California’s protection & advocacy system
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Disability Rights California worked on many issues this year to help advance the rights of people with disabilities, and we fought against a number of cuts to programs people with disabilities care about. Because of the budget crisis this was a difficult year for disability rights advocates, with multiple cuts to multiple programs, but the year was not without success. See some of our legislative achievements here:
One of our advocacy successes last year was convincing the legislature and Governor Brown to reverse the decision to require fingerprinting of nearly half a million IHSS recipients. Fingerprinting service users was part of the previous Administration’s anti-fraud package, even though it was projected to cost at least $41.6 million in new equipment and training of numerous county staff to operate it.
This bill to repeal the fingerprinting requirement was co-sponsored by the California Association of Public Authorities (CAPA) for IHSS, organizations of IHSS providers and DRC. Effective media outreach by the coalition conveyed the message that for each $5000 military-style camera purchased for fingerprinting, 500 IHSS hours could be bought instead.
As California’s deficit deepened in 2010, the budget battles became more adversarial. With a goal of reducing state spending on In Home Supportive Services by 50%, Gov. Schwarzenegger portrayed the program as riddled with fraud. We helped focus news reports on the small amount of fraud found, and on local stories about people with disabilities who needed IHSS to stay in their homes. And our advocates worked hard with the legislature to keep new restrictions on home care providers to a minimum. In early October, the budget was finally adopted. Due to successful advocacy, smaller cuts of 3.6% in IHSS hours were agreed to, and the right of consumers to choose their own service providers was preserved.
Many other cuts affecting people with disabilities were rejected due to strong advocacy by Disability Rights California working in coalitions. The final budget includes the closure of the Lanterman Developmental Center, which will mean the transition of its residents into the community. One of our staff attorneys, Will Leiner, gave impassioned testimony in favor of its closure, drawing on his own experiences with a sibling who moved into the community some years ago.
We were also successful in getting budget language adopted requiring regional centers to inform people with disabilities and their families about exceptions to the new service limits in the Lanterman Act and how to apply for them.
After the divorce, 12 year old Sondra split her time 50-50 between her mother and father. Then her father petitioned the court for full custody on the basis that her mother was too disabled to care for her. This and many similar situations prompted Fathers and Families, Disability Rights California, and American Retirees Association to sponsor SB 1188, adding a section to the Family Code prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in custody and visitation matters. An opinion piece in favor of the bill, by Glenn Sachs of Fathers and Families and Margaret Johnson, our advocacy director, was featured in the Los Angeles Daily News. The bill was signed into law in August.