Thursday, January 28, 2010

Arc of the US Report: The Arc Condemns White House Aide's Use of R-Word

This event took place during an August meeting when White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel attended a weekly strategy session. In reference to liberal groups such as Move On creating and using attack ads against conservative Democrats who were opposing President Obama's health care reform, Mr Emanuel referred to some of the individuals in an inappropriate manner. Bellow is the official press release from The Arc of the United States.


Washington, DC – Reports that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel used an epithet relating to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is both shocking and disappointing.
According to a Wall Street Journal story on an embattled White House, “Some attendees said they were planning to air ads attacking conservative Democrats who were balking at Mr. Obama’s health-care overhaul. ‘F—ing retarded,’ Mr. Emanuel scolded the group, according to several participants.” We hope that the Members of Congress in that meeting were equally offended.

This is the second serious verbal miscue by the Administration about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. President Obama’s unfortunate statement last year on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, equating his poor bowling performance with that of people with intellectual disabilities, sparked justifiable outrage from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The President subsequently apologized for his remarks and disabilities advocates saw it as a teachable moment. Mr. Emanuel’s use of hateful language would suggest that it is the White House staff that needs to be taught a lesson in respect for people with disabilities.

Statements such as these - particularly when used by someone at high level—amplifies pervasive societal attitudes that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities somehow don’t measure up - that their lives are worth less. “Using a slur about people with intellectual disabilities to criticize other people just isn’t right,” said Peter V. Berns, chief executive officer of The Arc of the United States. “For people with disabilities it is disrespectful and demeaning and only serves to marginalize a constituency that already struggles for empowerment on every front,” Berns added.

Disability rights advocates had high hopes for this Administration when the President appointed a Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy. This was a move that the Administration called: “our first step to ensure that we have a strong advocate for people with disabilities at the highest levels of our Administration.”

The more than seven million individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families demand an apology for Mr. Emanuel’s use of language that denigrates our constituency. The White House needs to lead by example and demonstrate through words and actions that it is not acceptable to use people with disabilities as a source for ridicule. To condone this language is to deny opportunities for people with disabilities in the workplace, in the community, in school, and in every other quarter of society.

The Arc of the United States strongly supports legislation (S.2781) introduced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland that would change the term “mental retardation” or “mentally retarded” to “intellectual disabilities.” Given the two White House incidents of inappropriate use of the term regarding these constituencies, The Arc hopes that the Obama Administration will put its full force behind the enactment of this legislation.

The Arc of the United States promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetime.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hill Report: President Obama's State of the Union Address Full Text

Madame Speaker, Vice President Biden, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
Our Constitution declares that from time to time, the President shall give to Congress information about the state of our union. For two hundred and twenty years, our leaders have fulfilled this duty. They have done so during periods of prosperity and tranquility. And they have done so in the midst of war and depression; at moments of great strife and great struggle.

It's tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our progress was inevitable - that America was always destined to succeed. But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt. When the market crashed on Black Tuesday and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain. These were times that tested the courage of our convictions, and the strength of our union. And despite all our divisions and disagreements; our hesitations and our fears; America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, and one people.

Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history's call.

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted - immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.

But the devastation remains. One in ten Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. For those who had already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

This recession has also compounded the burdens that America's families have been dealing with for decades - the burden of working harder and longer for less; of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids with college.

So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They're not new. These struggles are the reason I ran for President. These struggles are what I've witnessed for years in places like Elkhart, Indiana and Galesburg, Illinois. I hear about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by children - asking why they have to move from their home, or when their mom or dad will be able to go back to work.

For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They are tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can't afford it. Not now.

So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope - what they deserve - is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories and different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared. A job that pays the bills. A chance to get ahead. Most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.

You know what else they share? They share a stubborn resilience in the face of adversity. After one of the most difficult years in our history, they remain busy building cars and teaching kids; starting businesses and going back to school. They're coaching little league and helping their neighbors. As one woman wrote me, "We are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged."

It is because of this spirit - this great decency and great strength - that I have never been more hopeful about America's future than I am tonight. Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it's time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength.

And tonight, I'd like to talk about how together, we can deliver on that promise.

It begins with our economy.

Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy to do. And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal.

But when I ran for President, I promised I wouldn't just do what was popular - I would do what was necessary. And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost.

So I supported the last administration's efforts to create the financial rescue program. And when we took the program over, we made it more transparent and accountable. As a result, the markets are now stabilized, and we have recovered most of the money we spent on the banks.

To recover the rest, I have proposed a fee on the biggest banks. I know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea, but if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.

