Feb. 23, 2018: Watch Leah's WDRB Fox 41 Commentary
Feb. 22, 2018
Please Share! #14YearsisEnough
Apple Patch and Other Members of the Kentucky Association of Private Providers (KAPP) Urge Immediate Action
By Leah F. Campbell
Kentucky legislators have a difficult task as they determine how to allocate limited funds to deal with the needs of our entire Commonwealth. But some needs simply cannot be ignored when it comes to our most vulnerable citizens.
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been left behind for more than a decade. They are in danger of being left behind yet again in the currently proposed biennial budget.
Medicaid’s Supports for Community Living (SCL)) waiver reimbursement rates have not increased in 14 years, and my nonprofit agency’s ability to support these individuals in living independent and meaningful lives is in immediate jeopardy.
Providers across the Commonwealth are downsizing and closing their doors due to inadequate funding. The community-based services system is on the verge of collapse.
It is imperative that our legislative representatives ensure reimbursement rates are increased so that providers like Apple Patch and Cedar Lake and so many others can keep our doors open and continue providing critical services.
There are real people with real needs behind this funding request.
• Dave is a man with Down Syndrome who leases one of our houses and loves to work out at the YMCA. Prior to moving into his home, he spent two decades rarely interacting with anyone other than his neighbor caretaker. He is now a beloved member of his Zumba® class and has started to learn how to cook amazing meals on his own. Without additional funding, he is at risk of losing his house and being placed in an institution.
• Marie has been diagnosed with a moderate intellectual disability and was experiencing severe depression. But after utilizing our supported employment services she has found the perfect job at a daycare that has given new meaning to her life. Her coworkers rave about her dedication, and after receiving regular paychecks she enthusiastically embraced learning about banking and saving money with our agency’s supports; now the bank tellers even know her by name! Without additional funding, the supports that allow Marie to maintain her employment and growing financial independence will not continue.
• Ginny is wheelchair-bound and was institutionalized for eight years after losing both her parents within six months of each other. She had no friends or community interaction outside of paid medical staff, but after leasing one of our houses and participating in one of our day programs, she has developed a love for volunteering in the community through an adult scouting program that our agency supports. Ginny has such an intense love for the freedom and independence of her new life, and she inspires everyone around her to make the world a better place. Without additional funding, Ginny is at risk of losing that life that she loves so much and worked so hard to develop with the supports we are able to provide.
Fourteen years is too long. Despite the many challenges facing our Commonwealth, the Medicaid services that enable individuals with disabilities to live outside of institutions and have meaningful lives that enrich our communities cannot be ignored.
Supporting people with disabilities should be a respected and honored career that merits a living wage, but with reimbursement rates stagnant for 14 years, that is simply not possible. The angels that make up our direct support professional staff do not do it for the money – but we have run out of angels. Minimum wage was $5.15 in 2004. We, as service providers cannot attract and retain staff with 2004 reimbursement rates.
Without additional funding, Apple Patch – and all providers across the Commonwealth – will be forced to make difficult decisions that will have a devastating impact on Dave, Marie, Ginny, and the thousands of other disabled people supported by the SCL Medicaid Waiver.
On behalf of individuals with disabilities in Kentucky, I urge you to act today. Go to applepatch.org to contact your legislative representatives to communicate your support for an increase in SCL funding.
Attorney Leah F. Campbell is a KAPP board member and the executive director of Apple Patch Community, Inc., a nonprofit agency now in its 30th year that provides supports and services for 300 adults and children with disabilities in greater Louisville