Lance Robertson, ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging

EJCC: Advancing Elder Justice in Rural and Tribal Communities

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Assistant Secretary for Aging Lance Robertson greets Assistant Secretary for Health ADM Brett P. Giroir
Assistant Secretary for Aging Lance Robertson greets Assistant Secretary for Health ADM Brett P. Giroir

What is the point of offering the highest quality medical care or support services if they cannot be accessed by those who need them the most? 

This was the question posed by Dr. Jason Burnett of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston during today’s meeting of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council (EJCC), which I had the privilege of chairing. The EJCC brings together leaders from across the federal government to address issues of elder justice nationally. Council members include the leaders of federal departments, agencies, and entities administering programs related to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Today's meeting focused on the unique challenges to advancing elder justice in rural and tribal communities. Last month, I had the privilege of participating in the Department of Justice's Rural and Tribal Elder Justice Summit in Des Moines, IA which provided important context and information for today's discussion. Americans in rural communities often face greater risk of isolation and have access to fewer support services.

Dr. Burnett highlighted the emerging role of tele-health and tele-medicine in helping people in rural communities access medical and social support services. For example, the TEAM- Forensic Assessment Center Network allows Houston-based geriatric and elder abuse experts to connect with Adult Protective Services (APS) caseworkers and their clients across the state. One key to the program's success is the use of virtual in-home client assessments conducted via Apple's FaceTime service. The Department of Veterans Affairs is also taking advantage of technology to allow older veterans to access their Gerifit exercise program virtually.

The committee also received an update on the opioid crisis and its impact on older adults from HHS Assistant Secretary for Health ADM Brett P. Giroir. ADM Giroir described the opioid epidemic as "the most important and challenging public health crisis of our time" and noted that it effects Americans of all ages. ADM Giroir also reviewed the five point plan announced by Pres. Trump to combat opioid abuse, misuse, and overdoses and spoke about the importance of addressing inappropriate prescribing in a way that does not deny necessary medications to those experiencing pain.

The connection between elder justice and topics like the opioid epidemic and tele-medicine may not be obvious at first glance, but we know that the factors that contribute to elder abuse are complex, and our response to it must be multi-faceted. Over the coming weeks we will be asking you to share your thoughts on the EJCC’s priorities moving forward. I hope you will share your perspectives and experiences with us.

I am encouraged by the growing recognition of elder abuse as a problem we must all work together to end. On Friday, the front page of USA Today highlighted new data on elder abuse from ACL's National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System, and this summer, the Senior Safe Act became law. The new law encourages financial institutions to report suspected abuse to the proper state or federal law enforcement authorities with the promise of immunity for those who undergo training and report suspect elder financial exploitation in good faith.

I am heartened by the work that my colleagues across the federal government, and so many dedicated front-line professionals, are doing to advance elder justice. Thank you for standing up for the right of all Americans to live with dignity at any age.



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Commemorating October 1st 2018 - International Day of Older Persons

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By: Lance Robertson, Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging
IDOP 2018

Today, on the International Day of Older Persons, the United States joins communities around the world to pause and reflect upon the contributions of older people globally, and also to encourage all nations to thoughtfully consider and address the challenges faced by older people.

 

This day has been recognized annually since 1990, when the United Nations first designated October 1st as the International Day of Older Persons. In the intervening 28 years, the world’s population demographics have changed dramatically. The share of the world’s population that is 60 years or older has grown dramatically, and continues to do so. Nearly a billion people living today are 60 or older, and by 2050, there will be more than 2 billion older adults in the world. Here in the U.S., 10,000 adults turn 65 every day.

 

Despite their growing ranks, older adults are far too frequently victims of discrimination, exploitation, abuse, and neglect. Older adults commonly face discrimination in work settings, healthcare environments, and settings of law and justice.  Discrimination against older persons is unique, because when you discriminate against an older person, you are simply discriminating against your future self. We all aim to reach a healthy old age, and yet we allow ageist discrimination to persist.

