On August 6, 2014, AHRC New York City, in collaboration with other organizations in NYSARC, Inc.‘s Southeast Region, hosted an event to formally recognize the Congressmen and women representing the region and their work on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and the organizations that support them. The Congressmen were presented with the 2014 Partnership Award, in recognition of their efforts in support of people with I/DD. Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) of the 13th congressional district and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) of the 12th congressional district, represented by her deputy chief-of-staff Tricia Shimamura, attended the event. Sen. Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) were scheduled to attend but were called back to Washington at the last minute.
Laura J. Kennedy, President of AHRC New York City’s Board of Directors and Vice President of the Southeast Region of NYSARC, Inc. welcomed the other NYSARC organizations in attendance, which included AHRC Nassau, AHRC Suffolk, Arc of Westchester, Putnam ARC, AHRC Orange, Sullivan Arc, and Ulster-Greene ARC. 12,000 people are employed by the organizations that comprise NYSARC, Inc.’s Southeast Region and provide services to over 22,000 individuals with I/DD and their families. Ms. Kennedy also thanked the representatives, particularly Congressman Grimm from Staten Island, as she has a daughter living in an AHRC New York City residence located in Staten Island.
“It’s an honor and a pleasure welcoming all of you to this event recognizing the partnership we have with NYSARC chapters in our region and our representatives in Congress,” she began.”[Our] accomplishments are due to the support we receive in Washington.”
Ms. Kennedy then introduced Gary Lind, AHRC New York City’s Executive Director, who stated, “This is an exciting but also a scary time for folks with developmental disabilities and their families and those of us that are service providers.” His presentation focused on the new managed care organization created by five NYSARC affiliates in the southeast region – AHRC NYC, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, and Rockland.
“What makes this [organization] so different and what no one else in the country has figured out is managed care doesn’t lend itself well to a population that is going to present themselves for services and support each and every day,” Mr. Lind said. He explained that the MetroArcs are well-positioned to assume this responsibility because they are family governed and have created long-term life plans and care coordination for all the people they service. Mr. Lind also said that the MetroArcs have taken advantage of a program in the recent Affordable Care Act called Fully Integrated Duals Advantage (FIDA), allowing the coordination of plans for people who receive both Medicaid and Medicare benefits; this includes a large section of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“We scored much higher on our proposal [to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] than most of the managed care companies that have been in this business forever,” he said, “by understanding what is the model of care that you need to support people.” He also stated that this is the only FIDA in country exclusively serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Also speaking at the event was Nina Giacobbe, 23, a self-advocate supported by AHRC New York City and a recent graduate of the College of Staten Island’s Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program. Upon announcing her recent achievement, Grimm let out a loud “Hooray!”
- Nina Giacobbe speaks about the importance of self-advocacy.
“Self-advocacy here means a lot to me,” Nina said. “Kids with disabilities don’t get the opportunity to speak up a lot. Going to events like this is important. It really helps.” Nina explained the services AHRC NYC has provided her with feelings she has about her recent graduation from the CSI program. “Becoming a graduate made realize that my life is changing but in a good way and in a positive way because I’m making those changes for myself and I’m making choices for myself,” she said with a smile. She continued on that she is currently interning at On Your Mark, an organization based in Staten Island also working with people intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Ric Swierat, Arc of Westchester’s Executive Director, gave an overview of some of the political issues important to people with I/DD. He advocated for government to provide agencies with the resources and appropriate amount of time to implement reforms such as downsizing sheltered workshops and moving to a community-based model of care and employment. “As family-driven organizations we are committed to doing the right thing, but also doing it the right way for people we support,” he said. “The timeframes and government expectations need to be realistic.”
Ms. Kennedy then handed out Thank You Awards on behalf of the South East Region of NYSARC to Congressmen Grimm and Maloney for their support. Congressman Grimm recounted a story of when he was a teenager working at the Marist Brothers Camp at Esopus, servicing people with Downs’s syndrome. “One of the Marist Brothers that was there asked us why we were there, and it was a no-brainer: We’re here to take care of the kids,’” Grimm answered. “And he said ‘Well, technically that’s true…but what you’re really here for is to give the parents a break for a week.’ That’s stayed with me ever since.”
Ms. Shimamura accepted Congresswoman Maloney’s award on her behalf. She stated that in addition to being Rep. Maloney’s social worker on staff that she has a nephew with autism. Ms. Shimamura also reasserted “the congresswoman’s commitment to an especially important population of people” and her efforts to foster continuing partnership between Congress, the organizations serving people with I/DD, and their families.