As we stabilized the financial system, we also took steps to get our economy growing again, save as many jobs as possible, and help Americans who had become unemployed.

That's why we extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans; made health insurance 65% cheaper for families who get their coverage through COBRA; and passed 25 different tax cuts.

Let me repeat: we cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95% of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college. As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas, and food, and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.

Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. 200,000 work in construction and clean energy. 300,000 are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, and first responders. And we are on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year.

The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act. That's right - the Recovery Act, also known as the Stimulus Bill. Economists on the left and the right say that this bill has helped saved jobs and avert disaster. But you don't have to take their word for it.

Talk to the small business in Phoenix that will triple its workforce because of the Recovery Act.

Talk to the window manufacturer in Philadelphia who said he used to be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until he had to add two more work shifts just because of the business it created.

Talk to the single teacher raising two kids who was told by her principal in the last week of school that because of the Recovery Act, she wouldn't be laid off after all.

There are stories like this all across America. And after two years of recession, the economy is growing again. Retirement funds have started to gain back some of their value. Businesses are beginning to invest again, and slowly some are starting to hire again.

But I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from; who send out resumes week after week and hear nothing in response. That is why jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, and that is why I am calling for a new jobs bill tonight.

Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America's businesses. But government can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers.

We should start where most new jobs do - in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, or a worker decides its time she became her own boss.

Through sheer grit and determination, these companies have weathered the recession and are ready to grow. But when you talk to small business owners in places like Allentown, Pennsylvania or Elyria, Ohio, you find out that even though banks on Wall Street are lending again, they are mostly lending to bigger companies. But financing remains difficult for small business owners across the country.

So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. I am also proposing a new small business tax credit - one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment; and provide a tax incentive for all businesses, large and small, to invest in new plants and equipment.

Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. From the first railroads to the interstate highway system, our nation has always been built to compete. There's no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.

Tomorrow, I'll visit Tampa, Florida, where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the Recovery Act. There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help our nation move goods, services, and information. We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities, and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it's time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the United States of America.

The House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps. As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same. People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay.

But the truth is, these steps still won't make up for the seven million jobs we've lost over the last two years. The only way to move to full employment is to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth, and finally address the problems that America's families have confronted for years.

We cannot afford another so-called economic "expansion" like the one from last decade - what some call the "lost decade" - where jobs grew more slowly than during any prior expansion; where the income of the average American household declined while the cost of health care and tuition reached record highs; where prosperity was built on a housing bubble and financial speculation.

From the day I took office, I have been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious - that such efforts would be too contentious, that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for awhile.

For those who make these claims, I have one simple question:

How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold?

You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China's not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany's not waiting. India's not waiting. These nations aren't standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They are making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.

Well I do not accept second-place for the United States of America. As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may be, it's time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.

One place to start is serious financial reform. Look, I am not interested in punishing banks, I'm interested in protecting our economy. A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs. It channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes. But that can only happen if we guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy.

We need to make sure consumers and middle-class families have the information they need to make financial decisions. We can't allow financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to take risks that threaten the whole economy.

The House has already passed financial reform with many of these changes. And the lobbyists are already trying to kill it. Well, we cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back.

Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history - an investment that could lead to the world's cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year's investment in clean energy - in the North Carolina company that will create 1200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put 1,000 people to work making solar panels.

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. This year, I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate. I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy; and I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future - because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.

Third, we need to export more of our goods. Because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America. So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America. To help meet this goal, we're launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security.

We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores. But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules. And that's why we will continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia.

Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of our people.

This year, we have broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. The idea here is simple: instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform - reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to inner-cities. In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education. In this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than their potential.

When we renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these reforms to all fifty states. Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families. To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer-subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. And let's tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only ten percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after twenty years - and forgiven after ten years if they choose a career in public service. Because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college. And it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs - because they too have a responsibility to help solve this problem.

Now, the price of college tuition is just one of the burdens facing the middle-class. That's why last year I asked Vice President Biden to chair a task force on Middle-Class Families. That's why we're nearly doubling the child care tax credit, and making it easier to save for retirement by giving every worker access to a retirement account and expanding the tax credit for those who start a nest egg. That's why we're working to lift the value of a family's single largest investment - their home. The steps we took last year to shore up the housing market have allowed millions of Americans to take out new loans and save an average of $1,500 on mortgage payments. This year, we will step up re-financing so that homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages. And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle-class families that we still need health insurance reform.

Now let's be clear - I did not choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics.

I took on health care because of the stories I've heard from Americans with pre-existing conditions whose lives depend on getting coverage; patients who've been denied coverage; and families - even those with insurance - who are just one illness away from financial ruin.

