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January 30, 2015

HelpMeSee Names Dr. Van Charles Lansingh Medical Officer, Latin America - PRNewswire

NEW YORK, Jan. 30, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- HelpMeSee, a global campaign to eliminate cataract blindness, has named Dr. Van Charles Lansingh as Medical Officer, Latin America. In this role, he will lead the campaign's work with surgical partners throughout Latin America and...



Super Bowl Ad Features Girl With Down Syndrome - DisabiltyScoop
A third-grader with Down syndrome will be front and center on advertising's biggest night of the year as part of a television commercial for McDonald's.

Study: By Age 6, Some With Autism See Improvement - DisabiltyScoop
New research suggests that young children with autism experience dramatically different trajectories, with some seeing improvement in their symptoms by age 6.

Five States Awarded Disability and Health Program Value Opportunity through AUCD-CDC Partnership - AUCD
AUCD is partnering with CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities to subcontract with 5 states to access Medicaid data and perform analyses to enhance understanding of the impact and value of state-based Disability and Health Grantee efforts.

AM General Announces New Leadership Appointments - PRNewswire

SOUTH BEND, Ind., Jan. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- AM General is proud to announce the hiring of two new senior executives to lead the Company's rapidly growing Commercial Business. Howard Glaser joins AM General on Jan. 29, as President of AM General's Commercial Business segment and...



The $293 Billion Elephant in the Waiting Room - PRNewswire

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 41 million (18 percent) American adults had some form of mental illness and nearly 20 million (8 percent) had an addiction in 2011....



States Developing Plans to Change Medicaid Waiver Services - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

Autism Speaks has launched a Housing and Community Living Initiative that will work to increase access to home and community based services (HCBS),and increase the capacity of HCBS providers to serve adults with autism and increase available housing options

January 29, 2015

Autism Speaks has launched a Housing and Community Living Initiative that will work to increase access to home and community based services (HCBS),and increase the capacity of HCBS providers to serve adults with autism and increase available housing options. We will be launching this initiative in three states in 2015: Florida, Illinois and New Jersey.

Autism Speaks staff will be working with our volunteer advocates and staff in these states to help advocate for HCBS and housing options for adults with autism. Currently, there are more than 20,000 individuals on waiting lists in Florida and Illinois and thousands are waiting for services in New Jersey as well. For the thousands of individuals with autism aging into adulthood each year, this limited HCBS capacity puts their independence and well-being at risk. In order to make a difference, we're going to be working across our volunteer base and with other advocacy organizations that are working to eliminate waiting lists for these critical supports.

This initiative is in the early phases but will be rolling out rapidly and staff will be working with agencies in each state to make sure HCBS programs are reaching adults with autism and their families when they need services. As activities get underway, we will keep everyone updated with the latest developments. You can learn more about the changes happening in Illinois and New Jersey, then take action and voice your concerns and opinions to state officials.

If you would like to be a volunteer leading on these efforts in your city or state, please email us at advocacy@autismspeaks.org!

January 29, 2015

Leader Dogs for the Blind First Guide Dog Organization to Earn National Accreditation for Blind and Low Vision Services - PRNewswire

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich., Jan. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Leader Dogs for the Blind has been accredited by the National Accreditation Council for Blind and Low Vision Services (NAC) for applying best practices and delivering services that focus on positive outcomes for its clients....



Houston Legal Firm Launches Scholarship Program for Deserving Students - PRNewswire

HOUSTON, Jan. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Zehl & Associates, PC is pleased to announce a dual scholarship program to benefit college students, who have either been personally affected by a major accident or have an immediate family member who has.  One $1,000 scholarship has...



Screen Reader: Acapela Group gives Further Support to NV Access with Acapela TTS Voices for NVDA - PRNewswire
MONS, Belgium, January 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The NVDA project (Non Visual Desktop Access) enables blind and vision impaired people to use a computer by communicating what is on the screen using a synthetic voice or braille. NVDA is the only screen reader for Microsoft Windows that is...

New Tools Aim To Make Doctor Visits Less Daunting - DisabiltyScoop
Individuals with autism often struggle to access the medical care they need, but a new set of tools is designed to smooth interactions between those on the spectrum and their physicians.

CMS Guidance and Autism Spectrum Disorders - AUCD
Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) released a guidance document related to services for those on the autism spectrum. Now it is left to individual states to grapple with what that means for each state. This webinar will feature presenters from AUCD, Easter Seals. NHeLP, and the Autism Society, and provide perspective on how one state (Connecticut) has responded to the guidance. Our goal is to provide some direction and ideas for those states still grappling with the implementation of the guidance
January 28, 2015

Efforts Underway To Fully Fund IDEA - DisabiltyScoop
Lawmakers in Congress are renewing efforts to ensure that the federal government lives up to its promise to fully fund special education.

