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2019-1-4

Advocates Seek Funding to Help Virginians with Disabilities

By Georgia Geen, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Dozens of disability-rights activists urged members of the Virginia General Assembly Thursday to approve funding to reduce the nearly 13,000-strong waitlist for developmental disability waivers.

Developmental disability waivers, which are granted by Medicaid, include support services for mental and behavioral health, learning and employment.

According to speakers from The Arc of Virginia — which advocates for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities — about 3,000 of those on the waitlist are classified as “priority one,” meaning they will need waiver services within a year. However, The Arc members recalled experiencing years-long waits to receive resources such as one-on-one job coaching, monitoring of self-administered medications and in-home care tailored to the patient’s needs and independence level.

Cheryl Emory said she had to leave her job years ago to care for her now-young-adult daughter, Virginia, who has a disability.

“At this rate, I’ll be 70 or 80 or have died when Virginia gets a waiver,” Emory told a legislative panel at a hearing on proposed amendments to the state’s 2018-2020 budget. “Today, we’re asking you to fund all of the priority one waiting list.”

The Arc’s executive director, Tonya Milling, said the organization wants the General Assembly to completely fund waivers for those in the “priority one” category, finishing an effort that began last year when waivers were funded for 1,695 of the 3,000 on the waitlist. She estimates $38 million would be necessary to fully fund the remainder of the list.

“You don’t want to waste that big investment, because it’s the biggest one that they’ve made. We don’t want to lose that momentum that they made,” Milling said. “This is the time, this is the opportunity to bring balance to the system before people are in crisis.”

“In-crisis” patients are those with a higher need for services offered by the developmental disability waiver. Many have aging parents with their own health concerns serving as caregivers, putting them at a higher risk of institutionalization, Milling said.

Low pay for at-home health care workers also impacts care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, many speakers said. The shortage of care providers means even those who qualify cannot always get sufficient at-home nursing.

Joyce Barnes is an at-home care worker in Henrico County, and said she has to work 12-15 hours per day. She asked General Assembly members to consider increasing wages for at-home care providers, in addition to a 40-hour work week cap that would allow them to receive overtime pay. Barnes also suggested an additional orientation program for at-home health care workers.

Constance Wilson, an at-home care provider, said she helps her clients with bathing, eating and other day-to-day tasks — but also serves as a companion by spending time with them.

“We save the state money to keep people out of the emergency room and out of nursing rooms,” Wilson said.

According to a report by The Commonwealth Fund — a health policy organization — at-home care reduces health care costs by 30 percent and can be more effective than hospital care.

Members of RISE for Youth, an advocacy group addressing youth incarceration, spoke in favor of Gov. Ralph Northam’s budget amendment to fund additional school counselors throughout Virginia. Over two years, Northam’s proposed $36 million for additional school counselors would bring Virginia’s caseload-to-counselor ratio from 425-to-1 to 250-to-1, the nationally recommended level.

Rebecca Keel, a member of RISE for Youth, said some students come to school in “flight-or-fight mode.”

“Their behaviors are criminalized instead of recognized as a cry for help,” Keel said. “Please keep investing in support staff rather than law enforcement.”

The public hearing at the Science Museum of Virginia was one of four held across Virginia on Thursday. The other hearings were in Fairfax, Roanoke and Newport News.

Legislators Host Town Hall for Henrico Constituents

By Kaytlin Nickens and Maryum Elnasseh, Capital News Service

HENRICO -- With the federal government shut down over an impasse between Democrats and Republicans, state legislators from both parties emphasized bipartisanship at a town hall meeting Wednesday evening at Tuckahoe Library.

“This is the year that Virginia needs to come together,” said Del. Debra Rodman, D-Henrico.

More than 100 constituents came to hear Rodman, fellow Democratic Dels. Schuyler VanValkenburg and Dawn Adams, and Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant discuss taxes, education and the polarized political climate.

‘Conforming’ to federal tax overhaul

A key issue when the General Assembly convenes next week for its 2019 session is “tax conformity” — whether Virginia should adjust the state tax code to align with the federal tax overhaul approved by Congress in 2017.

VanValkenburg called conformity “a good thing.” He said it would simplify the tax-filing process and help maintain Virginia’s reputation as a business-friendly state.

Virginia would see an increase in state tax revenues through the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. A related issue is what to do with that money. Rodman and VanValkenburg want to increase state spending on education.

“In terms of investing, our schools need funding,” VanValkenburg said.