 

As the Assistant Secretary for Aging and Administrator for Community Living (ACL), it is my honor to lead the agency in the federal government dedicated to promoting the rights of older persons, including supporting their independence, health, and well-being. This also means recognizing older adults’ many contributions to our society. They are grandparents, parents, great aunts and uncles; they are friends and mentors; they are community leaders and volunteers; they are also elected officials, and critical contributors in the workforce. Clearly, our communities are stronger when everyone has the opportunity to contribute their talents.

 

We must all work together: in our communities, across the nation, and in partnership with other countries, to promote policies that recognize and make use of the experience and capabilities of this growing population. This is particularly true as people are living longer and staying healthier for more of those years. The theme for this year’s International Day of Older Persons is “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions.” I am proud to say that ACL supports the efforts of local and national leaders who champion the rights of older adults every day.

On this year’s International Day of Older Persons, and every day going forward, let’s make a committed effort to ensure that every person has the opportunity fully participate in their communities, throughout their lives.

Comments

Colette Cordova - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 20:13

Thank you for you advocacy ! We are lucky to have someone with empathy and cares about older persons at the helm of acl; as a we know aging begins at birth. Glad you made a visit to Toledo for our Opiod Town Hall. As you see I am doing the homework you assigned: searching the acl.gov website
PS ironically this day has double meaning for me as it was the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer . I too am celebrating 28 years on October 1st!! I was told I had 6 months to live. Well I am still here and fighting for seniors every day! Onward and upward on behalf of older adults.



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Celebrating 50 Years of the Architectural Barriers Act

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Lance Robertson, ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging

Access Board ABA Anniversary Event PanelAs chair of the U.S. Access Board, I had the privilege of participating in an event today celebrating the anniversary of the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) of 1968 and the fifty years of progress it helped spark.

Before the ABA was passed, accessibility standards were often inconsistent -- and just as often ignored. The American National Standards Institute developed the first accessibility standards in 1961 with the help of Easter Seals and the research of the University of Illinois. Many states used these early standards to develop accessibility requirements in their building codes. However, other states adopted access requirements that ranged from lax to nearly nonexistent. This resulted in great discrepancies in accessible design requirements from state to state, and in some cases, from city to city.

This had real life impacts. It meant that a wheelchair user could easily go to the post office in one town but not in a nearby state or community. The same problem existed with respect to sidewalks, entrances, bathroom stalls, paths of travel, signage, and everything else that makes a building accessible.

The Architectural Barriers Act helped solve this problem by creating a mechanism for developing and setting clear and consistent nationwide accessibility guidelines for the federal government. It literally began to open the doors of government to Americans with disabilities like never before by requiring buildings constructed or renovated with federal funds, as well as those owned or leased by the federal government, to be accessible and usable by people with disabilities. For the first time, schools, housing, offices, courts, hospitals, stadiums, post offices, and countless other facilities were available to people with disabilities.

This did far more than eliminate physical barriers. It helped level the playing field by promoting greater access and equal opportunity to public education, colleges and universities, community living, employment, health care, and more. In this way, the ABA helped pave the way for the last five decades of civil rights advances for Americans of all ages with disabilities.

One of the law’s lasting legacies is the innovation in design and technology it helped spur across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Over the years, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) and the Access Board – together with many other federal agencies – have invested significant resources, time, ingenuity, and rigor in generating and effectively sharing new knowledge to improve the opportunity and ability of individuals with disabilities to access the built environment, technology, and the digital world.  The quest continues and so does the return on investment.

We at ACL are especially proud of the important role the Access Board and NIDILRR have played in advancing the science, discipline, and esthetic of what we now call universal design. Universal design uses a broad-spectrum of ideas and methods to design and develop buildings, products, and environments that are inherently accessible to all people of all ages and abilities.

As he was signing the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act into law in 1990, President George H.W. Bush said the law would take a sledgehammer to the shameful wall of exclusion that has prevented far too many with disabilities from exercising their full rights and responsibilities. It is important to recognize and celebrate that the first blow against this wall was struck by the Architectural Barriers Act and those that made it possible. 