Illinois Developing Plans to Change Medicaid Waiver Services - Autism Speaks - Advocasy
The state is developing plans to make changes that will go into effect in 2019. Now is the opportunity to learn about these changes and get involved in these decisions that will affect individuals receiving Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS).

Public reaction sought through February 26. Regional Public Listening Forums across the state planned for January 29, February 3, February 4 and February 10. A webinar will be held on February 11.

January 27, 2015

Illinios has proposed changing its Medicaid waiver program for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) in order to comply with a federal directive that prohibits services that "isolate" participants from the general community, and is inviting public reaction. The new rules will affect group homes, adult residential facilities, congregate living health facilities, and other settings.

This is a positive announcement as it forces states to make sure services are developed in a person-directed manner.

According to the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services, "HFS, in collaboration with the Illinois Departments of Aging (IDoA) and Human Services (DHS) and its Divisions of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and Mental Health (DMH), is developing a Statewide Transition Plan as a result of the new Federal Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) setting requirements effective March 17, 2014. Our Statewide Transition Plan must include the strategies to bring Illinois in full compliance with Federal rules by March 16, 2019. The focus of the Plan will be compliance with the rules as they relate to the setting where a person may live and where he/she may receive services.."

Individuals with autism and their caregivers who receive or want Medicaid waiver funding can comment on thenew proposalthrough February 26. The plan and additional information are available at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services websiteHERE.

The State has scheduled Regional Public Listening Forums across the state where the public will have the opportunity to provide verbal and written comment. Comments should be submitted in written form, as well as voiced, in order to guarantee that they are recorded correctly. The public is encouraged to attend one of the Public Listening Forums listed below:

Thursday, January 29
10:30am - Noon
Parkland College Room W-115
2400 West Bradley Ave
Champaign, IL 61821

Thursday, January 29
3-4:30pm
EP!C
1913 West Townline Road
Peoria, IL 61612

Tuesday, February 3
1:30-3pm
Spring Ridge Senior Housing Community Room
6645 Fincham Drive
Rockford, IL 61109

Wednesday, February 4
10:30am - Noon
University of Illinois - Chicago
Disability, Health and Social Policy Building Auditorium, Room 166
1640 West Roosevelt Road
Chicago, IL 60608

Wednesday, February 4
2-3:30pm
The ARC
20901 LaGrange Rd, Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423

Tuesday, February 10
1-2:30pm
Rend Lake College Student Center
468 North Ken Gray Parkway
Ina, IL 62846

To submit written comments, send them by email toHFS.SWTransitionPlan@illinois.govor mail comments to:

Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services
Attn: Waiver Management
201 South Grand Ave East, 2nd Floor
Springfield, IL 62763

To submit comments by phone, callHFS at (217) 557-1868.

What's the issue?

Early this year, the federal government issued new guidelines that may affect how you as an individual with autism or a caregiver will receive services through Medicaid. Illinois has proposed revising its Medicaid program to comply with the new regulations, which can affect services such as in-home or out-of-home residential support, day activities like supported employment or day habilitation, and other services like respite and family support. For more information about these rules, check out this replay from Autism Speaks'live chat.

What can you do about it?

Illinois is now required to seek public input. This is your opportunity as an individual with autism or a caregiver to affect how these changes take place in your state.

The new rules were published in early 2014 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for administering the Medicaid program. The regulations outlined criteria for certain HCBS programs operated under specific Medicaid waiver programs.

Medicaid HCBS programs provide a variety of services and supports that individuals with autism need to live in the community. These programs offer an alternative to institutional services for people with disabilities who need ongoing support to meet their functional needs. All states operate HCBS programs that serve individuals with developmental disabilities, like autism, but these programs vary widely from state to state in terms of eligibility requirements and available services. More information about Medicaid HCBS is availableonline.

What do the new rules mean?

The rules require all Medicaid HCBS programs to allow individuals to be able to choose their services and have access to the community. In particular, states are prohibited from using HCBS funding for settings that isolate individuals from the broader community. This is an important new protection that could help individuals with autism live in settings that are more integrated with the community.

However, in implementing this new requirement, each state Medicaid office has significant discretion in determining whether a given setting results in “isolation.” As a result of the rules, states are beginning to 1) identify the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rules, and 2) develop plans on how they will change their HCBS programs.

CMS developed these rules over a number of years, and Autism Speaks has long been involved in helping ensure that the needs of the autism community were represented in the development of these new standards. Now that the rules are final, states are beginning to implement the necessary changes to their programs includingidentifying the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rule, and to develop plans that outline any changes they will make to their HCBS programs as a result.

What is Autism Speaks doing and what can autism families do?