After nearly a century of trying, we are closer than ever to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans. The approach we've taken would protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance industry. It would give small businesses and uninsured Americans a chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market. It would require every insurance plan to cover preventive care. And by the way, I want to acknowledge our First Lady, Michelle Obama, who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity and make our kids healthier.

Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses. And according to the Congressional Budget Office - the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress - our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades.

Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, this process left most Americans wondering what's in it for them.

But I also know this problem is not going away. By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber.

As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed. There's a reason why many doctors, nurses, and health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo. But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. Here's what I ask of Congress, though: Do not walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people.

Now, even as health care reform would reduce our deficit, it's not enough to dig us out of a massive fiscal hole in which we find ourselves. It's a challenge that makes all others that much harder to solve, and one that's been subject to a lot of political posturing.

So let me start the discussion of government spending by setting the record straight. At the beginning of the last decade, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. By the time I took office, we had a one year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. That was before I walked in the door.

Now if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit. But we took office amid a crisis, and our efforts to prevent a second Depression have added another $1 trillion to our national debt.

I am absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do. But families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. So tonight, I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the $1 trillion that it took to rescue the economy last year.

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.

We will continue to go through the budget line by line to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've already identified $20 billion in savings for next year. To help working families, we will extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers, and those making over $250,000 a year. We just can't afford it.

Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we will still face the massive deficit we had when I took office. More importantly, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will continue to skyrocket. That's why I've called for a bipartisan, Fiscal Commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The Commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans. And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason why we had record surpluses in the 1990s.

I know that some in my own party will argue that we cannot address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting. I agree, which is why this freeze will not take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger. But understand - if we do not take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery - all of which could have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.

From some on the right, I expect we'll hear a different argument - that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts for wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, and maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away. The problem is, that's what we did for eight years. That's what helped lead us into this crisis. It's what helped lead to these deficits. And we cannot do it again.

Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new. Let's invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let's meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here. Let's try common sense.

To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust - deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.

That's what I came to Washington to do. That's why - for the first time in history - my Administration posts our White House visitors online. And that's why we've excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions.

But we can't stop there. It's time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my Administration or Congress. And it's time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office. Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.

I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. You have trimmed some of this spending and embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single website before there's a vote so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.

Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don't also reform how we work with one another.

Now, I am not naïve. I never thought the mere fact of my election would usher in peace, harmony, and some post-partisan era. I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, have been taking place for over two hundred years. They are the very essence of our democracy.

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We cannot wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about their opponent - a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual Senators. Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, is just part of the game. But it is precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it is sowing further division among our citizens and further distrust in our government.

So no, I will not give up on changing the tone of our politics. I know it's an election year. And after last week, it is clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern. To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let's show the American people that we can do it together. This week, I'll be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans. And I would like to begin monthly meetings with both the Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can't wait.

Throughout our history, no issue has united this country more than our security. Sadly, some of the unity we felt after 9/11 has dissipated. We can argue all we want about who's to blame for this, but I am not interested in re-litigating the past. I know that all of us love this country. All of us are committed to its defense. So let's put aside the schoolyard taunts about who is tough. Let's reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values. Let's leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future - for America and the world.

That is the work we began last year. Since the day I took office, we have renewed our focus on the terrorists who threaten our nation. We have made substantial investments in our homeland security and disrupted plots that threatened to take American lives. We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security, and swifter action on our intelligence. We have prohibited torture and strengthened partnerships from the Pacific to South Asia to the Arabian Peninsula. And in the last year, hundreds of Al Qaeda's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed - far more than in 2008.

In Afghanistan, we are increasing our troops and training Afghan Security Forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home. We will reward good governance, reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans - men and women alike. We are joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitment, and who will come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose. There will be difficult days ahead. But I am confident we will succeed.

As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.

Tonight, all of our men and women in uniform -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world - must know that they have our respect, our gratitude, and our full support. And just as they must have the resources they need in war, we all have a responsibility to support them when they come home. That is why we made the largest increase in investments for veterans in decades. That is why we are building a 21st century VA. And that is why Michelle has joined with Jill Biden to forge a national commitment to support military families.

Even as we prosecute two wars, we are also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people - the threat of nuclear weapons. I have embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons, and seeks a world without them. To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades. And at April's Nuclear Security Summit, we will bring forty-four nations together behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.

These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of these weapons. That is why North Korea now faces increased isolation, and stronger sanctions - sanctions that are being vigorously enforced. That is why the international community is more united, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: they, too, will face growing consequences.

