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A Lot to Celebrate in 2022

Monday, June 27, 2022

The year started off rocky, with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) report on the problems at Glenwood State Resource Center and the decision a few months later to close it in 2023. While this was troubling news to everyone, the report creates opportunities for Iowans with disabilities.  

The Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council advocates for more home and community based options for Iowans with disabilities.  They want Iowans with disabilities to have more choice, but doing this can cost a lot of money at first.  It has been tough to get legislators to agree to big increases in home and community based services, but the DOJ is going to require Iowa do just that.  Invest in more home and community based options.

This session, legislators did start to address this challenge by making changes they hope will develop community capacity to better serve people in homes and in the community. 

2022 Wins

Almost $30 million in new money to make it easier to find and keep the services that allow people to live, work, and be involved in their community (HF 2578, federal ARPA plan)

  • The people helping you with your daily needs will be paid better, so they will hopefully stay in the job longer. 
  • Providers may be able to offer more services if they can pay their staff better, giving you more options. 

  • $14.7 million to increase wages for direct staff working for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) providers, including habilitation, consumer choice option, and consumer directed attendant care.  This is a 4.25% increase.

  • $7.4 million to take up to 200 Iowans with intellectual disabilities off the HCBS/ID waiver waiting list.

  • $1.3 million to increase direct support staff wages at Intermediate Care Facilities for individuals with Intellectual Disorders (ICF/ID). 

  • $1.8 million so that rural Iowans can better access home health care services and help offset the high price of gas.

  • $3 million to increase rates for those that provide behavioral health intervention services to children.

  • $385,000 to increase rates to autism providers (for applied behavior analysis).

Access to mental health services was improved: 

  • Created 14 new residencies for psychiatrists in rural areas and state-run institutions (HF 2578).

  • Paying mental health providers more for higher-needs patients, aka “tiered rates.” (HF 2546).
  • Funded a new Mental Health Professional Loan Repayment Program for social workers, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and mental health counselors. The $520,000 will help 13 professionals practicing in rural areas pay off student loans (HF 2549HF 2575).
  • Required insurance companies to add any out-of-state telehealth companies to their networks if they provide behavioral health services to Iowans with Iowa-licensed providers (HF 2578).
  • Updated the definition of “autism” to improve access to services (HF 2167).
  • Added $200,000 more (for total of $3.8 million) for school-based mental health services to children (HF 2575).

More supports for Iowans with disabiltiies and their families:  

  • Vocational rehabilitation services that help individuals with disabilities with employment could get more federal money if the state upped its funding; the Legislature increased their funds by $120,000 to do this, making the services available to more people (HF 2575).Making sure police reports on people experiencing a crisis are confidential (SF 513).
  • Allowing physical therapists and occupational therapists to authorize accessible parking permits, so you don’t have to return to physician (HF 2259). 
  • Updating the definition of “intellectual disability” and putting more checks in place before someone with an intellectual disability is admitted to a state-run mental health institution (HF 2578).

People with disabilities and their families spoke, and legislators listened.  Here are a couple examples of bills that started as a story from an advocate with a disability, and ended up becoming law!

  • Better screening of newborns to identify more genetic conditions at birth (SF 2345).
  • More resources for parents of deaf or hard-of-hearing children to help make sure they are on track (and stay on track) developmentally and don't fall behind in school (HF 604).
  • Review of state special education services to ensure uniformity in access regardless of whether services are received onsite in public or private schools (SF 2197).

Efforts to make voting more difficult were stopped:

  • A bill that would have required mail-in voters to include their voter verification number in order for their vote to be counted did not pass
  • This would have put another barrier up to voting by mail, which could have made it harder for Iowans with disabilities to vote (or to have their vote count).

2022 Losses

  • Creating scholarships for college-age students with disabilities who attend an alternative post-secondary transition program (like REACH at the University of Iowa, or NEXT at Northwestern College), including the $200,000 that would have helped start it, did not pass this year.  These programs can be very expensive, so helping young adults with disabilities access programs like this can help set them up for employment success in the future. The bill made it out of the House, but the Senate did not take it up.  Look for this to come up again in 2023.  As we mentioned, it sometimes takes two or more years to get a bill passed, so maybe 2023 will be that year!  (HF 2495)
  • Insurance companies consider hearing aids for children to be "cosmetic" and do not cover their cost. A bill that would have required insurance to pay for childhood hearing aids didn't pass this year, but legislators are going to see if an existing state program to reimburse parents for the costs of these hearing aids can be used ot help address this need. If not, you may see this coming back again in 2023. (HF 2568)
  • Voters with disabilities would have been allowed to request and vote an electronic absentee ballot if HF 2075 had passed, but it did not.  Maybe 2023 is a better year for this idea, since it is not an election year and county auditors would have more time to prepare for this. 
  • Balancing the rights of landlords and renters who have service animals, and making it a crime to lie about a pet being a service animal, have been issues for many years.  While a bill was introduced each year for the past three years, nothing passed in 2022. (HF 866)

We wanted to make sure you saw that many of the “wins” this year started with a parent or self advocate talking to their legislator, who then talked to other legislators, who then sponsored a bill that made its way to become law.  Advocacy does work, but it takes time. 

Do not be upset that something didn’t pass this year, it just means you need more time to build your case, find your champions, and grow more support for it in your community. The Iowa DD Council has many options to help you advocate. You can learn a lot at their annual Make Your Mark! Conference - so think about attending on September 14-15 at Prairie Meadows in Altoona.  Click here for more information.

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