Representative Bob Gardner, from Colorado Springs, has been asked to sponsor a bill that would transfer services for the developmentally disabled from the state’s Department of Human Services to Health Care Financing and Policy. Throughout his legislative career, Representative Gardner has advocated for funding to provide services and programs for the developmentally disabled.
In an interview with Catherine Strode, Health Care Advocacy Program and Outreach Coordinator, Representative Gardner explained why he has been asked to carry the HCPF transfer bill and why his personal commitment to the issues of the developmentally disabled has been the most rewarding experience of his service in public office.
Why is the transfer of services being proposed?
“A lot of people have told me that the move of DD division to HCPF needs to happen. A lot of the question is about the details and what the plan is. The way it’s been simply described to me, for those people who have reservations right now, is that we need to hammer out the details before we pass a bill. Others have said, ‘no this needs to be done and we need to get it done this year.’ So I think what’s interesting about it right now is an acknowledgement by most of the stakeholders that I’ve talked to that DDD needs to move to HCPF because of the connection with Medicaid. I think whether it happens this year or next year, I think that it is going to happen and even though a bill has not been introduced, I think we’re already in the phase of discussing details and I have to confess that at his point I don’t know that I can talk a lot about those little details. I’ve just gotten a draft of the bill and I’m going to look at it. I’ve had some people say to me that I absolutely am the right person and I need to be on board. I’ve had other people say to me that it is something we should proceed with very carefully.”
Why are you the right legislator to potentially sponsor this bill?
“I’m being asked to sponsor it because of my history of commitment and because I have credibility on the issue. I have credibility in my caucus, and I can understand the governmental and regulatory issues because there a lot of them. All of these issues with the developmentally disabled community raise issues about conflicts of interest, providing services, who oversees whom, are we doing it right, are we imposing too many safeguards so it increases the cost. The best of everything about the operation of government and what can be done well – and what can be done wrong – come together in the providing of DD services. People with developmental disabilities have incredible needs, their families have incredible challenges and ironically the politics in public policies surrounding providing the services are phenomenally complex. So it’s hard when their advocates and their families encounter the whole system.”
How is it that you have this strong commitment to the DD issues?
“A lot of people may have a family member with developmental disabilities, I don’t. The issue sort of found me. In my first session in the legislature, I was asked by the minority leader to serve on the Interim Committee on long term care services. I was a little puzzled as to why I was asked at the time. It turned out it was a very good reason. I actually had worked as a campaign consultant in El Paso County on a referred measure to try to get an additional one cent sales tax for DD services. That was unsuccessful. But I worked on the campaign and the people who were in the community at the time when the long term care and waiting list Interim Committee was pulled together said, well Rep Gardner knows something about the issues – we’ll ask him – the education of that member will not be as great. “
Did it grow from that?
“It did grow from that. And we can make a difference. This is an issue that doesn’t have partisans. This is the number one issue which I personally work with legislators who agree with me on absolutely nothing else. Funding for people with developmental disabilities, and programs for people with developmental disabilities and their families, and providing the services, is something that is the proper role of government. It is proper for us to struggle to find the funding, to do what we can. It is an issue that I have found personally rewarding. “
How has it been rewarding?
“I did a bill that came out of the Interim Committee to set aside contracts to provide jobs for people with developmental disabilities and what’s been so rewarding for me about that is to literally have people who have real jobs because of that bill and their families to walk up to me somewhere and say, ‘ I have a job. You’ve made a difference in my life.’ You know we do an awful lot of stuff in this building and you have to walk away and say, did it matter to anybody? This is an issue where when you do something and you do it in a way that works, people walk up to you and go ‘you made a difference in my life – my life is better because of something you did.’ That’s hard to find in the world today.”