Dec. 21 - Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities announces "Advocacy Days" during 2022 Georgia Legislative Session
December 21, 2021 - The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) will host its annual Advocacy Days Jan. 26, Feb. 16, and March 16 in 2022 to connect people with their legislators and to get elected officials in touch with their constituents who have disabilities.
The topic for the Jan. 26 Advocacy Day is “Addressing the Direct Support Professional Workforce Shortage,” where GCDD advocates will speak on the issue about the current lack of direct support professional workers, which has a great impact on the disability community in Georgia. This demand is outpacing the supply of available workers. Vacancy rates and voluntary turnover is high among direct support professionals. Low wages and limited benefits, minimal training, ineffective supervision, and few opportunities for career growth, combined with the growing complexity of work, are barriers to creating a stable workforce.
Advocacy Day two, scheduled for Feb. 16, focuses on “Reducing the NOW/COMP Waiver Waitlist.” The waiting list is comprised of people who are eligible for Medicaid and Developmental Disability Services who are waiting to get a NOW or COMP waiver who have not received one because there is a waiting list for these Medicaid waivers, which provide home and community-based services. In Georgia, there are over 7,000 people with developmental disabilities waiting to receive a Medicaid waiver, some waiting more than a decade. Although Georgia is not alone in having a waiver waitlist, limited spending on Medicaid waivers in Georgia has resulted in a longer waitlist than most states. Especially troubling is the result we see when waiver services are underfunded, which is the increased numbers of young people with disabilities who end up staying in nursing homes. On Thursday, December 9th, the Department of Community Health (DCH) and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) released a joint statement indicating that they officially rescinded their proposals to place daily maximum caps on skilled nursing services and additional staffing services
The topic for Advocacy Day three, scheduled for March 16 is “Advancing Employment First in Georgia,” which will focus on building a community for inclusive employment in Georgia, as it is currently legal to pay people living with disabilities below minimum wage. Georgia’s Employment First Council was created through the passage of House Bill 831, “Georgia’s Employment First Act”, during the 2017 Legislative Session and was signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal on May 8, 2018. GCDD’s goal this session is to work with partners to strengthen the Employment First Council by encouraging them to restart meetings, produce their biannual reports, and work to develop a strong strategic plan for the future of the Employment First Council. GCDD has been greatly encouraged by the development of the Employment First Council and do believe that it has an important role to play in advancing competitive, integrated employment options for Georgians with disabilities.
As of 2019, it is estimated that in Georgia there are 167,755 individuals with a developmental disability. For the past five years, GCDD updated its format of the event, where the activities are issues-based. There are three Advocacy Days during each legislative session and in 2022 the Advocacy Days will be virtual due to COVID-19. One hundred twenty people participated in the virtual 2021 Advocacy Days and GCDD is hoping to increase that number in 2022. Participating legislatures and state representatives for Advocacy Days will be announced early in January of 2022. State Legislators and Representatives who have participated in Advocacy Days before include state representative El-Mahdi Holly who oversees Georgia District 111. Prior to this new approach, GCDD did a single disability day at the Georgia State Capitol. To increase its impact, GCDD pivoted the event to Advocacy Days to focus on particular topics. The end goal of these events, which have now gone virtual due to COVID-19, is to advance the legislative momentum on issues GCDD has identified as legislative priorities in order to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities.
“Advocacy days are a critical component of our policy initiatives and have contributed greatly to our past legislative victories,” said Alyssa Lee, GCDD’s Public Policy Research and Development Director. “We view GCDD’s advocacy days as an important part of making sure the community has their voices heard during the process. Providing opportunities to educate our community on policy issues impacting the disability community, as well as best strategies to advocate, has long been a top priority.”
The time for each Advocacy Day is 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. To register or for more information, visit gcdd2022advocacydays.eventbrite.com