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Right Now, Individuals With Disabilities Who Might Need Help With Everyday Tasks Such as Eating, Dressing, Bathing, Maintaining Meds & More Are Not Given the Option to Live In the Setting of Their Choosing; Schumer Says This Denies People With Disabilities the Freedom to Live Independently

Schumer’s Bill, the Disability Integration Act of 2015, Rights This Wrong By Ensuring Services Are Provided to Any Individual Who is Found Eligible for Institutional Care to Receive Critical Services and Supports in the Setting of Their Choosing; Schumer Bill Addresses Longstanding Civil Rights Issue That Currently Denies Individuals with Disabilities This Basic Right & Helps Alleviate Financial, Emotional Burden Often Posed On Loved Ones

Schumer: Individuals With Disabilities Have the Basic Right to Live Independent, Fulfilling Lives

Standing at Wildwood Programs in Guilderland, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on Congress to pass the Disability Integration Act. Schumer explained that this new legislation will help individuals with disabilities live more independently by providing necessary at-home and community-based services and supports. Specifically, the legislation ensures that any individual who is found eligible for institutional care must also be given the option to receive the same necessary services and supports at home, or in a setting of their choosing, that would have otherwise been provided in an institutional setting. Schumer explained that the legislation gives individuals with disabilities the option to live more independently, and in the comfort of their own home, rather than in an institutional facility away from their friends and family. Moreover, Schumer said that this legislation will help ease the financial burden of those who do not want to live in a facility and may be paying high out-of-pocket insurance costs for in-home services and supports. Schumer also said that the bill will help alleviate the emotional burden that family members are often faced with when taking care of their loved ones with disabilities who are not receiving the necessary services and supports. Schumer, the sponsor and author of this bill, said Congress promptly pass this bill, as it will help promote independent living among Americans with disabilities.

“Individuals with disabilities have the right to live independent, fulfilling lives amongst their families and friends – but right now, they are often denied the kind of at-home services and supports that then keep them in institutional settings, far from their loved ones and communities. We need to be doing everything in our power to make sure they have the resources needed to live and thrive in the comfort of their own homes,” said Schumer. “This legislation will finally give individuals with disabilities the option to receive these types of services at home, so that they can continue living life to the fullest in their own communities.”

The Disability Integration Act ensures that any individual with a disability who is found eligible for institutional care must be given the option to receive the necessary services that allow them to be more independent. If passed, this legislation would prohibit public entities and insurance providers that pay for long-term services and supports (LTSS) from using waiting lists, screening people out, capping services, under-paying workers for services or taking any other actions that would restrict the home- and community-based services provided to people with disabilities. The Disability Integration Actspecifically defines LTSS as the assistance provided to individuals with disabilities in accomplishing, acquiring the means or ability to accomplish, maintaining, or enhancing activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, health-related tasks or other related functions, tasks or activities. For example, LTSS programs might include help with eating, bathing, dressing, preparing food, managing medication and housekeeping.

In addition, Schumer explained that this is an incentive-based system. States, or public entities in the state, that comply with the objectives outlined in this bill within a certain time frame could see an increase in their federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) rate. The FMAP rate determines the federal government’s share of Medicaid expenditures for a state. Full compliance with this bill would result in a five percent increase in FMAP for the state.

Schumer said this legislation could drastically improve the lives of those who utilize services at facilities like Wildwood Programs in the Town of Guilderland. For nearly 50 years, Wildwood Programs has provided the very best supports for people with autism, developmental disabilities and complex learning disabilities. Through their educational, residential, employment and family programs, Wildwood has empowered thousands of people to maximize their independence and live lives of fulfillment. Schumer said the center is a wonderful example of how basic civil rights for individuals with disabilities are upheld and fostered, as it is committed to the belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to live to their fullest potential.

Schumer was joined by Mary Ann Allen, Executive Director of Wildwood Programs; NYS Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, whose son Michael attends Wildwood School; Steve Kroll, Executive Director of NYS ARCS; and Adam Prizio, Manager of Government Affairs at the Center for Disability Rights, Inc.

"Planning for a lifetime of the kinds of ongoing supports that individuals with developmental disabilities need to lead active, productive, fulfilling, safe, healthy and happy lives as valued and included members of our community is a daunting task. The Disability Integration Act demonstrates respect for the individuals and families who need our support, and offers them the quality choices they deserve for these important life decisions.  We are deeply grateful to Senator Schumer for his continued advocacy on behalf of our loved ones with disabilities," said Mary Ann Allen, executive director, Wildwood Programs.

Schumer’s legislation is modeled on the principles embodied by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in order to ensure and encourage independence of disabled individuals and seniors. The ADA was signed in 1990 to ensure people with disabilities are integrated into society. The Disability Integration Act strengthens the ADA's integration mandate to ensure that, “No public entity or LTSS insurance provider shall deny an individual with an LTSS disability who is eligible for institutional placement, or otherwise discriminate against that individual in the provision of, community-based long-term services and supports that enable the individual to live in the community and lead an independent life.” Previous legislative approaches have mainly focused on the services provided by Medicaid, which is the primary payer for LTSS. Therefore, Schumer said that more must be done to protect those who want to live independently in their community. 

Schumer said that his Disability Integration Act addresses a long-standing civil rights problem: individuals living with disabilities are frequently denied the freedom to live independent lives in their own communities, often among family and friends. The proposed legislation would help provide necessary services and supports without requiring institutional care. Schumer said this is particularly important when considering the cost of institutional care facilities. For example, in the United States the median cost of living in a nursing facility is over $91,000 per person per year.

The Disability Integration Act would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue regulations to clarify specifics on eligibility and minimum requirements for coverage of services and supports with which providers will need to comply. Public entities and LTSS insurance providers would be required to conduct evaluations of their current practices and policies within six months of the release of these new regulations to describe current gaps in their systems and to address how they will adapt their policies and practices to comply accordingly. Public entities would be required to present transition plans within one year after completing the evaluation to prove that they have created and begun implementation of a plan that makes the adjustments they deemed necessary in their self-evaluation.

According to ADAPT, an organization that supports disability rights, a 2010 Harris poll showed 89 percent of all Americans, and 94 percent of retirees, support legislation which would require people to get home and community-based supports and services instead of forcing older and disabled Americans into nursing facilities and other institutions. Schumer’s legislation has the support of many organizations including:  ADAPT, the National Council on Independent Living, The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Medicare Rights Center, Not Dead Yet, National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities, Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, SEIU, American Association of People with Disabilities, Little People of America, National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery‎, National Disability Leadership Alliance‎, and the United Spinal Association.