Seven months ago, Christiano Sosa took over the helm of the Arc of Colorado. During that time, he united the state’s 14 Chapters around the 2018 legislative agenda. That agenda produced five prioritized bills that all successfully passed.
In an interview with Catherine Strode, Christiano reflects on this legislative progress and offers his vision moving forward. Part of that vision includes a statewide listening tour he will kick off this June.
What are your reflections on the past seven months?
“A tremendous foundation has been built over the last 10 years. I am fortunate to come into an organization that is widely known and respected at the Capitol for our bipartisan work on behalf of those with developmental or intellectual disabilities (IDD). This is difficult, complex work. It takes whole communities to rally together. I saw that in this Session. We have tremendous Chapters throughout the state. These Chapters are comprised of parents, of siblings, and of people with IDD. Their voice is amazing. The job of the Arc of Colorado is to help folks find voice in legislation. It is a privilege and an honor to be able to do that.”
What are your reflections on the Session?
“We had tremendous wins in this Session. All five of our prioritized bills went on to the Governor. That is an amazing accomplishment. We had a priority in ensuring that people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) have clear paths to employment. We worked with our partners at the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF), the Disabilities Council, the Arc of Larimer County and countless others to ensure that people understand best practices under discovery and intake. Employment is talked about first as an option. Meanwhile, employment is talked about first as an option. People with IDD in the state now have landlord tenant rights. Previously, they were excluded from statute. We were able to increase Direct Service Providers’ wages 6.5 per cent. We whittled down the waiting list for the Comprehensive Waiver. That waiting list is close to three thousand. We were able to get three hundred new slots, or about 10 per cent. We were able to reauthorize the Child Mental Health Treatment Act and make that permanent. Finally, we were able to move the Children’s Habilitation Residential Program Waiver (CHIRP) over to HCPF from the Department of Human Services. In the process, we got rid of the requirement that parents give up their custodial rights if their child has mental health needs and requires residential treatment.
With some of those bill sponsors leaving the legislature, are you concerned about how those voids will be filled?
“Fundamentally I believe policy issues around individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities are bipartisan. I believe our legislators are looking out for those in the community that have the most need. The Arc of Colorado and our 14 Chapters have a lot of practice in terms of grooming legislators to understand the complex issues that make up of the world of IDD. Our job is two-fold, one is about education and the other is to work with our elected officials so the voices of people with IDD and their parents and siblings are heard.”
What issues will continue to be important in the 2019 Session?
“We will always have our eye on reducing the waitlist so people get the right services at the right time. We will be looking at the settings rule and how that is implemented in Colorado. The Arc of Colorado’s work is not done. We will be working with our partners to ensure all of the rules and the promulgation of those rules are informed by the collective experience of the 14 Chapters across the state.
What is your vision for policy issues in the coming year?
“I am looking forward to a statewide listening tour this summer to identify the issues that are at the top of mind for local Chapters. The listening tour will begin in June and go through August. It is a road show to: the Arc Chapters, legislators’ offices in their home turf, partners such as HCPF and the Department of Human Services. We want to understand what their priorities are and how we can all work together in identifying the issues that will have most promise in the 2019 session.”
What is your vision for the future of the Arc of Colorado?
“I think we are unique in lots of different ways. We are part of a national movement, a movement that mirrors what we have organically created in Colorado. Parents, families, people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and siblings have a strong voice. That voice is echoed throughout every state. We are part of a chorus. What happens at the federal level has implications at the state level. The Arc of Colorado will always have one leg in the federal world and one in the local sphere statewide. We have Chapters working at the municipal and county levels and the way all of those things roll up together is powerful in social justice movements. It is a tremendous asset. I hope the Arc of Colorado can be a depository for social justice and the stories that come from that.”
Catherine Strode is Advocacy Denver’s Communications and Policy Specialist. She holds a Masters degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in Health Care Policy. Catherine publishes Policy Perspective, featuring interviews with state policy makers on issues that affect the work and mission of Advocacy Denver.