We are a better nation and a better people because of it, and we remain committed to advancing the principles behind it.



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Centers for Independent Living Make Community Living Possible

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Lance Robertson, ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging

At ACL, our goal is to make community living possible for everyone. We believe community living should always be the expectation, and that older adults and people with disabilities should be able to live alongside people of all ages, with and without disabilities, with the same opportunities to learn, work, and play. One of the ways we are working to make that principle a reality is by funding services, support, and training to help older adults and people with disabilities achieve and maintain independence. These programs are primarily provided by community-based organizations, such as centers for independent living (CILs).

On Wednesday, Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan and I had the pleasure of visiting with staff and consumers from three D.C.-area CILs:  the Endependence Center of Northern Virginia (ECNV), Independence Now (MD), and the DC Center for Independent Living (DC CIL).

Centers for Independent Living are community-based, cross-disability nonprofit agencies that provide services and opportunities that enable people with disabilities live independently. The defining feature that makes CILs effective is that they are consumer-controlled, meaning they are run by and for people with disabilities. Several people mentioned how meaningful it was to them that the people offering services, training, and support have faced and addressed similar barriers. They share similar hopes and aspirations. For CIL consumers, CIL staff become trusted peers, mentors, and role models.

As ECNV Executive Director James Garrett put it, “the beauty of CILs is that it is a very holistic approach.”

Here are a few of the people we met:

  • Tyree is a talented young artist who experienced a spinal cord injury while in college. She was told to expect to spend the rest of her life in a nursing home. Independence Now helped her transition out of a nursing home, ride a bus for the first time since her accident, find accessible housing, and get tuition assistance and accommodations to complete her degree at the Corcoran School of Art. Though she primarily drew with her right hand before her accident, she learned to draw with her left hand and she shared with us two beautiful portraits she recently completed.
  • Josephine’s mother had been her primary caregiver since she had a childhood stroke. When her mother became ill, Josephine decided it was time to become more independent. ECNV helped her move into a room of her own in a group home, learn to use public transit, and get six hours of personal care assistance a week through a Medicaid waiver. The combination of skills and support are helping her experience a new level of independence and work towards her goal of getting a job in the community,
  • Lynn worked with the DC CIL after losing her vision. The CIL connected her with orientation and mobility training and peer counseling to help her move around her community with ease and end her homelessness, securing a place that she moved into just this week. Lynn is now a disability advocate and facilitates a peer group for other people with disabilities.
  • Cali sustained a severe TBI and other injuries in a car accident when she was in middle school. Initially undiagnosed, the TBI caused cognitive processing and memory gaps. A straight-A student who had participated in her school’s gifted and talented program and won awards for writing, art and photography before her accident, Cali’s began to struggle, and her school system recommended she be moved to another school. ECNV helped Cali’s mother fight for the accommodations she needed to succeed, and continue to support Cali and her mother as they advocated for her to be able to participate in honors courses and school activities. Cali told us, "I had people put in my life, through grace, that helped me learn how to be myself but also how to tell people what I needed." Cali graduated high school at the top of her class and now organizes trainings on supporting students with disabilities for professors at her college.
  • Dianna spent years in a nursing home after an accident. “I never thought I was going to be able to get into the community again because I didn’t know how,” she said. With support from “the angels” at ECNV, she was able to find the housing and supports she needed to live in the community. “They helped me so much…I feel very blessed.” Dianna is an artist and a musician; painting was an important part of her life before her accident. Before her accident, she painted on large canvases hung on the wall, using a ladder. With the help of ECNV, she has adapted her technique to accommodate her disability, painting with the canvas on the floor. 

All of these people are living their lives on their own terms, because of their hard work and thanks to the help of their CILs. We’re proud of the work that CILs do to make it possible for people with disabilities to live independently, in their communities, alongside people without disabilities. Watch a video of our visit.

