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INFONET 2020 Issue #2

Issue 2, February 08, 2020

Articles in This Issue:


LEGISLATIVE PACE GETS FASTER AS FIRST DEADLINE APPROACHES

The Iowa Caucuses may be over, but the pace at the Capitol continues to pick up as we near the first legislative deadline.  In two weeks, bills need to be voted out of their assigned committee in order to stay alive.  That means the next two weeks will be a mad dash to discuss and amend bills in subcommittee and pass them out of committee before the February 21 deadline hits.  

Iowans with disabilities and disabilty advocates may be interested in a few bills that have been introduced and discussed over the last two weeks, particularly one that requires some of the state's rest areas to have working, height-adjustable adult changing systems availbale to traveling families.  Advocates wanted to see these available in all public buildings, and eventually in all buildings with public bathrooms. Changing laws can take time, so advocates can consider this issue to be an important first step in making sure individuals with disabilities have access to sanitary bathrooms that meet their needs.  You'll hear from the advocate who got this issue moving in this issue of infoNET.

Mental health advocates have seen a number of bills introduced to encourage access to school-based behavioral health services,  change how the state's regional system is funded, and make Medicaid more streamlined.  There is a lot to cover this week, so let's dig into it!

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ADVOCACY WORKS! ADULT CHANGING STATIONS


Amanda Milham is a family advocate and head coordinator of the Changing Spaces Iowa Campaign, whose mission is to promote inclusion, access, and equality for individuals with disabilities who cannot safely use standard accessible restrooms.  For Amanda, it's personal.  Her seven-year-old daughter needs to have access to an adult-sized changing station when she is out in the community, and few (if any) are available.  That means she must be changed on the floor of a public rest room or in the back of a car in a crowded parking lot; that's simply not right.

To raise awareness about this issue,  Amanda wrote a letter to two legislators, Rep. Ann Meyer (R-Fort Dodge) and Rep. Kristin Sunde (D-West Des Moines).  Because of her advocacy, Representatives Meyer and Sunde sponsored a bill (House File 2097), a first step that requires adult changing stations in some of the state's rest areas.   If passed, rest areas with changing tables will be listed in a national database that is available to traveling families, and rest area signs will have a symbol that indicates the availability of a family restroom with an adult changing station.

We wanted you to see how advocacy works!  Below is the letter Amanda wrote recently about the bill.  If you would like to join her in asking legislators to pass House File 2097 and adopt additional legislation to expand the locations changing stations will be available, contact your legislators now using our Grassroots Action Center here.  

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GOVERNOR'S INVEST IOWA ACT INTRODUCED

Governor Kim Reynolds laid out a bold plan to improve Iowa's water quality, support farmers who help keep agricultural run-off out of Iowa's rivers and lakes, build new bike trails and water trails, promote conservation and improve the state park system, lower income taxes, make more families eligible for childcare tax credits, and reduce property taxes by having the state kick in more money into the regional mental health and disability services (MH/DS) system.  Her bills have now been introduced - House Study Bill 657 and Senate Study Bill 3116.   These bills:

  • Lower the county MH/DS property tax from $47.28 per capita to $12.50 per capita.  Right now, counties collect between $25 and $47.28 per capita. This change results in $77 million less local dollars in the system, beginning July 1, 2020 (for fiscal year 2021).
     
  • Create a new "State Supplement Payment Fund" at the state level, but the bills do not actually put any money into these funds (lawmakers say they will do this when they begin budgeting).  That's a bit scary when you take money away in one bill, and promise to put it in later.  The good news is the State Supplement Payment Fund is separate from the general fund of the state, and can only be used for MH/DS regional services.  While there are ways for legislators to get around this, it does make it hard for the Legislature to raid the fund for other purposes.  In addition, it doesn't count toward the state's 99% spending limit, so it may be protected from any economic problems that may happen in the future (depending on how they put money into it).  

The Governor has promised to put $80 million into the fund this year, $90 million next year, and $95 million during the third year.  MH/DS regions and their county supervisors are trying to figure out how this will impact services, or if there are pockets where this may still mean trouble for regions trying to make ends meet.  Stay tuned - we hope to have the county perspective in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, as your providers and regional staff what it means to your area.

For those that want a more in-depth section-by-section analysis of the MH/DS portion of the bills, click here.

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OPEN LETTER ON ADULT CHANGING STATIONS

My name is Amanda Milham, the Head Coordinator of the Changing Spaces Iowa campaign, as a concerned family advocate and voter, I am writing to you today on behalf of the Changing Tables Bill, House File 2097. 

HF 2097 has been introduced by Representatives Ann Meyer and Kristin Sunde. It states: The Department of Transportation shall install and maintain adult changing stations in certain rest areas throughout the state as determined by the Department

I thank Representatives Meyer and Sunde for introducing this bill and feel it is a good first step at addressing the critical need for Adult Changing Tables.  However, I think the bill should state that it is required for ALL rest areas. It should also be expanded to include government-owned public spaces as well as other larger community areas. Here is why: 

My daughter Adalynn is 7yrs. old, she has been diagnosed with Autism, Epilepsy, Tissue Disorder and two rare chromosome deletions known as 16p11.2 and 3q26.1. Adalynn is developmentally delayed and needing care from a caregiver 24/7; but that doesn’t take away from her interest like other kids. Unfortunately, with Adalynn’s complex medical history, and the challenges she faces, Adalynn does still require the need for diapering. Presently, under current regulations set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), accessible restrooms are only required to accommodate the space needed for a wheelchair user to comfortably access a restroom. 