During this process, states are required to obtain input from advocates and Autism Speaks urges each state to seek and incorporate stakeholders' views on what constitutes isolating settings and how best to integrate individuals into the broader community. For more information on Autism Speaks' position on Housing and Residential supports, view our position statementhere.Individuals with autism and their family know firsthand the barriers to true community integration and are the most appropriate individuals to help define isolating settings.

Not sure what to say?
  • Medicaid policy can be very confusing and the state documents that describe programs aren't written in a way that most people can understand. But that shouldn't stop advocates from expressing their opinion. CMS has published two sets ofexploratory questionsto assist states in assessment ofresidential settingsandnon-residential HCBS settings,that advocates can use to help them think about their experiences and create their message to state officials.

If you are in a waiver program already, usethese questionsto tell about your experience. For example:

  • What was your experience planning your waiver services? Were you able to choose the services you wanted and get them where and how often you wanted?
  • Does the place where you get your services reflect your needs and preferences? Did you have options to choose from?

If you are not yet receiving waiver services(because you are on a waitlist or otherwise) but expect to be using waiver services in the future, usethese questionsto talk about what services will be important to you in the future. For example:

  • Do you want to be able to work? If not, what type of meaningful non-work activities would you like to be involved in?
  • Would you like to have roommates or live on your own? How often would you like to have visitors? What types of supports are necessary for you to live as independently as possible?


New Jersey Developing Plans to Change Medicaid Waiver Services - Autism Speaks - Advocasy
The state is developing plans to make changes that will go into effect in 2019. Now is the opportunity to learn about these changes and get involved in these decisions that will affect individuals receiving Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS).

Public reaction sought through February 26. Transition Plan input sessions for the public planned for January 27th and February 4th.

January 22, 2015

New Jersey has proposed changing its Medicaid waiver program for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) in order to comply with a federal directive that prohibits services that "isolate" participants from the general community, and is inviting public reaction. The new rules will affect group homes, adult residential facilities, congregate living health facilities, and other settings.

This is a positive announcement as it forces states to make sure services are developed in a person-directed manner.

According to the state Department of Human Services, "The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule on January 16, 2014 to ensure that Medicaid's home and community-based services (HCBS) programs provide full access to the benefits of community living and offer services in the most integrated settings. New Jersey's Transition Plan outlines the steps required to come into full compliance with the final rule by March 17, 2019 for Medicaid's New Jersey 1115 Comprehensive Waiver Demonstration and the 1915 (c) Community Care Waiver."

Individuals with autism and their caregivers who receive or want Medicaid waiver funding can comment on thenew proposalthrough February 26. Further information is available at the New Jersey Department of Human Services Division of Medical Assistance and Health ServicesHERE.

The State will hold Transition Plan input sessions for the public on the following dates, and in the following locations:

Tuesday, January 27th
10am - 12 pm
NJ DCF Training Facility
30 Van Dyke Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Wednesday, February 4th
10am - 12 pm
NJ Department of Human Services
222 South Warren Street
Trenton, NJ 08625

To submit written comments, send them by email tomahs.hcbs@dhs.state.nj.usor mail comments to:

HCBS Rules
c/o Lowell Arye, Deputy Commissioner
NJ Department of Human Services
P.O. Box 700
Trenton, NJ 08625-0700

What's the issue?

Early this year, the federal government issued new guidelines that may affect how you as an individual with autism or a caregiver will receive services through Medicaid. New Jersey has proposed revising its Medicaid program to comply with the new regulations, which can affect services such as in-home or out-of-home residential support, day activities like supported employment or day habilitation, and other services like respite and family support. For more information about these rules, check out this replay from Autism Speaks'live chat.

What can you do about it?

New Jersey is now required to seek public input. This is your opportunity as an individual with autism or a caregiver to affect how these changes take place in your state.

The new rules were published in early 2014 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for administering the Medicaid program. The regulations outlined criteria for certain HCBS programs operated under specific Medicaid waiver programs.

Medicaid HCBS programs provide a variety of services and supports that individuals with autism need to live in the community. These programs offer an alternative to institutional services for people with disabilities who need ongoing support to meet their functional needs. All states operate HCBS programs that serve individuals with developmental disabilities, like autism, but these programs vary widely from state to state in terms of eligibility requirements and available services. More information about Medicaid HCBS is availableonline.

What do the new rules mean?

The rules require all Medicaid HCBS programs to allow individuals to be able to choose their services and have access to the community. In particular, states are prohibited from using HCBS funding for settings that isolate individuals from the broader community. This is an important new protection that could help individuals with autism live in settings that are more integrated with the community.

However, in implementing this new requirement, each state Medicaid office has significant discretion in determining whether a given setting results in “isolation.” As a result of the rules, states are beginning to 1) identify the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rules, and 2) develop plans on how they will change their HCBS programs.