Learn more about Centers for Independent Living or find a local CIL. Download a graphic about how Centers for Independent Living make community living possible.

CIL consumers discussing their experiences
Top left: ACL Administrator Lance Robertson and HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan look at Tyree's art. Top Center: One of Tyree's drawings. Top Right: Josephine speaking. Middle: group photo of meeting participants. Bottom Left: Lynn speaking. Bottom Center: Cali speaking. Bottom Right: Dianna speaking.



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Five Ways to Fight Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Financial Exploitation

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On the eve of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Social Security Matters blog is featuring a guest post by ACL Administrator Lance Robertson offering practical tips to join the fight for elder justice.

As Americans, we believe that people of all ages and abilities deserve to be treated fairly and equally and to live free from abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. Tomorrow, on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we join the world in recognizing the importance of elders to our communities and standing up for their rights. Here are five ways you can join this fight.

1. Break Down Isolation

We cannot talk about elder abuse without talking about social isolation. Elders without strong social networks face a greater risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. It is up to all of us to ensure that our communities are supporting and engaging older adults. One simple way to do this is by staying in touch with the older adults in your community. So go ahead and knock on your neighbor’s door just to say “hi” or start an intergenerational book club or movie night. You can also support community efforts to empower elders and fight isolation; act by volunteering to deliver meals or serve as a long-term care ombudsman.

2. Learn to Spot “Red Flags”

There are a number of “red flags” that could suggest the presence of elder abuse. Examples include:

  • Isolation (especially by a caregiver);

  • Unpaid bills or utilities that have been turned off;

  • Unusual or quick changes in a will or other financial documents;

  • Missing medications; and

  • Bruises or welts (especially on the face).

Even if you are not certain abuse is taking place, you can report any suspicions of abuse so a professional can investigate.

Read the full blog post and share this and other elder justice resources on social  media using #WEAAD.



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EJCC News: Opioids and Other Elder Justice Challenges

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Lance Robertson, ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging
Dr. Mosqueda and members of the EJCC
Dr. Laura Mosqueda, Director of the National Center on Elder Abuse and Dean of the Keck School of Medicine at USC, describes how the opioid crisis is impacting older adults and answers questions from HHS Secretary Azar and Attorney General Sessions at the spring meeting of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council.

In nine days, we will join the world in commemorating World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). Elder abuse is, by definition, abuse that affects older adults, and yet every year on WEAAD I see people of all ages coming together to take a stand against elder abuse. This is because elder abuse doesn't just affect the person being targeted. Friends, family members, and neighbors all feel the effects. It affects anyone who is, or hopes one day to be, an elder living in a community where they are treated fairly and equally. And ultimately, it affects all of us, because at elder abuse strikes at our core values, which are predicated on human dignity and the right of all people to live their lives without fear of harm.

Similarly, opioid addiction doesn't just affect the person experiencing addiction. It affects everyone around them, and as we are seeing across the country, it can have devastating effects for the entire community.

And when these two issues overlap, the results can be heartbreaking.

Yesterday at the spring meeting of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council (EJCC), Dr. Laura Mosqueda shared the story of a hospice patient she treated many years ago. The patient was in great pain and Dr. Mosqueda, who now serves as Dean of the Keck School of Medicine at USC and Director of the National Center on Elder Abuse, was doing everything she could to help. She was baffled because increasing dosages of morphine weren’t helping with her pain. The answer came from a blood test -- the patient had no morphine in her system. She was in pain because someone else was stealing her medication.

Sadly, while the connection between substance abuse and the abuse of older adults has been known for decades, stories like this one have become more common in recent years as our country confronts a crisis of opioid addiction. The overlap was the primary focus of today’s EJCC meeting.

Attorney General Sessions and HHS Secretary Azar
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and HHS Secretary Alex Azar at the Elder Justice Coordinating Council Meeting. "Fraud targeting seniors is so common that no victim should feel ashamed to come forward and report it," Sessions told the group.