The lack of adult changing tables is often not noticed to be an issue unless you face it daily. Standard public accessible restrooms do not meet the needs of children like Adalynn and other teenagers, and adults who have grown well beyond the maximum weight limit to safely use a typical wall mounted infant changing table, yet still require the use of incontinence products such as diapers or briefs, as well as the need for assistance with changes by their caregiver.  We run into this unnoticed issue almost everywhere we go including zoos, children’s museums, and hospitals (to name a few). Recently we were at a Specialty Clinic that wasn’t equipped with changing tables large enough to accommodate Adalynn’s needs. As a result, when an appropriately sized changing table is unavailable, we are having to change Adalynn on unhygienic public restroom floors, or in the back of vehicle exposed in a busy parking lot. Not only will Adalynn continue to grow but she will always have to face being changed in undesirable places without having adult changing tables available.

Changing Spaces Iowa ‘s goal is simple; to bring change to the current standard of  accessible restrooms throughout the state of Iowa by promoting inclusion, access, and equality for individuals with disabilities that require the need for adult-sized height adjustable changing tables. Changing Spaces Iowa is seeking height adjustable adult-sized changing tables in venues that fit the following criteria:

  • Establishments with the capacity to serve 1,500 or more persons per day, including but not limited to, any state building, facility, or structure
  • Places of exhibition or entertainment, including movie theaters, theaters, concert halls, convention centers, shopping malls, or stores of at least 40,000 square feet
  • Places of public display or collection, including museums, libraries, and galleries
  • Places of recreation, including parks, zoos, and amusement parks
  • Airports
  • Bus stations
  • Interstate rest stops
  • Places of education
  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers

In an effort to strengthen the Changing Spaces Iowa campaign, we are asking for your support in hopes of pursuing a legislative bill that will amend current ADA guidelines throughout the state of Iowa, truly addressing reasonable public accommodations for all members of our communities. Together, we can make a great impact in the lives of one of the most underserved populations by changing the spaces of public restrooms.

Sincerely,

Amanda Milham, Head Coordinator of Changing Spaces Iowa 

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PROFESSIONAL LICENSING CHANGES COULD IMPACT YOU

Governor Kim Reynolds also asked legislators to consider changes to Iowa's laws requiring people to be licensed in order to work in certain jobs.  States require licenses for all types of jobs, including health care workers (doctors, nurses, psychologists, behavior analysts, veterinarians), trades (plumbers, electricians, barbers, hair braiders), and other jobs like massage therapists, interior designers, and architects.  Some advocacy organizations want Iowa (and other states) to eliminate what they consider to be barriers to employment.  Others say that licensing certain professions is important to guaranteeing public safety and service quality.

There are already a lot of bills introduced to address this; you can see them all in our Bill Tracker.  However, there are a couple that we wanted to call your attention to:

  • Senate Study Bill 3088 eliminates licensing of sign language interpreters and translators. That means the public would need to figure out for itself if a person is qualified to provide interpretation services.  The subcommittee members on this bill (and who will decide if it moves forward) are Senator Jason Schultz (R-Crawford), Senator Zach Whiting (R-Dickinson), and Senator Claire Celsi (D-Polk).

  • Senate Study Bill 3089 eliminates licensing of hearing aid specialists. This also means verifying the qualifications of a hearing aid dealer is left to the public. The subcommittee members on this bill (and who will decide if it moves forward) are Senator Jason Schultz (R-Crawford), Senator Chris Cournoyer (R-Scott), and Senator Claire Celsi (D-Polk).
     
  • Senate File 2163 sunsets (that is, ends) all of Iowa's professional licensing boards over the next five years, and requires a special legislative committee to evaluate them and recommend whether to continue state licensing, change licensing requirements, or allow the licensing board to sunset.  You can see a complete list of the boards covered (well, it's all of them) in the bill.  The bill also requires a review of all the boards' rules to make sure they are not discouraging competition.  The bill is in the Senate State Government Committee, but doesn't have a subcommittee assigned yet.  You can see who is on the committee, and their contact information, here.

When the state licenses and oversees a profession, there is a board that takes customer complaints.  If you have an athletic trainer who did something inappropriate or unprofessional, the board of athletic trainers could take disciplinary action and remove the person's ability to practice in the state.  That's why it is important to watch and understand how these bills will balance the desire to remove "excessive regulation" of professions with public safety.  

You can email your legislators using our online Grassroots Action Center, clicking on the Senators names above to find their contact information, or calling 515.281.3371 (Senators) or 515.281.3221 (Representatives).