That is the leadership that we are providing - engagement that advances the common security and prosperity of all people. We are working through the G-20 to sustain a lasting global recovery. We are working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science, education and innovation. We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate change. We are helping developing countries to feed themselves, and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS. And we are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bio-terrorism or an infectious disease - a plan that will counter threats at home, and strengthen public health abroad.

As we have for over sixty years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. But we also do it because it is right. That is why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are working with many nations to help the people of Haiti recover and rebuild. That is why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; and we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity.

Abroad, America's greatest source of strength has always been our ideals. The same is true at home. We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; that if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.

We must continually renew this promise. My Administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination. We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate. This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. We are going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws - so that women get equal pay for an equal day's work. And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system - to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nations.

In the end, it is our ideals, our values, that built America - values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe; values that drive our citizens still. Every day, Americans meet their responsibilities to their families and their employers. Time and again, they lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their country. They take pride in their labor, and are generous in spirit. These aren't Republican values or Democratic values they're living by; business values or labor values. They are American values.

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions - our corporations, our media, and yes, our government - still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper. But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people's doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates into silly arguments, and big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.

No wonder there's so much cynicism out there.

No wonder there's so much disappointment.

I campaigned on the promise of change - change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can change - or at least, that I can deliver it.

But remember this - I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone. Democracy in a nation of three hundred million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it is.

Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths. We can do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what's best for the next generation.

But I also know this: if people had made that decision fifty years ago or one hundred years ago or two hundred years ago, we wouldn't be here tonight. The only reason we are is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and grandchildren.

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year. And what keeps me going - what keeps me fighting - is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism - that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people - lives on.

It lives on in the struggling small business owner who wrote to me of his company, "None of us," he said, "...are willing to consider, even slightly, that we might fail."

It lives on in the woman who said that even though she and her neighbors have felt the pain of recession, "We are strong. We are resilient. We are American."

It lives on in the 8-year old boy in Louisiana, who just sent me his allowance and asked if I would give it to the people of Haiti. And it lives on in all the Americans who've dropped everything to go some place they've never been and pull people they've never known from rubble, prompting chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A!" when another life was saved.

The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people.

We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment - to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.

Thank you. God Bless You. And God Bless the United States of America.

Hill Report: President Obama's State of the Union Address Begins

Media is reporting the speech will last about seventy five minutes. Here we go folks...

Hill Report: President Obama Addresses the Nation Tonight-State of the Union

The Arc of North Carolina will be watching and will post a report on President Obama's state of the union address.

NC News: Budget Cuts Cause Mom to Wait for Needed Services

Today the News and Observer ran this article regarding the serious impact the current budget is having on families of children with developmental disabilities who are in crisis. This is a very important story and its consequences are far reaching.

Published Wed, Jan 27, 2010 04:52 AM
Modified Wed, Jan 27, 2010 05:06 AM

Mom camps out to get spot in mental ward for son

RALEIGH Salima Mabry watched over her son Tuesday as he slept awkwardly in the chair where he had spent eight days waiting for a bed in a state mental hospital.

Joshua Stewart, 13, is severely autistic and has an IQ of 36. He can only speak in short, single words, such as "Ma" or "hurt."

He first arrived at Wake County's Crisis and Assessment unit for people with mental illness in the back of a squad car on Jan.18 after he attacked his mother and little brother.

The mother and son began a second week in a small interview room with no bed, no television and a single window. There was also no shower. Mabry had been sponging Joshua off over the sink in a public restroom down the hall. In a corner of the room are several plastic shopping bags stuffed with clothes.

"I'm exhausted," she said. "Most people flip out if they have to wait an hour to see the doctor. We've been here eight days. They say we've broken the record for waiting."

Joshua is among thousands of patients within the last year who have languished in emergency rooms or mental health clinics waiting for an open bed in a psychiatric hospital.

Years of budget cuts and failed reforms have left North Carolina's mental health system without sufficient resources to care for all those who need help.

The budget Gov. Bev Perdue signed in August cut $155million from an already struggling system, resulting in the loss of 354 jobs at state hospitals.

"Sadly, this young man is just one of many who will be stuck as the cuts to state services really hit home," said Vicki Smith, director of the advocacy group Disability Rights North Carolina. "People aren't getting the help they need; they go into crisis and then require crisis care and hospitalization."

Hill Report: President Obama Addresses the Nation Tonight-State of the Union

This evening, President Obama will speak to the nation in his annual state of the union address.
To say this year has been turbulent is an understatement. As a nation we are still facing a very serious recession that is taking longer than ever to get out of. We have been watching our state and nation struggle with growing health care costs and the most sweeping health care reform bill is officially stalled in Congress.  