CMS developed these rules over a number of years, and Autism Speaks has long been involved in helping ensure that the needs of the autism community were represented in the development of these new standards. Now that the rules are final, states are beginning to implement the necessary changes to their programs includingidentifying the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rule, and to develop plans that outline any changes they will make to their HCBS programs as a result.

What is Autism Speaks doing and what can autism families do?

During this process, states are required to obtain input from advocates and Autism Speaks urges each state to seek and incorporate stakeholders' views on what constitutes isolating settings and how best to integrate individuals into the broader community. For more information on Autism Speaks' position on Housing and Residential supports, view our position statementhere.Individuals with autism and their family know firsthand the barriers to true community integration and are the most appropriate individuals to help define isolating settings.

Not sure what to say?
  • Medicaid policy can be very confusing and the state documents that describe programs aren't written in a way that most people can understand. But that shouldn't stop advocates from expressing their opinion. CMS has published two sets ofexploratory questionsto assist states in assessment of residential settings and non-residential HCBS settings,that advocates can use to help them think about their experiences and create their message to state officials.

If you are in a waiver program already, usethese questionsto tell about your experience. For example:

  • What was your experience planning your waiver services? Were you able to choose the services you wanted and get them where and how often you wanted?
  • Does the place where you get your services reflect your needs and preferences? Did you have options to choose from?

If you are not yet receiving waiver services(because you are on a waitlist or otherwise) but expect to be using waiver services in the future, usethese questionsto talk about what services will be important to you in the future. For example:

  • Do you want to be able to work? If not, what type of meaningful non-work activities would you like to be involved in?
  • Would you like to have roommates or live on your own? How often would you like to have visitors? What types of supports are necessary for you to live as independently as possible?

Se arriesga el programa de discapacidad por incumplimiento de completar revisiones médicas - PRNewswire

WASHINGTON, 27 de enero de 2015 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ -- Las limitaciones presupuestarias han impedido a la Administración del Seguro Social (SSA) llevar a cabo las revisiones programadas de salud y capacidad para trabajar de aquellas personas que reciben beneficios de...



Failure to Complete Medical Reviews Puts Disability Program at Risk - PRNewswire

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tight budgets have prevented the Social Security Administration (SSA) from carrying out scheduled reviews of the health and capacity to work for people receiving disability benefits.  Such reviews yield savings many times their...



Cleveland Browns Star Joe Haden Named Special Olympics Global Ambassador - PRNewswire

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Special Olympics announced today that Joe Haden, a first-round draft pick and star cornerback with the Cleveland Browns, is joining the Special Olympics family as the movement's newest Global Ambassador and only professional...



Special Olympics to Unite the USA in the First-Ever Unified Relay Across America presented By Bank of America - PRNewswire

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Special Olympics and Michelle Kwan announced today on ABC's Good Morning America that registration has opened for the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America presented by Bank of America. The Unified Relay will give...



RJ Mitte Headlined Shriners Hospitals for Children Diversity Panel At Sundance - PRNewswire

TAMPA, Fla., Jan. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- To ensure that roles in film and television better reflect the diversity of America and serve as inspiration for youth living with disabilities, RJ Mitte, actor and Love to the rescue® Ambassador for Shriners Hospitals for...



Join Easter Seals Thrive for an Interactive Twitter Chat About the Representation of Disabilities in Mass Media - PRNewswire

CHICAGO, Jan. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- WHAT       Easter Seals Thrive, a community based mentorship program that empowers young women with disabilities to achieve their goals and independence, is hosting a live Twitter chat about the role...



IL to End Medicaid Waiver Services that 'Isolate' Individuals - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

Public reaction sought through February 26. Regional Public Listening Forums across the state planned for January 29, February 3, February 4 and February 10. A webinar will be held on February 11.

January 27, 2015

Illinios has proposed changing its Medicaid waiver program for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) in order to comply with a federal directive that prohibits services that "isolate" participants from the general community, and is inviting public reaction. The new rules will affect group homes, adult residential facilities, congregate living health facilities, and other settings.

This is a positive announcement as it forces states to make sure services are developed in a person-directed manner.

According to the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services, "HFS, in collaboration with the Illinois Departments of Aging (IDoA) and Human Services (DHS) and its Divisions of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and Mental Health (DMH), is developing a Statewide Transition Plan as a result of the new Federal Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) setting requirements effective March 17, 2014. Our Statewide Transition Plan must include the strategies to bring Illinois in full compliance with Federal rules by March 16, 2019. The focus of the Plan will be compliance with the rules as they relate to the setting where a person may live and where he/she may receive services.."

Individuals with autism and their caregivers who receive or want Medicaid waiver funding can comment on thenew proposalthrough February 26. The plan and additional information are available at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services websiteHERE.

