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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL 2016 Appropriations Testimony

Kelly Buckland

Executive Director, National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)

April 13, 2016

Prepared for:

  • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
  • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
  • Appropriations for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

My name is Kelly Buckland, and I am the Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL). I am writing to you on behalf of the nation’s Centers for Independent Living (CILs). I would like to start by thanking you for your commitment to enabling people with disabilities to participate fully in their communities by investing in the Independent Living Program. I write today to ask that you reaffirm your commitment to the over 57 million Americans with disabilities by increasing funding for CILs in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services appropriations by $200 million, for a total of $301 million for the Independent Living line item in FY 2017.

NCIL is dedicated to increasing the availability of the invaluable and extremely cost-effective services CILs provide. NCIL is the oldest cross-disability, national grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. NCIL’s membership includes people with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living, Statewide Independent living Councils, and other disability rights organizations. NCIL advances independent living and the rights of people with disabilities, and we envision a world in which people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully.

Centers for Independent Living are non-residential, community-based, non-profit organizations that are designed and operated by individuals with disabilities and provide five core services: advocacy, information and referral, peer support, independent living skills training and transition services that facilitate the transition of individuals with significant disabilities from nursing homes and other institutions to home and community-based residences with appropriate supports and services. Also included are assistance to individuals with significant disabilities who are at risk of entering institutions so that the individuals may remain in the community, and the transition of youth with significant disabilities to postsecondary life.

CILs are unique in that they operate according to a strict philosophy of consumer control, in which people with any type of disability, including people with mental, physical, sensory, cognitive, and developmental disabilities, of any age, directly govern and staff the Center. Each of the 365 federally funded Centers are unique because they are run by people with disabilities and reflect the best interest of each community individually.

Centers for Independent Living address discrimination and barriers that exist in society through direct advocacy. These barriers are sometimes architectural, but more often reflect attitudes and prejudices that have been reinforced for generations. They have deterred people with disabilities from working, leaving many in poverty and unjustly detained in institutions. As my own life experience has proven, with increased opportunities, individuals with disabilities can claim their civil rights and participate in their communities in ways their non-disabled counterparts often take for granted.

NCIL estimates that to meet the current demand- including the addition of a fifth core service as authorized by WIOA- and overcome years of devastating funding cuts, appropriations for the IL Program will need to increase by $200 million. In FY 2010 funding for the IL Program was $103,716,000, and in FY 2016 funding for the IL Program is $101,183,000. That equals a loss of $2.5 million, not including adjusting for inflation. Increased funding should be reinvested from the billions currently spent to keep people with disabilities in costly Medicaid nursing homes and institutions and out of mainstream of society.

According to data collected by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, during Fiscal Years 2012-2014, Centers for Independent Living:

  • Attracted over $2.26 Billion through private, state, local, and other sources;
  • Moved 13,030 people out of nursing homes and institutions, saving states and the Federal government over $500 million, not to mention improving people’s quality of life, and;
  • Provided the four core services, including: advocacy to 233,230 consumers, information and referral to 4,189,922 consumers, peer support to 172,287 consumers, and independent living skills training to 274,991 consumers.

In that same period, CILs provided other services to hundreds of thousands of individuals with disabilities in their respective communities that included:

  • Services to 35,137 youth with disabilities;
  • Assistance to 145,937 people in securing accessible, affordable, and integrated housing;
  • Transportation services to 103,175 people with disabilities;
  • Personal assistance services to 184,240 people with disabilities;
  • Vocational and employment services to 96,492 people with disabilities; and
  • Assistance with Assistive Technology for 171,441 people with disabilities.

Beyond the direct services they provide, CILs seek ways to broadly change traditional service delivery in their communities and throughout the nation, including reform of the long term care system. For over 40 years, CILs have sought community based programs to assist people with all types of disabilities, across the lifespan, to remain in or return to their family and friends, in their homes and communities. When such services are delivered in an individual’s home, rather than a costly nursing facility or other institution, the result is tremendous cost savings to Medicaid, Medicare and states, while enabling people with disabilities to become more independent, financially self-sufficient, and less reliant on long term government supports. And research has found that community-based services are significantly less expensive than nursing home placements.

In 2015 alone, CILs have had major successes in increasing access and equality for people with disabilities. The DIAL Center for Independent Living in Clifton, New Jersey joined a local wheelchair user in efforts to work with the city of Montclair, and those efforts will result in accessible parking spaces outside schools, parks, and other public parking areas, as well as the hiring of an ADA Coordinator for the city. The Montana Independent living Project collaborated on a snow ordinance policy for the city of Helena that requires sidewalks, ADA ramps, corners, bulb-outs, and driveway and alley aprons used for pedestrian travel to be cleared within 24 hours, with enforcement and penalties for non‐compliance. Access Living in Chicago, Illinois conducted phone-based fair housing tests and used the results to draw attention to the issue of discrimination against home seekers who are Deaf or hard of hearing. And the Disabled Resource Services CIL (DRS) in Fort Collins and Loveland, Colorado conducted its first Women’s Empowerment Group, which has led to ongoing efforts by DRS staff to create an empirical research design model that can be used in future groups to quantitively measure the concept of “empowerment,” an area of study in which little research exists.

Additionally, CILs have been extremely effective in helping people remain in or transition back into the community. The Whole Person’s Money Follows the Person program completed 32 consumer transitions from institutions to apartments/homes in the Kansas City, Missouri metro area. Tri‐County Patriots for Independent Living in Washington, Pennsylvania transitioned 54 people from nursing homes and other institutions into their own homes, saving the state and federal government $2,268,000. The Houston Center for Independent Living in Texas transitioned 186 nursing home residents into community‐based living, saving the State of Texas and the federal government approximately $8,779,200. And the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester, New York was instrumental in achieving introduction of the Disability Integration Act by Senator Schumer, which has the potential to provide access to community services and supports to people with disabilities all across the country.

As previously mentioned, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act created a fifth core service for Centers: transition. NCIL strongly supported the addition of this fifth core service, but additional funding is sorely needed to effectively carry it out. Funding these transition services will be critical to promoting effective employment outcomes, successful nursing home transition, and increased community participation for transitioning students. Current funding levels barely sustain day-to-day operations. CILs struggle to meet the demands of the community and provide leadership and common sense solutions. Without increased funds our vision to achieve full integration of people with disabilities in society will be undercut and taxpayers will continue to pay for costly Medicaid nursing homes and bear the economic impact of negative employment outcomes and continued dependence on programs that disincentive work and community involvement. CILs are an excellent service and a bargain for America. They keep people active and engaged in their communities, and they save taxpayer money.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony. We welcome any questions you may have. We also welcome each of you to visit your local Center for Independent Living so you can see first-hand their contributions to your Congressional Districts. We look forward to working with you to ensure that Americans with disabilities have the opportunity become active members of society.