Highlights of 2003
The CT Council began to promote systems change for the inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms in 1987 and introduced the concept of inclusive education to CT in 1989. The Council supported numerous advocacy, capacity building and systems change initiatives over the years, including support for the start-up of the CT Coalition for Inclusive Education (CCIE) in 1990. In 1991, 6 parents, the Arc of CT and CCIE sued the CT State Department of Education (SDE) in federal court for failure to enforce federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requirements that require children with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate. The case, known as P.J. et.al. v. State Board of Education et.al., reached a negotiated settlement in May 2002.In January 2002, the CT Council began supporting the University Center for Excellence (UCE) at the UCONN Health Center to provide training, in partnership with 10 parent agencies, to parents in all of CT's school districts on how to use special education to improve its effectiveness for students with disabilities with a particular emphasis on inclusive philosophy, policies and practices. Since January 2002, a ten-hour Understanding Special Education (USE) course has been delivered in Spanish and English to more than 570 parents and educational professionals in 57 school districts. Parents who attended the training reported feeling better equipped to advocate for their children and better prepared to actively participate in planning their child's educational program. Educators reported having increased knowledge of special education laws and an improved ability to work cooperatively with families.
The CT Council funded Partners In Policymaking training in CT from 1990 to 1991 and then again from 1998 through 2003. In both instances training was provided in collaboration with organizations of parents and self-advocates. Over 180 self-advocates and parents have graduated from the 8 weekend series of training. Since 2000, the Council has supported the implementation of Partners In Policymaking training through the University Center for Excellence (UCE) at the UCONN Health Center, in collaboration with the CT Association of Centers for Independent Living. Partners In Policymaking graduates reported becoming involved in policy and advocacy roles at the state and local level. Seven (7) out of 20 (35%) CT Council members graduated from Partners In Policymaking, including the Council's Chair and Vice Chair, and 3 self-advocates who are active in local and statewide People First organizations.
The CT Council funded the start-up of the first state chapter of Kids As Self-Advocates (KASA) through Family Voices of CT in 2002. In 2003, KASA became an in-house, staff supported initiative of the CT Council. Also in 2003, through a memorandum of agreement, the State Department of Education transferred $10,000 for KASA to the CT Council. KASA is a national, grassroots network of youth with disabilities. The CT Council started KASA to address the need for new and young leaders. While CT Council staff provided technical assistance and support to KASA, two KASA members were paid stipends to serve as organizers of KASA events and meetings. KASA has about 30 members. KASA presented in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the annual conference of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, at a CT Council meeting, and at the CT Family Support, Self-Determination and People First Conference. KASA will be making 4 presentations on transition to public school personnel.
OLMSTEAD AND THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
In response to erosion of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by U.S. Supreme Court and circuit court decisions, the CT Council funded the Americans with Disabilities Act Coalition of CT (ADACC) in 2001 to enhance and expand CT civil rights statutes that cover people with disabilities. Following the gathering of data to initiate a meaningful codification campaign, in 2002 ADACC launched an education campaign for a legislative initiative. The initiative sought to incorporate the first 3 titles of the ADA into state statutes. During “The Campaign For Statutory Enhancement” in 2003, fifty-two (52) people from across the state provided information about ADA to their elected officials and 22 of these people also delivered testimony at a CT General Assembly public hearing. The proposed legislation ultimately failed. ADACC organized a Task Force to re-conceptualize legislation, and to negotiate legislative language with representatives of business and industry, in order to re-submit legislation during the 2004 session of the CT General Assembly.
In response to the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision, in January 2000 the CT Council called and organized the CT Olmstead Coalition. The CT Council ran the CT Olmstead Coalition until the Fall of 2000. In 2001, the Council funded the CT Association of Centers for Independent (CECIL) to support the activities of the CT Olmstead Coalition to influence CT's Olmstead plan. Also in response to the Olmstead decision, the CT Department of Social Services and the CT General Assembly's Long-Term Care Planning Committee created a "Community Options Task Force" in March 2000 to write a CT Olmstead Plan. Members of the CT Olmstead Coalition participated on the Task Force. The Task Force issued its plan, called "Choices Are For Everyone: Continuing The Movement Toward Community-based Supports," in March 2002.Members on the Task Force representing the CT Olmstead Coalition issued supplementary comments to the plan emphasizing the need for more description of specific strategies in the plan, including a timeline and measurable outcomes, as well as long-term, meaningful numerical targets for integrating additional people into the community. The Task Force plan referenced the federal Nursing Facilities Transition Grant of $800,000 CT received over 3 years to transition 150 people from institutions to the community. It was estimated that there were 344 people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities in skilled nursing facilities in CT. Through 2003, 39 people moved out of institutions into the community. Five (5) additional people were waiting to transition. The transition of additional people from institutions was in jeopardy as CT's Personal Assistance Medicaid waiver reached its capacity of 498 people.