The State has scheduled Regional Public Listening Forums across the state where the public will have the opportunity to provide verbal and written comment. Comments should be submitted in written form, as well as voiced, in order to guarantee that they are recorded correctly. The public is encouraged to attend one of the Public Listening Forums listed below:

Thursday, January 29
10:30am - Noon
Parkland College Room W-115
2400 West Bradley Ave
Champaign, IL 61821

Thursday, January 29
3-4:30pm
EP!C
1913 West Townline Road
Peoria, IL 61612

Tuesday, February 3
1:30-3pm
Spring Ridge Senior Housing Community Room
6645 Fincham Drive
Rockford, IL 61109

Wednesday, February 4
10:30am - Noon
University of Illinois - Chicago
Disability, Health and Social Policy Building Auditorium, Room 166
1640 West Roosevelt Road
Chicago, IL 60608

Wednesday, February 4
2-3:30pm
The ARC
20901 LaGrange Rd, Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423

Tuesday, February 10
1-2:30pm
Rend Lake College Student Center
468 North Ken Gray Parkway
Ina, IL 62846

To submit written comments, send them by email toHFS.SWTransitionPlan@illinois.govor mail comments to:

Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services
Attn: Waiver Management
201 South Grand Ave East, 2nd Floor
Springfield, IL 62763

To submit comments by phone, callHFS at (217) 557-1868.

What's the issue?

Early this year, the federal government issued new guidelines that may affect how you as an individual with autism or a caregiver will receive services through Medicaid. Illinois has proposed revising its Medicaid program to comply with the new regulations, which can affect services such as in-home or out-of-home residential support, day activities like supported employment or day habilitation, and other services like respite and family support. For more information about these rules, check out this replay from Autism Speaks'live chat.

What can you do about it?

Illinois is now required to seek public input. This is your opportunity as an individual with autism or a caregiver to affect how these changes take place in your state.

The new rules were published in early 2014 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for administering the Medicaid program. The regulations outlined criteria for certain HCBS programs operated under specific Medicaid waiver programs.

Medicaid HCBS programs provide a variety of services and supports that individuals with autism need to live in the community. These programs offer an alternative to institutional services for people with disabilities who need ongoing support to meet their functional needs. All states operate HCBS programs that serve individuals with developmental disabilities, like autism, but these programs vary widely from state to state in terms of eligibility requirements and available services. More information about Medicaid HCBS is availableonline.

What do the new rules mean?

The rules require all Medicaid HCBS programs to allow individuals to be able to choose their services and have access to the community. In particular, states are prohibited from using HCBS funding for settings that isolate individuals from the broader community. This is an important new protection that could help individuals with autism live in settings that are more integrated with the community.

However, in implementing this new requirement, each state Medicaid office has significant discretion in determining whether a given setting results in “isolation.” As a result of the rules, states are beginning to 1) identify the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rules, and 2) develop plans on how they will change their HCBS programs.

CMS developed these rules over a number of years, and Autism Speaks has long been involved in helping ensure that the needs of the autism community were represented in the development of these new standards. Now that the rules are final, states are beginning to implement the necessary changes to their programs includingidentifying the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rule, and to develop plans that outline any changes they will make to their HCBS programs as a result.

What is Autism Speaks doing and what can autism families do?

During this process, states are required to obtain input from advocates and Autism Speaks urges each state to seek and incorporate stakeholders' views on what constitutes isolating settings and how best to integrate individuals into the broader community. For more information on Autism Speaks' position on Housing and Residential supports, view our position statementhere.Individuals with autism and their family know firsthand the barriers to true community integration and are the most appropriate individuals to help define isolating settings.

Not sure what to say?
  • Medicaid policy can be very confusing and the state documents that describe programs aren't written in a way that most people can understand. But that shouldn't stop advocates from expressing their opinion. CMS has published two sets ofexploratory questionsto assist states in assessment ofresidential settingsandnon-residential HCBS settings,that advocates can use to help them think about their experiences and create their message to state officials.

If you are in a waiver program already, usethese questionsto tell about your experience. For example:

  • What was your experience planning your waiver services? Were you able to choose the services you wanted and get them where and how often you wanted?
  • Does the place where you get your services reflect your needs and preferences? Did you have options to choose from?

If you are not yet receiving waiver services(because you are on a waitlist or otherwise) but expect to be using waiver services in the future, usethese questionsto talk about what services will be important to you in the future. For example:

  • Do you want to be able to work? If not, what type of meaningful non-work activities would you like to be involved in?
  • Would you like to have roommates or live on your own? How often would you like to have visitors? What types of supports are necessary for you to live as independently as possible?

January 27, 2015

After Years Of Cuts, Social Security To Extend Office Hours - DisabiltyScoop
The Social Security Administration says it will expand hours at offices across the country, a move that could be a big help for those with developmental disabilities.