The meeting brought together leaders from a dozen federal departments and agencies to coordinate efforts to combat elder abuse and discuss the latest developments from the field. I was honored to be joined at the meeting by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and our gracious host Jay Clayton, Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

"We know that some older adults abuse opioids themselves and that many others also experience abuse, neglect, and exploitation by others as a result of opioid addiction," said Azar. "Across HHS, we're looking at approaches to help communities across our country that are suffering from addiction, including ways to support (Adult Protective Services) as they develop effective ways to prevent, detect and remediate the harm caused by opioid abuse"

“We will continue to prosecute the fraudsters, the crooked doctors, and the traffickers who are doing so much damage across this country and across all age groups,” Sessions noted. “I am confident that together we can put an end to this epidemic and ensure that every senior has the safety and peace of mind that they deserve.”

It is clear that the elder justice community needs to be prepared to address the increased cases of elder abuse resulting from the opioid crisis. It is also clear that the needs of older adults must be considered in any community response to the opioid crisis. The opioid epidemic is putting new pressure on social service programs like state Adult Protective Services and they often lack the preparation or resources to fully address the increased demand.

The EJCC meeting also was an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made in the nine years since the body was established and look to the future.

There was great excitement about the improvements we have made, and continue to make, in cross-agency collaboration on elder justice research, information dissemination, and data collection. In February, the Department of Justice brought the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history against over 200 defendants who are accused of stealing more than half a billion dollars from more than a million older Americans. Two new laws approved by Congress and signed by President Trump over the last year, the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act and the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018, are offering new opportunities to protect and empower elders. We look forward to sharing more on the laws soon. These are just a few examples of developments we touched on at the meeting.

The Elder Justice Coordinating Council is a potent illustration of how much we can accomplish working together.  But you certainly don’t have to be in government to be part of the elder justice movement. Anyone can work across disciplines and generations to make a difference, here are 12 ideas.

Please join us in observing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, as we reflect on how far we have come and look ahead with renewed energy and clarity on what remains to be done to ensure justice for all Americans. Find an event near you or tools to plan your own commemoration.

Elder abuse affects all of us, and we all have to work together to end this human rights tragedy. Can I count on you to join the movement?



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Supporting nutrition, Supporting health and independence

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Lance Robertson, ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging

We all know that good nutrition is the foundation of good health. Healthy eating can help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, prevent the onset of chronic diseases, reduce inflammation, and speed recovery from injuries. On the other hand, poor nutrition is connected to a variety of health problems. 

Earlier this month, I had lunch with Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General. I shared some of the things ACL was working on during National Nutrition Month, and we talked about how important nutrition is for the people ACL serves. 

VADM Adams gets it. “People who don’t have enough healthy food are more likely to be hospitalized, tend to experience longer hospital stays, and are more likely to be readmitted after discharge.  Good nutrition is important to everyone, but it is even more critical for those at risk for being food insecure, such as older adults and people with disabilities, many of whom already are already at increased risk of hospitalization.”

Unfortunately, a variety of factors can make it harder for older adults and people with disabilities to get the nutrition they need. 

As we age, our bodies generally become less able metabolize food, and many people with disabilities have unique nutrition needs. If people do not fully understand those needs, it can be very difficult to make informed choices that lead to better health. In addition, both older adults and people with disabilities can face barriers to eating well. For example, a lack of public transportation could limit access to fresh groceries, and some people need the support of a caregiver to prepare or eat meals.

ACL is working with the aging and disability networks to help address these issues.

The Older Americans Act (OAA), passed in 1965 and reauthorized in 2016, acknowledged the importance of good nutrition for older adults by creating two important meal programs.

The Congregate Meal Program brings people together for meals in group settings such as senior centers, while the Home-Delivered Meal Program provides meals for frail, homebound, or isolated individuals. Both programs serve people age 60 and over, and, in some cases, their caregivers, spouses, and people with disabilities.

