A quick note from Rep. Walsh – Empowering individuals with developmental disabilities, and a 2016 legislative session update

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We’ve reached the halfway mark of the 2016 legislative session. This week, lawmakers in both chambers have been on the floor, passing legislation. You can always stay up to date on the latest floor action by checking out the House floor calendar on the Legislature’s official website – leg.wa.gov. In addition, you can get updated on the latest from my office by checking out my SoundCloud page here. Click here to listen to my most recent podcast.

Here’s a quick update on some of my legislation this session:

Parent to Parent program – The Parent to Parent program is a national nonprofit that aims to support parents of children with developmental disabilities by connecting them with other volunteer parents of children with similar needs. It’s already operating in 31 Washington counties. My bill would expand the program to the remaining counties and ensure parents are connected to other volunteer parents who can provide critical knowledge, support and training. The bill passed the House Friday on a 93-3 vote.

“Center-based services” – This bill defines “center-based services” for individuals with developmental disabilities as job training and skills development, and community employment services by qualified organizations. These services are currently referred to as “sheltered workshops,” which carries a negative connotation. My bill will simply clarify what prevocational services may be provided to individuals with developmental disabilities. This bill is also awaiting further action in the Rules Committee.

Community access services – In 2012, the Legislature passed legislation allowing working-age adults to transition to community access services only after completing nine months of an employment service. While this policy is undoubtedly well-intended, it caters primarily to individuals who have less acute disabilities. This policy has been beneficial for a number of individuals, but others with a vast range of developmental disabilities deserve better than the current one-size-fits-all policy approach. We must acknowledge that not everyone is a good fit for the nine-month employment model established by Developmental Disability Administration’s (DDA) employment services. Community access services can also be equally fulfilling, integrated, and can help break down social barriers while providing quality of life for many folks with developmental disabilities.

To address this inequity, my bill would expand opportunities for exceptions to the nine-month employment rule by requiring the DDA to take additional factors into consideration when determining if an exception is warranted. This is an important step to ensure individuals with developmental disabilities have options/choice and receive necessary services. Currently, about 3,000 individuals are not receiving either employment or community access services. We must continue to expand options for these individuals and their families.

Unfortunately, my bill will not likely advance this session, but I will work during the interim with advocates and families, and come back with the bill next year.

I want to emphasize that this is a supplemental year, so no major policies or spending should take place. These short sessions are merely meant for emergency appropriations, caseload forecasts adjustments, and small tweaks to existing policies.

If you have questions about bills being considered by the Legislature, or general questions about state government, I encourage you to get in touch with me. You can do so using the contact information below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Maureen Walsh

State Representative Maureen Walsh
16th Legislative District
E-mail: maureen.walsh@leg.wa.gov 
Web site: www.representativemaureenwalsh.com

Olympia Office (January-April)
420 John L. O’Brien Building – P.O. Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7836 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000
District Office (April-December)
26 East Main Street, Suite 8
Walla Walla, WA 98362
(509) 527-4151

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