David Mank (IN UCEDD) Appointed to Serve on National Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities - AUCD
David Mank, director of Indiana University's Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, has been appointed by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez to serve on a new Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, a key provision of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
January 26, 2015

SNAP Funds from FHLB Dallas Get Snapped Up to Assist Special-Needs Homeowners - PRNewswire

DALLAS, Jan. 26, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It took only 11 days for $750,000 from the Special Needs Assistance Program (SNAP) to be allocated to more than 30 member financial institutions of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas). The SNAP grants from FHLB Dallas...



Autism Genes Often Differ, Even Among Siblings - DisabiltyScoop
Adding to confusion about the roots of autism, new research suggests that varying genes are often responsible for the disorder even among siblings who share a diagnosis.

Disability-Focused Proms Expected To Draw 7,000 - DisabiltyScoop
Just in time for Valentine's Day, former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow is organizing 45 proms around the world on one night just for people with special needs.

Montrealers Call on Canada Post and Conservatives to Stop Service Cuts - PRNewswire

MONTREAL, Jan. 26, 2015 /CNW/ - The message coming from the public commission is clear: Montrealers want to keep their door-to-door delivery and they're concerned about the consequences of losing it. For three days, Montreal residents spoke at public meetings on the impact of ending...


January 25, 2015

Feds To Appeal Ruling On Caregiver Wage Protections - DisabiltyScoop
The Obama administration will appeal a court ruling blocking regulations aimed at providing minimum wage and overtime protections for in-home care workers assisting people with disabilities.
January 23, 2015

ABLE Act Will Benefit Individuals with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities - PRNewswire

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Jan. 23, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- With bipartisan Congressional support and a stroke of President Obama's pen, the families of individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities will be able to set up savings accounts to help with disability-related...



Disability Advocates Sharply Critical Of Plan To Ease Testing - DisabiltyScoop
As Congress looks to reauthorize the nation's primary education law, advocates are blasting proposed changes they say would lead to lower expectations for students with disabilities.

Company Creates Drums For Those With Sensory Issues - DisabiltyScoop
One of the world's leading percussion manufacturers is debuting a new line of drums designed to be more user-friendly -- and potentially healing -- for people with developmental disabilities.

NH To End Medicaid Waiver Services That 'Isolate' Individuals - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

Public reaction sought through February 16. Public hearing and webinar to be held on January 28.

January 23, 2015

New Hampshire has proposed changing its Medicaid waiver program for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) in order to comply with a federal directive that prohibits services that "isolate" participants from the general community, and is inviting public reaction. The new rules will affect group homes, adult residential facilities, congregate living health facilities, and other settings.

This is a positive announcement as it forces states to make sure services are developed in a person-directed manner.

According to the state Department of Health and Human Services,"The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that HCBS recipients are able to live in and have opportunities to access their community as well as to receive services in the most integrated settings. This includes opportunities to seek employment and work in competitive settings, engage in community life, control personal resources, and participate in the community just as people who live in the community, but who do not receive HCBS, do."

Individuals with autism and their caregivers who receive or want Medicaid waiver funding can comment on thenew proposalthrough February 16. Further information is available at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Division of Medical Assistance and Health ServicesHERE.

The State will hold a second Transition Plan input session for the public on the following date and in the following location. The first took place on January 20:

Public Hearing #2
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
1:00-3:00 p.m.
New Hampshire Hospital Association, Room 1
125 Airport Road
Concord, NH 03301

To attend by webinar, please register here. For all webinar participants: after registering, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Participants can use their computer's microphone and speakers or telephone. An audio PIN will be shown after joining the webinar.

To join by phone: 1 (702) 489-0008; Access Code: 977-912-243

To submit written comments, send them by email toHCBCtransitionplan@dhhs.state.nh.usor mail comments to:

Deborah Fournier
NH Department of Health and Human Services
129 Pleasant Street, Brown Building
Concord, NH 03301-3857

What's the issue?

Early this year, the federal government issued new guidelines that may affect how you as an individual with autism or a caregiver will receive services through Medicaid. New Hampshire has proposed revising its Medicaid program to comply with the new regulations, which can affect services such as in-home or out-of-home residential support, day activities like supported employment or day habilitation, and other services like respite and family support. For more information about these rules, check out this replay from Autism Speaks'live chat.

What can you do about it?

New Hampshire is now required to seek public input. This is your opportunity as an individual with autism or a caregiver to affect how these changes take place in your state.

The new rules were published in early 2014 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for administering the Medicaid program. The regulations outlined criteria for certain HCBS programs operated under specific Medicaid waiver programs.

