Living Life "Side by Side"
DES MOINES, Iowa – During Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March, Iowans impacted by a developmental disability are encouraged to speak up about the challenges they face.
Rik Shannon, public policy manager for the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, says more than 47,000 people in Iowa have a developmental disability, which restricts their ability to function typically in their day-to-day life. He says advocates want to know more about the challenges these individuals face so they can receive better support.
"Regardless of disability, many people need some level of support to live independently in the community,” he stresses. “We're asking people with disabilities to talk with us about their connection to the community, why it's important, how they make it happen."
This year's theme is "Side by Side," and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities is raising awareness by having folks with and without disabilities share their experiences learning, working and living side by side. Stories can be submitted at nacdd.org or posted on social media with the #DDawareness17.
Shannon says much progress has been made over the past several decades to help individuals with developmental disabilities control their own path and live independently. But he explains there are challenges that may erode these opportunities, most notably proposals that would change Medicaid into a block-funding program.
"A lot of people with disabilities rely on funding from the federal Medicaid program to provide access to services and supports that promote independent living,” he points out. “In Iowa, we have a regional system and there are threats to funding for regional services."
Iowa state Sen. Mark Segebart (R-Vail) says he is working with state leaders to develop a way to continue funding services at the county level before the law for regional mental health funding sunsets this year.