Recently I saw Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, speak at a rally in Juneau. He joined the Key Campaign in the group's 22nd annual advocacy demonstration on the Capitol steps.
Senate Bill 32 is a bill that supports equitable rate reviews for community service agencies as opposed to institutions or hospital settings. During the Key Campaign, Alaskans joined together to advocate for individuals who have experienced developmental disabilities.
Alaska is a deinstitutionalized state. We should be proud of this. This means there aren't any large, congregate and restrictive living situations (institutions) for people with disabilities. Instead, people receive services from community- based programs, reside in homes, not houses, and pay rent in their community of choice.
Alaska also is focused on ending the developmental disabilities waitlist for services. This is a list of individuals that require services and support. Providing these services creates jobs in many Alaska communities.
Sadly, in many cases these employees can't afford to live on the wages earned. Rates set for the community programs are not required to be reviewed regularly like they are in institutions or hospitals. Employees have watched four out of the past five years go by without an increase to agencies. This translates roughly to no pay raises or cost-of-living increases.
I applaud Ellis for moving this bill forward and the positive outcomes it will produce for all Alaskans.
Eric L. Gurley
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