Media outlets are stating that President Obama will tell America that there will be a salary freeze in his administration , he will end bonuses for his top political advisors and he will focus on fiscal discipline.

All media outlets today are highlighting the need for President Obama to focus on the needs of the middle class. 

We encourage you to take some time to watch this address. More than ever, the national political process will be having a major effect on the budget and policy in our state.

Most coverage will begin at 8:00pm with a pre-state of the union analysis. Please check your local listings.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Hot Topics: Hot Policy Topics This Week

North Carolina:
The General Assembly continues its interim session this week. Here are the hot policy topics and meetings for the week.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
10:00 AM House Select Committee on High Speed Internet in Rural Areas 544 LOB
10:00 AM Taskforce on Childhood Obesity 643 LOB
2:00 PM House Select Committee on the Use of 911 Funds 421 LOB

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
10:00 AM Children and Youth, Legislative Study Commission on 415 LOB

Thursday, January 28, 2010
10:00 AM Lottery Oversight Committee 421 LOB

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Carolina NewsWire: The Coalition Notes that Prevalences Rates Increase As Budget Decreases

The Coalition Notes that Prevalence Rates Increase As Budget Decreases

Raleigh, NC -- The Coalition, a group of 40 statewide organizations advocating together to meet the needs of North Carolinians living with mental illness, developmental disabilities and the disease of addiction, noted that two recent reports indicate an increase in both the birth rate of children with Down Syndrome and an increase in the prevalence rate of children with autism spectrum disorder. The first report from the November 30th issue of Pediatrics says that the prevalence rate of infants born with Down Syndrome increased by 31% between 1979 and 2003. This is an increase from 9 to 11.8 per 10,000 live births in the 10 regions of the United States that were studied. This represents an average increase of 0.9% per year. The study stated the “number of children, adolescents, and adults with Down syndrome is likely to increase”. The report highlighted the fact that like the overall population in the United States, people with Down syndrome are living longer and will require the same services that our aging population requires. These services include long-term supports and the ability to age in their homes and communities.

A second recent report, this time by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed that the prevalence rate of autism spectrum disorder is 1 percent of the population or one in 100 children eight years of age. This is a 57% increase from 2002 to 2006. The CDC report points to delays that still exist in early diagnosis for children and that this continual lag in identification “needs to be addressed as a public health concern”.

At the same time these studies are demonstrating an increase in the prevalence rates of children born with Down Syndrome and children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, we are confronted with severe and deep budget cuts for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Information in both of these reports indicates a need for policy decisions that will support families and individuals through early diagnosis, early intervention services and long-term supports. In North Carolina we are seeing policy decisions that are eroding critical supports and are plunging families into crisis.

Last year the North Carolina General Assembly budget cuts were significant for families and people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The cuts include $16 million in state funded dollars that provide needed support for people receiving the Community Alternative Program (CAP/MR-DD) Waiver and $40 million in state dollars previously appropriated to Local Management Entities for support services for these families. More recently, there were additional concerns about the loss of early intervention funds when the Division of Medical Assistance (DMA) announced that Community based rehabilitative service (CBRS) as a reimbursable service would be discontinued effective June 30, 2010. CBRS is a developmental intervention uniquely designed to enhance cognitive, physical, behavioral, self-help, social-emotional, and language skills. Early intervention for children with Down Syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and other developmental disabilities has proven to be effective in increasing future independent skills and reducing future costs. Yet we are at risk of losing this critical service for many children and families.

In a recent survey, being conducted by the Coalition, out of 642 respondents 54.5% said that they had been impacted by reductions in their services. The survey also revealed that 83.5% of the services being reduced were in home and community based services. Of the 642 respondents to the survey 61.6% self identified as having a developmental or intellectual disability. Many of the parents of children with developmental disabilities expressed serious concerns that their children will not have the support services needed to continue their progress in independent living skills. As one mother said, “My son would not have made the progress he has made and I would not have had any idea how to assist him without the direction of his CBRS provider. Another said, “I saw both of my sons' language develop from practically nonexistent to being able to communicate basic wants and needs. And today, at the ages of 3 and 5 years old, both are speaking in complete sentences. I saw both of my sons' language develop from practically nonexistent to being able to communicate basic wants and needs. And today, at the ages of 3 and 5 years old, both are speaking in complete sentences. I saw both of my sons' language develop from practically nonexistent to being able to communicate basic wants and needs. And today, at the ages of 3 and 5 years old, both are speaking in complete sentences.I saw both of my sons language develop from practically non-existent to being able to communicate basic wants and needs. And today at the ages of 3 and 5, they are both speaking in complete sentences.”I saw both of my sons' language develop from practically nonexistent to being able to communicate basic wants and needs. And today, at the ages of 3 and 5 years old, both are speaking in complete sentences.