Medicaid HCBS programs provide a variety of services and supports that individuals with autism need to live in the community. These programs offer an alternative to institutional services for people with disabilities who need ongoing support to meet their functional needs. All states operate HCBS programs that serve individuals with developmental disabilities, like autism, but these programs vary widely from state to state in terms of eligibility requirements and available services. More information about Medicaid HCBS is availableonline.

What do the new rules mean?

The rules require all Medicaid HCBS programs to allow individuals to be able to choose their services and have access to the community. In particular, states are prohibited from using HCBS funding for settings that isolate individuals from the broader community. This is an important new protection that could help individuals with autism live in settings that are more integrated with the community.

However, in implementing this new requirement, each state Medicaid office has significant discretion in determining whether a given setting results in “isolation.” As a result of the rules, states are beginning to 1) identify the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rules, and 2) develop plans on how they will change their HCBS programs.

CMS developed these rules over a number of years, and Autism Speaks has long been involved in helping ensure that the needs of the autism community were represented in the development of these new standards. Now that the rules are final, states are beginning to implement the necessary changes to their programs includingidentifying the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rule, and to develop plans that outline any changes they will make to their HCBS programs as a result.

What is Autism Speaks doing and what can autism families do?

During this process, states are required to obtain input from advocates and Autism Speaks urges each state to seek and incorporate stakeholders' views on what constitutes isolating settings and how best to integrate individuals into the broader community. For more information on Autism Speaks' position on Housing and Residential supports, view our position statementhere.Individuals with autism and their family know firsthand the barriers to true community integration and are the most appropriate individuals to help define isolating settings.

Not sure what to say?
  • Medicaid policy can be very confusing and the state documents that describe programs aren't written in a way that most people can understand. But that shouldn't stop advocates from expressing their opinion. CMS has published two sets ofexploratory questionsto assist states in assessment ofresidential settingsandnon-residential HCBS settings,that advocates can use to help them think about their experiences and create their message to state officials.

If you are in a waiver program already, usethese questionsto tell about your experience. For example:

  • What was your experience planning your waiver services? Were you able to choose the services you wanted and get them where and how often you wanted?
  • Does the place where you get your services reflect your needs and preferences? Did you have options to choose from?

If you are not yet receiving waiver services(because you are on a waitlist or otherwise) but expect to be using waiver services in the future, usethese questionsto talk about what services will be important to you in the future. For example:

  • Do you want to be able to work? If not, what type of meaningful non-work activities would you like to be involved in?
  • Would you like to have roommates or live on your own? How often would you like to have visitors? What types of supports are necessary for you to live as independently as possible?

NJ To End Medicaid Waiver Services That 'Isolate' Individuals - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

Public reaction sought through February 26. Transition Plan input sessions for the public planned for January 27th and February 4th.

January 22, 2015

New Jersey has proposed changing its Medicaid waiver program for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) in order to comply with a federal directive that prohibits services that "isolate" participants from the general community, and is inviting public reaction. The new rules will affect group homes, adult residential facilities, congregate living health facilities, and other settings.

This is a positive announcement as it forces states to make sure services are developed in a person-directed manner.

According to the state Department of Human Services, "The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule on January 16, 2014 to ensure that Medicaid's home and community-based services (HCBS) programs provide full access to the benefits of community living and offer services in the most integrated settings. New Jersey's Transition Plan outlines the steps required to come into full compliance with the final rule by March 17, 2019 for Medicaid's New Jersey 1115 Comprehensive Waiver Demonstration and the 1915 (c) Community Care Waiver."

Individuals with autism and their caregivers who receive or want Medicaid waiver funding can comment on thenew proposalthrough February 26. Further information is available at the New Jersey Department of Human Services Division of Medical Assistance and Health ServicesHERE.

The State will hold Transition Plan input sessions for the public on the following dates, and in the following locations:

Tuesday, January 27th
10am - 12 pm
NJ DCF Training Facility
30 Van Dyke Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Wednesday, February 4th
10am - 12 pm
NJ Department of Human Services
222 South Warren Street
Trenton, NJ 08625

To submit written comments, send them by email tomahs.hcbs@dhs.state.nj.usor mail comments to:

HCBS Rules
c/o Lowell Arye, Deputy Commissioner
NJ Department of Human Services
P.O. Box 700
Trenton, NJ 08625-0700

What's the issue?

Early this year, the federal government issued new guidelines that may affect how you as an individual with autism or a caregiver will receive services through Medicaid. New Jersey has proposed revising its Medicaid program to comply with the new regulations, which can affect services such as in-home or out-of-home residential support, day activities like supported employment or day habilitation, and other services like respite and family support. For more information about these rules, check out this replay from Autism Speaks'live chat.

What can you do about it?

New Jersey is now required to seek public input. This is your opportunity as an individual with autism or a caregiver to affect how these changes take place in your state.