However, Dunnavant said she favors returning to taxpayers the additional state tax revenues that result from tax conformity. She said she will propose legislation to double the standard deduction when filing state income taxes.

“We still have plenty of money to live within our means and make the investments we need to make, but we really shouldn’t be taking money that isn’t ours,” Dunnavant said. “We should be returning that to the individuals that surrendered it.”

Dunnavant’s comments were the only ones to draw the audience’s applause.

School counselors and other education priorities 

VanValkenburg, a teacher at Glen Allen High School, said he supports increasing the number of school counselors as well as school resource and safety officers.

Dunnavant agreed about the need for more school counselors. She also suggested adding behavior analysts — specially licensed individuals who go into classrooms and help manage students.

“When we talk about the school-to-prison pipeline, a lot of that has to do with kids being sent out of the classroom because they’re having behavioral problems,” Dunnavant said.

She proposed funding one behavior analyst for every five schools so that the analyst could spend one day a week at each school.

Adams expressed concern about school shootings. After the shooting in Parkland, Fla. in February, Adams said she conducted research on school shootings since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. Adams said the most common thread is that the average shooter is a white male with no prior mental health diagnosis, and that an age in the ballpark of 17 years old is not uncommon.

“Many of the shootings — more than 50 percent — were as a result of some kind of emotional upset,” Adams said. “It all speaks to the idea that we need to teach our children how to communicate, how to deal with their problems, how to cope better with life.”

Rodman, who serves on the House Education Committee with VanValkenburg, said she is sponsoring a bill to address the teacher shortage in Virginia. It would require the Virginia Department of Education to monitor and address the number of teacher vacancies each year.

“If there’s nothing we can come together on in a bipartisan way, it is for us to come together for our teachers,” Rodman said.

Bipartisanship in an age of increasing polarization

The legislators were asked how they will work together to continue making Henrico a place where constituents want to raise their families.

“I think we all work bipartisan all the time,” Dunnavant said.  Last year, for example, she co-sponsored with Democrats a bill expanding access to cannabis-based oils to treat or alleviate the symptoms of diseases and other diagnosed conditions.

Adams agreed, emphasizing the importance of listening to people who have different ideas.

“I think that’s the only thing you can do to be a good delegate or a good senator is to communicate well and try to come up with solutions,” Adams said.

VanValkenburg said he hopes to have Republicans co-sponsor his education bills.

“There’s compromise to be had on all of this stuff,” VanValkenburg said. “And I think there’s a coming together that’ll happen.”

Ethel Bowen Malone Gauldin

Ethel Bowen Malone Gauldin passed away on January 1, 2019. She was born in Greensville County On August 24, 1918, the daughter of Joseph and Daisy Newsome Bowen. She was preceded in death by her mother and father, her first husband, Garland M. Malone and her second husband , Carl W. Gauldin, Sr., sons Garland Lee Malone and Carl W. Gauldin, Jr., daughter-in-law, Maxine Phillips Malone, as well as two brothers and eight sisters. She is survived by one daughter, Bonnie G. McWilliams (Peter) of Durham, NC, grandchildren Robin McWilliams of Raleigh, NC, Allison McWilliams of Winston-Salem, NC, Cathy Malone Adcock (Jim) of Tifton, GA, Lee Malone (Rose) and Chris Malone (Belinda) of Chesapeake, VA, Timothy  Gauldin Crawley (Stephanie) of Raleigh, NC, former daughters-in-law, Peggy Gauldin Crawley and Joyce Malone Spears, six great grandchildren as well as one sister, Nellie Roberts of Blackstone, VA, and one sister-in-law, Marie Bowen of Emporia, VA, as well as many loving nieces and nephews.

Early in her life she enjoyed sewing, making most of her daughter’s clothing, working in her flower and vegetable gardens and helping out on the family farm. She grew up and was baptized at Independence Methodist Church. As an adult, she moved to Brunswick County and became a member of James Square Baptist Church, where she was a member for many years. Upon moving back to Emporia about twenty years ago, she became a member of Calvary Baptist Church.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Calvary Baptist Church, the Greensville Volunteer Rescue Squad or New Century Hospice.

Visitation will be held at Echols Funeral Home, Emporia from 10:00a.m. to 11:00a.m on Saturday January 5, 2019 in Echols Funeral  Home’s Chapel, followed by a funeral service.

A graveside service will be held at 1:00P.M. at Crestview Cemetery, in La Crosse, VA.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at: www.echolsfuneralhome.com

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