Other parents who replied to the survey stated that their families are facing the real question of one parent giving up their job to absorb the majority of daily in home living care for their child.

Dave Richard, Executive Director of The Arc of North Carolina, responded to these cuts by stating, “We urge our leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly and the Governor’s office to make the protection of services for people with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance abuse services a priority for our state. We can no longer put these fragile families and individuals in jeopardy during this devastating economic recession.”

Additional information on The Coalition, working to meet the needs of North Carolinians living with developmental disabilities, mental illness and the disease of addiction, can

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monday Hot Topics: Hot Policy Topics This Week

North Carolina:
This week will see the following interim committees meeting. Another busy week at the General Assembly as we move closer to the start of session in May.

Tuesday, Jan. 19
1 p.m. | The Gov Ops Subcommittee-Justice & Public Safety meets, 415 LOB.
1 p.m. | The Gov Ops Subcommittee-Education/Health and Human Services meets, 421 LOB.
1 p.m. | The Gov Ops Subcommittee-Statewide/Capital/Gen. Gov. meets, 544 LOB.
1 p.m. | The Gov Ops Subcommittee-Natural & Economic Resources/Transportation meets, 605 LOB.
2 p.m. | The Joint Legislative Joining our Businesses and Schools (JOBS) Commission meets, 643 LOB.

Wednesday, Jan. 20
9 a.m. | The Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations meets, 643 LOB.
11:30 a.m. | The Joint Select Committee on State Funded Student Financial Aid meets, 421 LOB.

Thursday, Jan. 21
9 a.m. | The State Health Plan Blue Ribbon Task Force Committee meets, 1228 LB.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Arc of NC: Policy Blog Notice

The Arc of North Carolina Policy Blog will not be updated on Monday, January 18th. We will be taking a break to honor MLK.

NC News: Disability Rights NC Press Release-Federal Judge Enforces ADA in North Carolina

Friday, January 15, 2010

Federal Judge Enforces ADA in North Carolina

Compliance with ADA in the Public Interest

Raleigh, NC – The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits the unnecessary segregation and unjustified institutional isolation of persons with disabilities. In its administration of federally funded services, therefore, the State is required to provide services in the “most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the individual.”

In his Order, Judge Boyle held that the plaintiffs had presented “a strong case that their funding is being terminated in violation of the ADA” and that the “decision to terminate funding does not appear to be supported by legal justification recognized under the ADA.” Judge Boyle also held that if Marlo M. and Durwood W. were to be forced to move from their current community setting, both would suffer irreparable injury, recognizing that the nature of their disabilities made them poor candidates for group housing and that they would “suffer regressive consequences if moved, even temporarily.”

Finally, Judge Boyle ruled that considerations of the public interest clearly weighed in favor of an injunction, holding that “the public interest lies with upholding the law and having the mandates of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act enforced.”

“The message is clear,” states Vicki Smith, Executive Director of Disability Rights North Carolina, “the state of North Carolina and its LMEs must maintain funding which allows people with disabilities to continue living in the community.”

# # #
Disability Rights North Carolina is the state’s federally mandated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities. One of the P&A’s primary federal mandates is to protect and advocate against the abuse and neglect of people with disabilities.

National News: Win for Accessible Housing

This article is from Civil

Major Settlement Will Ensure That People with Disabilities Have Access to Housing

January 14, 2010 - Posted by Beth Sadler

In a landmark settlement announced this week, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and its member organizations reached an agreement with A.G. Spanos Companies to increase housing accessibility for people with disabilities.  It is the largest fair housing settlement relating to people with disabilities to date, according to NFHA.

The agreement requires Spanos, the fifth largest residential real estate developer in the United States, to retrofit apartments in 11 states with accommodations for people with limited mobility. Spanos will also contribute multi-million dollar funding both locally and nationally to provide other supports and compensations for its residents and others with disabilities.

Read More: here

Monday, January 11, 2010

MH/DD/SAS Legislative Oversight Committee-Upcoming Meeting Wednesday, January 13, 2010 and Agenda

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services will be meeting on Wednesday, January 10, 2010 at 10:00am in room 643 LOB.
Here is the proposed agenda:

Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on
Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, & Substance Abuse Services

January 13, 2010 10:00 A.M.; Room 643, Legislative Office Building
Rep. Verla Insko Co-Chair Presiding
January 14, 2010 – Closed Meeting - Site Visits

Opening Comments - Chairs

Overview of Revenues Barry Boardman, Fiscal Research Division

Medicaid Budget Shortfall Lee Dixon, Fiscal Research Division

Concerns April Harris-Britt, Ph.D.John Gilmore, M.D.