The new rules were published in early 2014 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for administering the Medicaid program. The regulations outlined criteria for certain HCBS programs operated under specific Medicaid waiver programs.

Medicaid HCBS programs provide a variety of services and supports that individuals with autism need to live in the community. These programs offer an alternative to institutional services for people with disabilities who need ongoing support to meet their functional needs. All states operate HCBS programs that serve individuals with developmental disabilities, like autism, but these programs vary widely from state to state in terms of eligibility requirements and available services. More information about Medicaid HCBS is availableonline.

What do the new rules mean?

The rules require all Medicaid HCBS programs to allow individuals to be able to choose their services and have access to the community. In particular, states are prohibited from using HCBS funding for settings that isolate individuals from the broader community. This is an important new protection that could help individuals with autism live in settings that are more integrated with the community.

However, in implementing this new requirement, each state Medicaid office has significant discretion in determining whether a given setting results in “isolation.” As a result of the rules, states are beginning to 1) identify the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rules, and 2) develop plans on how they will change their HCBS programs.

CMS developed these rules over a number of years, and Autism Speaks has long been involved in helping ensure that the needs of the autism community were represented in the development of these new standards. Now that the rules are final, states are beginning to implement the necessary changes to their programs includingidentifying the type of settings that may no longer be in compliance with the new rule, and to develop plans that outline any changes they will make to their HCBS programs as a result.

What is Autism Speaks doing and what can autism families do?

During this process, states are required to obtain input from advocates and Autism Speaks urges each state to seek and incorporate stakeholders' views on what constitutes isolating settings and how best to integrate individuals into the broader community. For more information on Autism Speaks' position on Housing and Residential supports, view our position statementhere.Individuals with autism and their family know firsthand the barriers to true community integration and are the most appropriate individuals to help define isolating settings.

Not sure what to say?
  • Medicaid policy can be very confusing and the state documents that describe programs aren't written in a way that most people can understand. But that shouldn't stop advocates from expressing their opinion. CMS has published two sets ofexploratory questionsto assist states in assessment of residential settings and non-residential HCBS settings,that advocates can use to help them think about their experiences and create their message to state officials.

If you are in a waiver program already, usethese questionsto tell about your experience. For example:

  • What was your experience planning your waiver services? Were you able to choose the services you wanted and get them where and how often you wanted?
  • Does the place where you get your services reflect your needs and preferences? Did you have options to choose from?

If you are not yet receiving waiver services(because you are on a waitlist or otherwise) but expect to be using waiver services in the future, usethese questionsto talk about what services will be important to you in the future. For example:

  • Do you want to be able to work? If not, what type of meaningful non-work activities would you like to be involved in?
  • Would you like to have roommates or live on your own? How often would you like to have visitors? What types of supports are necessary for you to live as independently as possible?
January 22, 2015

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Celebrates 50 Years in 2015 - AUCD
This year, the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center celebrates 50 years of transforming the lives of people with disabilities through discovery, service and training. The yearlong celebration will commence with a lecture by Andrew Imparato, Executive Director of AUCD, on Wednesday, Jan. 21, at 4 p.m. Where he will deliver the Kennedy Center's Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture titled 'The Future of Disability Policy."

Roadrunnerfoot: Italian Innovations Spread in Middle East - PRNewswire

MILAN, January 22, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Roadrunnerfoot Engineering s.r.l., founded by Daniele Bonacini (Paralympic athlete of Athens 2004, mechanical engineer and PHD), founded in 2007 in Milan-Italy with a mission to develop new aids for disabled people with high technology and high...



Parent-Led Intervention May Lower Kids' Autism Risk - DisabiltyScoop
Training parents to enhance social interactions with their infant children may reduce the likelihood that kids at risk for autism will ultimately develop the disorder, researchers say.
January 21, 2015

DirectEmployers Forms New Alliance with Easter Seals, Further Encouraging Disability and Veteran Hiring Initiatives - PRNewswire

INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 21, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- DirectEmployers Association, the leading nonprofit provider and OFCCP compliance solution and recruitment marketing tools, is continuing to bridge the gap between employers and the disability and veteran community through a national...



Special Needs Group, Inc. Provides Free Additional Piece of Mobility Equipment With Transatlantic SNG Mobility Equipment Special in 2015 - PRNewswire

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Jan. 21, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Special Needs Group (SNG), www.specialneedsgroup.com, the leading global provider of wheelchair rentals, scooter rentals, oxygen rentals and other special needs equipment rentals, is making cruisers' 2015 transatlantic sailings...



Goodwill's Brian Itzkowitz Named To Secretary Of Labor National Advisory Committee - PRNewswire

ROCKVILLE, Md., Jan. 21, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Arkansas (Little Rock) Brian Itzkowitz has been named to serve on the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL's) Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for...


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