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NEW GUARDIANSHIP GUIDE AVAILABLE

Last year, legislators made many changes to Iowa's guardianship and conservatorship laws.  We covered them in our 2019 Issue #12 of infoNET.  The Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, which created infoNET, has updated its Guardianships and Conservatorships in Iowa Guide and it is now available online here.  The Guide:

  • Explains what a guardianship and conservatorship is and why its used.
  • Discusses alternatives to guardianship and conservatorship.
  • Talks about why guardianship and conservatorship may be necessary.
  • Gives tips on choosing a guardian or conservator, and special focus for parents considering this for their child.
  • Walks you through the process of setting up a guardianship or conservatorship (and fees that are involved).
  • Outlines the standards, powers, duties, and responsibilities of guardians and conservators.
  • Explains the rights of the protected person, and the standards and principles of substitute decision-making.
  • Identifies decisions that require court approval, and making decisons about medical procedures and treatment.
  • Includes tons of resources, including frequently asked questions and definitions of terms used.

There are a few bills that have been introduced this year to clarify and "fix" issues that have arisen from the guardianship and conservatorship laws passed last year.  It's too soon to tell if any will pass, but they are highly technical. We will cover these if they start moving, and will try to explain changes that might effect those with guardians and conservators.  In the meantime, check out the guide!

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CLASSROOM SAFETY BILLS RAISE CONCERNS

Organizations representing school boards, teachers and AEAs are backing two bills to address the safety of kids and teachers in classrooms and end the practice of "classroom clears" when students must leave a classroom when another student's behaviors become violent or distracting.  House Study Bill 598 & Senate File 2190 are complicated bills, but they do two main things:

  • Provide grants to establish "therapeutic classrooms" to provide students with behavior issues a smaller size classroom with specialized teachers; these are to be safe spaces for kids for a short period of time. They are not intended to become permanent classrooms for children with behaviors that are disrupting the classroom.  

  • Allows teachers and other school personnel to "lay hands on a child" in order to physically intervene to end a behavior.  Instead of clearing other students from a classroom, an teacher would be able to physically remove a child causing a disturbance.  The bills give teachers immunity from liability (meaning you cannot sue them for using physical force) and they cannot be disciplined if they act appropriately. 

Disability Rights Iowa and the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council are opposing the bills for several reasons:

  • It is unclear what "disrupting a classroom" means.  Kids with disabilities or children with a history of physical or sexual trauma may react differently to being touched in an effort to remove them from the classroom, and it could end up escalating the situation.  It is also unclear if a child's behavior that is a result of their disability would count as "distracting" and further isolate children with disabilities.  Some fear the therapeutic classrooms are just another way exclude children with disabilities from an integrated classroom.

  • During a subcommittee hearing, advocates asked why there were no grants for classrooom inclusive therapeutic services, things that would make the classrooma safe and supportive learning environment for all children.

  • Teachers and other school personnel are allowed to use physical force to remove a child that exhibits "passive resistance behaviors."  In other words, kids not acting outwardly violent or endangering other kids, but simply refusing to follow teacher instructions. 
     
  • Minority advocates say the bill racializse behaviors; teachers may not conciously view behaviors by minority and white children differently, but studies have shown that the reactions to these behaviors is very different.  So minority advocates wonder if this will impact margianlized children more - poor kids, minority kids, kids who have a history of abuse (whether known or not), and kids with disabilities (whether diagnosed or not).

It's clear that there is more work to be done on these bills, and more education on the processes that schools will take before using physical force to remove a child and place them in a therapeutic classroom.  In addition, advocates have much to learn from teachers as well, some of whom have had to quit their jobs because of violent attacks by students in their classrooms.  This is one of those bills where there are many sides to the story, but the good news is legislators are listening and their intent is to help kids in crisis, while supporting teachers and other students in the classroom.  

Sen. Amy Sinclair (R-Wayne) is the bill's floor manager on the Senate side.  The Senate bill has already been voted out of committee with several amendments, but Sen. Sinclair has told advocates that she continues to be open to additional changes. Rep. Cecil Dolecheck (R-Ringgold) is the lead on the House side, and has also asked for input into the bill.  He held one public hearing at 6 p.m. (so teachers and parents could attend) and is going to have another subcommittee before the bill passes out of committee. Other members of the House subcommitte include Rep. Tom Moore (R-Cass), Rep. Joel Fry (R-Clarke), Rep. Ras Smith (D-Black Hawk), and Rep. Molly Donahue (D-Linn).

We will continue to provide resources on this as the discussion continues.  If you have concerns about this or support this approach, contact your Senator and your Representative (again, you can do it easily here).

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IOWA DD COUNCIL RESOURCES

The Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council wants to make sure Iowans with disabilities and their families, friends, and service providers have the resources they need to be effective advocates. Here are a few:

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JOIN US! FEBRUARY 14th LEGISLATIVE REVIEW WEBINAR & CALL

Friday, February 14 @ Noon

To join by phone: (646) 558-8656  or (669) 900-9128 
When asked, enter the following webinar ID: 781 041 837

To join by computer or iPhone/Android device:
Please click this URL to join. https://capture.zoom.us/j/781041837

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GET THIS ISSUE IN PDF

Click here to view a formatted PDF version of infoNET.

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