CABHAs Michael Watson, Assistance Secretary for MH/DD/SAA Development

System Vision for MH/DD/SAS Michael Watson, DHHS


Telemedicine SL 2009-315 (H1189) Dr. Michael Lancaster, Chief of Clinical Policy for DMH/DD/SAS

First Commitment Pilot Mark O’Donnell, LME Liaison and Project Director for the 1st Evaluation Pilot Project

Mobile Crisis Services and START Teams Christina Carter, LCSW Implementation Manager, Division of MH/DD/SAS

Committee Discussion and General Public Comments

Monday Hot Topics: Hot Policy Topics This Week

North Carolina:
This wee the General Assembly interim calendar is full of meetings dealing with topics that range from health care to finance. Of importance to our community is the Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Substance Abuse Legislative Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

Monday, January 11, 2010
10:00 AM Child Fatality Taskforce  1027/1128 LB
3:00 PM  Domestic Violence, Joint Legislative Committee  544 LOB

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
10:00 AM Health Care Oversight, Joint Legislative Committee  643 LOB

Wednesday, January 13, 2010
10:00 AM Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse, Joint Legislative Oversight Committee  643 LOB

Thursday, January 14, 2010
10:00 AM Dropout Prevention and High School Graduation, Joint Legislative Commission
544 LOB
10:00 AM Joint House and Senate Finance Committee  643 LOB

Friday, January 8, 2010

NC News: Chris Fitzsimon Talks Budget-NC Policy Watch Article

This week no matter what committee meeting you attended, the conversation at some point turned to the budget. Chris Fitzsimon with NC Policy Watch lays out the budget situation in this article and calls upon legislative leaders to have courage and find solutions for our state that protect people who are already struggling.

Courage should be in the budget
By Chris Fitzsimon

RALEIGH It's understandable if you are confused about how things are going in North Carolina and what's likely to happen with the economy and state budget next year. How could you not be?

In just the last few days, headlines have proclaimed that the stock market has reached a 15-month high and that manufacturing activity is increasing. Prominent state business leaders said earlier this week that things are looking up for 2010 as confidence in the economy is beginning to return. Sounds promising.

But the headlines also brought news that foreclosure filings in North Carolina climbed in 2009 to a record 63,341, almost 10,000 more than in 2008 and a staggering 45,000 more than just 10 years ago. The state unemployment rate hovers near a record 11 percent, and that's the average. It's more than 13 percent in many counties.

The chief economist at the General Assembly still expects slower-than-projected state revenue collections to create another budget shortfall this summer that could rise to several hundred million dollars. And that's after accounting for the $427 million raised by settling tax disputes with corporations in the state. That program was expected to bring in $150 million.

Then there is the $2.5 billion budget cliff facing the state in 2011-2012 as the federal stimulus dollars run out and a temporary tax increase expires.

That is the backdrop as 2010 begins. Add in the looming November elections and an understandably anxious electorate, and you have a recipe for extreme caution among officials, many of whom aren't prone to bold action in the best of times.

There is a growing consensus among lawmakers that one part of the solution to address this year's shortfall and the approaching budget cliff won't happen this year. Long-overdue tax reform will be pushed back to 2011 at least, despite the fact that expanding the sales tax base to services could raise more revenue to prevent further rips in the state's already tattered safety net.

Read more here: N&O Opinion.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

National News: Capitol Weekly Report on Recession and People with Disabilities

During a recession, the disabled are at the greatest risk

By Jim Allup | 01/07/10 12:00 AM PST

The worst recession in decades is a scary period for many American families. But it is a time of particular peril for
those living with work-limiting disabilities, especially in states such as California, where involuntary furloughs and
layoffs of state employees who process Social Security disability claims further bog down a system that is already
in crisis.

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) system worked well for decades, but it is creaking under the
weight of a growing population of people with disabilities, increasing demands on the Social Security
Administration and a wave of government retirements. Social Security employees work as hard as they can to
help people who deserve care, but their best efforts are only slowly winnowing down a hearing backlog of nearly
723,000 disabled Americans—including 66,000 Californians—waiting months or years to receive their rightful

The recession is making things even worse. From 2004 through 2007, application levels were stable, with the SSA
processing between 2.1 million and 2.2 million SSDI applications each year. Last year, more than 2.7 million
people filed SSDI applications.

