Grassley Bill to Help Individuals With Disabilities Gain Independence Earns Support in Iowa

Written by Theresa Rose on June 19, 2015

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation that would create a demonstration project to encourage states to improve opportunities for individuals with disabilities to obtain employment in the community, gaining self-determination, independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion. Grassley cited supportive Iowans in announcing the measure.

“A key public policy goal is giving individuals with disabilities every chance to live and work as fully in the community as possible,” Grassley said. “Medicaid is one of the biggest programs that provides support for the disabled, and it doesn’t do enough to achieve the policy goal. States have financial disincentives to do more under the current system. This bill would try something different. For participating states, it would change the incentives and help states do what they’d really like to do to better serve individuals with disabilities.”

The Transition to Independence Act, S. 1604, would create a five-year, 10-state Medicaid demonstration program to give bonuses to states for helping individuals with disabilities achieve the goals of working and living in the community. It would encourage coordination among those who provide health services, housing, education and workforce training, transportation and other support to people with disabilities to maximize the outcome for the individual. The bill would be deficit-neutral. Grassley introduced the bill with Sens. Ron Wyden and Bob Casey.

In his introductory remarks, Grassley noted Iowans who exemplify the ways the bill would help their experience. Rose Carroll of Dubuque recently visited Grassley through the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. She is in college working on a math degree and would like secure knowledge of the supports available to her when she needs them so that she can do all she can to participate in her community. The bill is designed to give states greater security in the programs they offer so they can in turn better serve individuals and their families.

Chris Sparks, executive director of Exceptional Persons Incorporated in Waterloo, and his staff go out into the community every day to provide direct support services for people with disabilities. It’s a struggle to find workers, train them and retrain them. The bill would provide states the incentives to increase the workforce to make it easier for Sparks and those like him to provide the services that allow individuals with disabilities to achieve independence.

Iowa affiliates of the national American Network of Community Options and Resources support the bill. They are Christian Opportunity Center in Pella; Hope Haven in Burlington; Opportunity Village in Clear Lake; Hills & Dales in Dubuque; New Hope Village in Carroll; and Exceptional Persons Incorporated in Waterloo.

The National Council on Disability provided technical assistance in developing the bill. Other national organizations supporting the bill include the American Association of People with Disabilities, the American Association on Health and Disability, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the National Adult Day Services Association, the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services and Autism Speaks.