An Interview with Catherine Strode
Tenants’ rights for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities will be under review during the 2018 Legislative Session. According to Jon Labadie, Senior Associate with Mendez Consulting, Colorado state statutes are in conflict with the settings rules of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
In an interview with Catherine Strode, he says the language in Colorado statutes denies individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities basic rights. This issue, along with early childhood student discipline, will lead The Arc of Colorado’s 2018 legislative agenda.
What are the major issues this Session?
“We’re going to see some of the things we saw last year. We’ll be working with the same coalition around that bill to reduce the rate of suspensions and expulsions for kids in early childhood education. It’s a huge deal for our community, specifically because of the way kids with disabilities are disproportionately affected by these interventions. It’s really important for us to be working on this legislation now. We have a lot of data on how those interventions affect kids when they are in high school and how those outcomes can be negative as a result of these interventions. What we need is to be establishing standards to prevent those negative outcomes in the future. That coalition has learned a lot. They did a lot of legwork leading up to the legislative session in 2017. Now they have had that much more time to work with impacted stakeholders and with legislators to educate them on why this is necessary.
“Having the dream of the CHRP Waiver moving out of county welfare systems into something that is much more humane and easier for families… That’s a win.”
What priorities are there regarding waiver changes?
“Fixing the Children’s Habilitation Residential Program Waiver (CHRP) to ensure that kids can access services without suspending parental rights. The Child Mental Health Treatment Act (CMHTA) is similar in terms of providing more robust mental health services for kids. There are kids we serve that have co-occurring developmental disabilities as well as mental health disorders. It is that group, where they have both, that is going to be most benefitted by reauthorizing the CMHTA. Both of these have very good chances of getting through because there’s such a broad group of organizations that are prioritizing this within their own legislative agenda. We have the Governor making both of these a priority within his legislative agenda as well. The CHRP Waiver is particularly important for us to fix because we’re having parents relinquish their parental rights in order for their children to receive the health care they need. That’s totally unacceptable.”
What is the tenants’ rights issue?
“There are two pieces of state statute that are in contention with federal rules. One of them is clearly something that is old and outdated: language that says as tenants, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not entitled to the same basic rights as other tenants. The language is very broad. It is not specific. We will be striking that language. There’s another piece to that. There’s a new CMS rule that says individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not subject to involuntary evictions from residential settings unless in case of emergency. We passed a state law a few years ago that allowed case managers to get someone out of a residential setting in the event there was suspicion of abuse or neglect. Those two are in contention because our state statue is a little more specific. The intent for both pieces is the same. We’re working closely with the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) to figure out an appropriate solution to that.”
What other issues will The Arc of Colorado focus on this Session?
“We’re going to be working closely with some of our chapters to provide increased supports for employment. We ran a bill a few years ago with Senator Kefalas around Employment First opportunities. We may be coming back and bolstering that program up a little bit. If, for example, we had more staff at HCPF to be administering the program, that would be helpful. Those are the kinds of supports we’re talking about.”
What are the challenges of the Session?
“I think the biggest thing to be looking out for would be just the state of our budget. There are budget aspects of some of the proposals I have talked about. There’s a budget component to each of those because they cost money. Some of those have been called out, like the CHRP waiver and the CMHTA. We have to have a balanced budget every year. That can be a tough needle to thread.”
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.