Both programs offer nutrition-related services and other important benefits, in addition to the meal. Congregate meals provide companionship, access to other health activities, and wellness programs — nearly two-thirds of providers of congregate meals also offer health promotion programming. Home-delivered meals provide an opportunity for social interaction and informal safety checks. In fact, sometimes the person delivering the meal is the only person the older adult sees regularly; without the meal delivery, the older adult could be completely isolated.

The impact of these programs cannot be overstated. First, they play a key role in preventing senior hunger and food insecurity. They also help seniors remain independent. In a recent survey, 63 percent of congregate meal recipients and 93 percent of home-delivered meal recipients reported that the meals allowed them to continue living in their own homes.

Similarly, many of the ACL services and supports that help people with disabilities avoid isolation and remain active in their communities help increase access to nutrition. ACL also supports programs to help people with disabilities understand and manage their individual nutrition needs, while other ACL initiatives aim to increase the nutrition knowledge of the professionals who provide services and medical care for people with disabilities.

For example, ACL’s National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) has funded projects studying nutrition interventions for a variety of populations, including people with psychiatric disabilities and spinal cord injuries. In addition, many ACL-funded University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs) have professionals on staff with expertise in disability and nutrition.

UCEDDs in five states are partnering with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and the Walmart Foundation on the “Nutrition is for Everyone” program. The program provides nutrition education, including direct training, for people with disability and community members. In my home state of Oklahoma, the program is supporting nutrition education training, in English and Spanish, for families with children with disabilities. The training is taught by two parents of children with disabilities. The program is also working with the Oklahoma Self-Advocacy Network to offer training to people with disabilities on fitness, healthy eating, and interacting with their health care team.

Many State Councils on Developmental Disabilities are also taking an active role in promoting nutrition. For example, South Carolina is funding a “Fit for Life” program that promotes health and wellness for young adults and adults with disabilities. They do this by pairing fitness classes with nutritional support and trips to the grocery store.

Food is an important part of everyone’s day. And for older adults and people with disabilities, it is vital to be well nourished — not just fed — to live the healthiest possible life.  At ACL, we are committed to our continued work the aging and disability networks and other partners to support good nutrition as key part of helping people live independently.  And while National Nutrition Month is coming to an end, we will keep spreading the word about eating well and living well – I hope you will join us!

Comments

Mehtab - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 13:21

Very Good Blog, Keep Sharing More, Thanks

Nutrition Facts

Christy Samuels - Tue, 05/08/2018 - 15:40

In reply to by Anonymous

Thank you for your feedback. ACL was created around the fundamental principle that all people, regardless of age or disability, should be able to live independently and fully participate in their communities. Good nutrition for older adults and people with disabilities is important.



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See Me for Me at Any Age: Celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

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Lance Robertson, ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging

Santa Perez of People First of Nevada is a lot of things.

“I am an advocate. I am a woman with a BA in Psychology. I sit on many committees around the state. I am a mom with a 15 year old son. I own my own home. Oh by the way, I have a disability!” she says in “Hear Me” a video produced by the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Perez captures an idea that is at the heart of this year's Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM) theme: "See Me For Me." It builds recognition of the fact that every person with a developmental disability is a unique individual with their own interests, skills, and passions. It’s an outstanding theme for DDAM – and it’s a concept we work to support year-round at ACL.

In fact, ACL promotes a person-centered approach across our programs. This approach puts the person receiving services, and their family, in the driver's seat, developing a set of formal and informal supports based on their individual strengths, culture, and goals.  We’ve been working with the aging and disability networks across the country for more than a decade to incorporate these principles into the systems that support older adults and people with disabilities, and we’re proud of the progress we’ve made. 

Promising practices are found in every state. For example, some states are offering people with developmental disabilities the option of self-directing the services they receive through Medicaid Home- and Community-Based Services waivers. This means they get a budget, which they use to pay for the services they decide will help them the most. They also decide who will provide the services. If they decide they want less support with cleaning and more transportation, they can make it happen. We’re excited to see this model starting to spread.

