find that they are dealing with similar issues, but in different ways. So I can get a lot of creative ideas from others that I wouldn’t necessarily come across if I didn’t look outside my own state. 

What’s next in your career?

I’m not sure. I really enjoy my role as a state chapter exec – but there is always part of me that considers returning to my roots as a provider. I can say with certainty that I always see myself connected to The Arc in some way and working with people with I/DD and their families. I just cannot imagine doing anything else. And as long as I am connected to The Arc and people with I/DD, I will remain involved in NCE.

The Arc Mourns the Passing of President George H.W. Bush

The Arc released the following statement following the death of President George H.W. Bush.

“President Bush and members of his administration were crucial participants in the development and enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the greatest legislative victories for people with disabilities in our nation. This landmark law is one of the ways in which our country leads the world in respecting and valuing the lives of people with disabilities.  We salute the important impact that President Bush’s commitment to civil rights will continue to make in the lives of people with disabilities for many generations to come,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.