Whether they were already living in the community, or were preparing to leave an institution, people with disabilities were hard pressed to find the personal support they needed. The shortage of personal assistants, and a lack of the skills on the part of people with disabilities to supervise the assistants they had, were major problems addressed by the CT Association of Personal Assistants (CTAPA). CTAPA was founded in 2001 by personal assistants for personal assistants with support from the CT Council. CTAPA worked to elevate the job of personal assistant to a more professional level and to increase the development of a large competent workforce. CTAPA had 177 members, including 75 personal assistants, 63 employers of personal assistants, and 39 agency representatives. During 2003, CTAPA received inquiries from 26 potential or actual personal assistants, 18 employers and 9 agencies. Six (6) personal assistants were referred to employers, but only one match was successful.
At the national level, the CT Council and the Office of Protection and Advocacy enabled the participation of ADAPT of CT in the "Free Our People March" to promote a national personal assistance program known as MiCASSA - Medicaid Community Based Attendant Services and Supports Act. MiCASSA will provide attendant services to people in the community. ADAPT of CT joined hundreds of people with disabilities who marched from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to Washington, D.C, from September 4th through September 17, 2003. Three (3) members of CT's delegation to Congress have signed on in support of MiCASSA.
CT LIFESPAN RESPITE COALITION
Following a small feasibility study grant in 2001, in 2002 the CT Council supported the start-up and continuation of the CT Lifespan Respite Coalition (CLRC.) CLRC had 70 members. In 2003, in addition to Council support, CLRC obtained and successfully fulfilled a $120,000 contract from the CT Department of Public Health for the development of programs and materials for caregivers of children with special healthcare needs and developmental disabilities. These funds enabled CLRC to hold an all day symposium on the development of a model of intergenerational respite for seniors and children with developmental disabilities and to survey families of children with special needs on the appropriateness and availability of respite services in their communities. In addition, CLRC worked with Infoline to verify and update information about respite services published in Infoline's 2-1-1 telephone information system. The CT General Assembly's Human Services Committee introduced legislation to establish a state Commission on Respite. The bill failed but the bill will be re-introduced in 2004.
FAMILY SUPPORT, SELF-DETERMINATION AND PEOPLE FIRST
The CT Council joined with 13 other entities to support a combined family support, self-determination and People First of CT Conference. Over 300 people attended the 2-day event. The CT Council provided over 29% of the funding for the conference and CT Council staff participated in organizing and implementing the conference. Co-sponsors included DD Network agencies, the Office of Protection and Advocacy and University Center for Excellence at the UCONN Health Center, Department of Mental Retardation, CT Family Support Council, Families United for Children's Mental Health, FAVOR, Inc., Department of Children and Families, Family Voices of CT, CT Council on Disabilities, People First of CT, and the Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired. Directions, Inc., the Meriden-Wallingford Society for the Handicapped and the CT Parent Advocacy Center contributed scholarships.
The Connecticut Developmental Disabilities Network (DD Network) was established to provide leadership for implementation of the federal Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act. The DD Network included the CT Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Office of Protection and Advocacy and the University of Connecticut's A.J. Pappanikou Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. These three organizations have a common goal and purpose: the protection and full integration of individuals with developmental and other disabilities into society in a manner that is consistent with the unique strengths, resources, abilities and capabilities of each individual and his or her family. The DD Network formally organized in 2003 to plan and implement a forum for state legislators in 2004 on childhood inclusion, housing and transportation, to be visibly present during the opening of the 2004 session of the CT General Assembly, to coordinate legislative efforts and to share a newsletter.