One of my goals is that WV takes care of our own. I believe you can tell the true essence of a people by how they care for those who are disadvantaged. WV’s IDD (intellectual/developmentally disabled) program provides services that instruct, train, support, supervise, and assist individuals who have intellectual disabilities and/or developmental disabilities in achieving the highest level of independence and self-sufficiency possible. These services are provided in homes and communities instead of institutional facilities. In my opinion, we should be advocating for these types of programs that foster a spirit of achievement, provide services that keep families together, and benefit the communities wherein these families reside.
I advocated for clearing the IDD waiver waitlist in 2020 because it was the right thing to do. WV cut its IDD waiver program (trimming the services the state provides) in a year of budget crisis so that the state could provide program services to more families who needed it. WV cut the services and saved money, but there was a delay in extending the benefits to more families until 2020. 2020 was the first year after the cuts that the Governor actually included clearing the wait list in his proposed budget. There was some question that the money that had been saved by trimming services could be used for some other purpose, but I fought that hard and demanded the State abide by its word and clear the waitlist. I’d like to personally thank Tracy White of Cross Lanes, Christy Black of WV Developmental Disabilities Council, and Christina Detamore Smith, Disability Advocate and Trainer for their tireless efforts to bring awareness to this crucial issue.
I believe that families who have IDD members are just as West Virginian as anyone else. They are hardworking, caring, incredibly courageous friends and neighbors who go through their lives just like we do with jobs and homes to pay for and children to love and protect, except that many of them carry the knowledge that their children may never grow to adulthood, may never marry and have children of their own, need constant, ever-present, unrelenting care every moment, suffer pain, fear, and despair that we pray our own children never know, and that there is often no cure for their suffering. The IDD program helps these families stay together in their own homes and the goal is to help them achieve the highest level of independence and self-sufficiency possible in their lives. Although that is the goal, there is still a lot to do to make that happen for everyone who needs it. Below are the steps I believe we should be taking to accomplish this goal:
1) Make “Employment First” a reality in WV – Employment First means employment in a typical work environment. That means working with people who don’t have disabilities and earning real, regular wages (and benefits!) and experiencing life. That should be the norm for those with and without disabilities. Employment First helps those with disabilities do real work, in a real job, earn real wages and benefits, and all we are asking is to make this the norm in our State.
2) Review all other IDD waiver or assistance programs in other states and adapt our program to be the best it can be from both a fiscally responsible stance and what is most effective and needed by the families the program is designed to assist. The more efficient our program, the more families can be served, but we must do this in a way that still provides real, meaningful assistance to families. A service that doesn’t meet the need isn’t helping anyone.