Furloughing state workers only adds to the misery. The Social Security Administration relies on state employees
to process disability claims, but provides full reimbursement for all expenses. So states are not saving any money
by forcing these employees to take time off. It just adds to California’s disability backlog.

Read the rest of the story at Capitol Weekly.

Monday, January 4, 2010

NC News: CarolinaNewswire Reports on MH DD SAS Cuts

The Coalition Launches Survey on Impact of Cuts to MHDDSAS System

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Betsy MacMichael knows that people with developmental disabilities are losing their services. As an advocate and Chair of the Developmental Disabilities Consortium she hears from parents daily. “People whose services have been reduced or who are on waiting lists call us daily, barely coping and needing our help. By documenting and counting their stories, we will have powerful information to share with policymakers..”. It’s not just those with developmental disabilities; advocates for people with mental illness and for those with addictive disease are hearing similar problems, including the closure of long time programs because they cannot make ends meet. Several months ago Ms. MacMichael and other members of The Coalition came together to figure out how to document the loss of services that would follow 100s of millions of dollars in cuts to the system that serves people with, addictive disease, mental illness and developmental disabilities.

The Coalition, a group of 40 statewide organizations advocating together to meet the needs of North Carolinians living with mental illness, developmental disabilities and the disease of addiction, launched an online survey in December seeking to capture the impact of budget cuts to the mental health, developmental disabilities, and addictive disease system and those it serves and share the information with policymakers. There are separate surveys for those who get services and supports, those employed delivering services, and those who operate organizations providing services. “Our aim is to look at cuts from many perspectives: the parent who has heard their child’s support hours will be cut, the individual who fears they will lose needed treatment, the employee who has been laid off, or the CEO who is cutting wages and closing programs due to lack of funds,” says Jennifer Mahan, The Coalition Chair.

The survey is a short questionnaire that asks if they know someone who has lost services, had services reduce, or is worried this will happen, then asks what kind of services, demographics about the person filling out the survey, and where the services are provided. The surveys for employers and employees are similar, but focus on loss of employment, wages, and the impact for the delivery of services.

Jennifer Mahan, who also works as Director of Policy for the Mental Health Association in North Carolina, has already seen her organization lay off 160 staff that provided direct services to people with mental illness. “Services are being cut across the board and we wanted to show that people are being affected now, and not wait until we have reports a year from now that shows the harm of these cuts. As a coalition that has advocated for increased funding for MHDDSAS since 1991, we must make it clear to lawmakers and budget writers that these cuts are hurting people.” The survey can be filled out again if the status of the person changes from fearing loss of services to actually having hours or services cut. The information is collected monthly and the survey will be available online until June 30th 2010.

In the first month of the survey there have been over 590 individuals who have responded. Of those responding, 22.7% indicated that all of their services were lost. 54.4% reported their services have been reduced, and 22.9% are worried about losing all of their services or having them reduced in the future. 84.8% of these services are In- Home or Other Community based Services, 22.6% are residential services and 21.9% were related to employment or vocational training/support. Almost half of the surveys related to services provided to those under the age of 21 According to Vicki Smith, Executive Director of Disability Rights NC, “The impact of the economic crisis of the lives of individuals is no longer a possibility but a reality for hundreds of people.”

One mother shared, “As a mother, it has been heartbreaking to watch and wait as precious years pass and my son struggles because there are no resources available to help him.” Additional information on The Coalition and upcoming activities can be found on the organization’s web site,

Copyright © All rights reserved.

Monday Hot Topics: Hot Policy Topics This Week

Happy New Year Everyone! Welcome to 2010!

House and Senate members are back at the General Assembly tomorrow to continue their interim committee and commission work. This is going to be a busy month and could well be a bell weather for how short session will go.

So here it is this week at the General Assembly:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010
10:00 AM Poverty Reduction and Economic Recovery - Subcommittee on Persistent Poverty 415 LOB
10:00 AM Poverty Reduction and Economic Recovery - Subcommittee on Tax Issues 423 LOB
10:00 AM Poverty Reduction and Economic Recovery - Subcommittee on Jobs 424 LOB
10:00 AM Poverty Reduction and Economic Recovery - Subcommittee on State Programs 425 LOB
11:00 AM Poverty Reduction and Economic Recovery Study Commission 643 LOB

Wednesday, January 6, 2010
9:30 AM Revenue Laws Study Committee 544 LOB

Thursday, January 7, 2010
10:00 AM Children and Youth, Legislative Study Commission on 415 LOB
10:00 AM Aging, North Carolina Study Commission on 544 LOB