Disability rights advocates take concerns to Missouri lawmakers - KMOV.com

Disability rights advocates take concerns to Missouri lawmakers

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(Credit: KMOV) (Credit: KMOV)
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

On Wednesday, hundreds of disability rights advocates will be in Jefferson City to take their concerns straight to lawmakers during the 16th annual Disability Rights Legislative Day at the state capitol.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in five adults lives with a disability. Nonprofits like Paraquad in St. Louis are working to help people with disabilities live independently. A lot of those services, though, depend on funding and legislation, which is why the annual event at the capitol is so important.

“I hope that lawmakers will see that yes, individuals in Missouri, citizens, need assistance and we are actually going to fight for it. We need them to see firsthand what difficulties we have,” said Andrew Young, a student at Webster University.

Young is a registered quadriplegic after he was in a car crash on his way to class in high school. Paraquad helps Young receive consumer directed services.

According to leaders at Paraquad, they have several goals for the rally and visit with lawmakers. Those include advocating for legislation that would help people with disabilities work while continuing to be able to access appropriate and necessary supports and services. They also hope to push for proposed legislative changes to the guardianship statute, which require consideration of less restrictive alternatives for full guardianship and emphasize person-centered services.

Another major focus will be showing opposition to proposed budget cuts that target home and community-based services, which advocates argue are essential for independent living.

In Governor Greitens’ original budget proposal, the eligibility score for home and community-based services would increase from 21 to a 27. That means a person would need to prove a greater level of disability to receive services. The original budget also proposed capping costs for individuals at no more than 60 percent of nursing home costs and a three percent service provider cut.

Since then, Gov. Greitens amended his proposal to restore funding. However, the House Appropriations Committee has still not fully followed his recommendation. According to leaders at Paraquad, the House Appropriations Committee wants to increase the level of care eligibility score from a 21 to a 24, which would impact 72 people at Paraquad and thousands of others throughout the state. Paraquad leaders also estimate that capping costs at 60 percent of nursing home care costs would mean that people with significant care needs would be limited to less than four hours of services per day.

The issue that could impact people like Young the most is the change to the eligibility score.

“The consumer directed services I need involve little things, well that could be big things, such as laundry, help with shopping, help with carrying heavy items, reaching things up high. Just everything I would need to be able to live independently,” said Young.

Without attendants to help him live independently, he might have to move back home with his parents.

“I would be unable to finish college, unable to go on to complete the future goals that I have and I will have to rely more on others to help me, rather than being able to hire an attendant on my own,” said Young.

Young said in addition to the hundreds who will be in Jefferson City to talk to lawmakers, others like himself plan on contacting legislators to make their voices heard, too.

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