Disability activists lobby state Legislature for funding

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2003

About 100 people from across the state descended on the Capitol on Wednesday to lobby for better funding of programs for people with developmental disabilities.

Members of the Key Campaign, a coalition of advocacy groups, rallied on the front steps of the Capitol at noon and then headed inside the building to talk with lawmakers.

Eagle River resident Gwen Lee, executive director of The Arc of Anchorage, a nonprofit group that provides community support for people with developmental disabilities, said the Key Campaign is focusing on three issues this year.

"We're asking the Legislature to not make any Medicaid cuts for one year to give us time to partner with the state Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities to help figure out how to use our limited resources," Lee said, noting that funding for people with disabilities constitutes about 17 percent of the Medicaid budget.

Most of those funds go toward providing work opportunities, living opportunities, support for families, medical equipment and home care, she said.

The coalition also is asking for $625,000 for infant learning programs that aim to teach those with developmental disabilities skills that will help them become more independent as adults. It also is asking for an additional $625,000 to go toward taking some 1,300 people off the state's wait list for community support services such as job training, accessible housing and other necessities.

"This number of Alaskans marks an all-time high in our history and the number will continue to grow unless a commitment is made to reasonably fund this ...," the coalition's campaign literature reads. The group holds an annual rally and lobbying visit to the Capitol.

Sarah Brinkley, acting director of the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, said she personally supports the campaign's requests but cannot address what kind of budget the Department of Health and Social Service will put forth.

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothyi@juneauempire.com.



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