ACL and DD network partners work to empower people with developmental and other disabilities to explore, and make the most of, the things that make them unique. This starts with helping children get an early and accurate diagnosis and connecting families with appropriate services and supports. The early childhood and elementary years are also an important opportunity for children to develop the skills to advocate for themselves.

University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs) offer a variety of diagnostic and support services to help families understand how they can help their child thrive. For example, the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami offers a variety of services emphasizing an interdisciplinary and culturally competent approach. This work includes helping parents understand how to best support their child with a disability, helping them develop skills to advocate for their child, and connecting them with other families who have shared similar experiences.

Many family advocates, as well as individuals with developmental disabilities, are involved in their State Council on Developmental Disabilities (DD Councils), either as council members or as participants in programs like Partners in Policymaking.

ACL also is working to promote accessible learning environments where children can interact with peers with and without disabilities. Many UCEDDs offer early childhood programs where children can receive specialized supports without being completely isolated from their peers; the Early Childhood Education Program at Ohio State University’s Nisonger Center is one such example.

As the school years whiz by and the teenage years begin, students approach a critical transition point that can help lay the groundwork for a successful future career. Working while in high school, developing independent living and specialized career skills, preparing for college, and maintaining high expectations all can help improve future career outcomes. 

Last year, I made expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities and older adults one of the "five pillars" that represent my top program priorities as ACL Administrator. ACL and our grantees have been doing important work on this front. Through our Partnerships in Integrated Employment Systems Change Grants, ACL is working to help states streamline their bureaucracies and make competitive integrated employment the first and preferred outcome for all people with developmental disabilities.

In addition, ACL programs across the country are working to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities, for example:

Centers for Independent Living are working with young adults as they get ready to leave school and enter the workforce.

Assistive Technology programs are helping people with disabilities discover, test, and finance tools that can help them succeed in the workplace.

ACL’s National Institute for Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research is investing in projects to develop evidence-based programs, practices, and policies to improve employment opportunities for people will all types of disabilities.

Protection and Advocacy systems help remove barriers to employment and ensure employment – and other -- rights are upheld.

And that’s just a few of them. 

There are signs that the work of so many is paying off. For the past 23 months in a row, the percentage of people with disabilities in the workforce has increased. However that number, 34%, is still far too low, and we still have a lot more work to do. I want you to know that ACL remains committed to this work.

As people with developmental disabilities follow their own career and life paths, they often face a common set of challenges and barriers. ACL, our grantees, and our federal partners are working to address these barriers, including finding accessible housing, accessing needed services and supports, and getting to and from work or the grocery store.

I am happy to say that more and more people with developmental disabilities are enjoying older age. As their needs, and family support structures, change with time, we must ensure that our aging networks are equipped to support their unique needs. I am excited to see the aging and disability networks coming together, combining forces to make it possible for all of us to support more people, show the impact of our work, and do it better. The aging and disability networks have asked ACL to help bring the two communities together even more strongly, and we are looking forward to working together to make that happen.

I am grateful for the important work that ACL's grantees do every day to support people with developmental disabilities at every stage of their lives. I am proud to work alongside you to empower people with disabilities to blaze their own trails, share their full selves with the world, and help create a world that heeds the call to “See Me for Me.”

Read more ACL DD Awareness Month Blogs:



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DD Awareness Month Logo "See Me For Me"

Join us! Countdown to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

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Lance Robertson, Assistant Secretary for Aging and Administrator, ACL

WEAAD LogoEvery year on June 15, we join forces with partners across the country and around the world to observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). Created by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations, WEAAD is an opportunity for communities around the world to raise awareness of elder abuse and neglect, and to renew our commitment to preserving the rights of older adults – including the basic human right to live with dignity, free from abuse and neglect. WEAAD also aligns with the United Nations International Plan of Action, which acknowledges the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.

ACL and our partners at the National Center on Elder Abuse are planning many exciting activities over the next 90 days as we countdown to WEAAD. You can join us to make a difference and strengthen your community. Here are just a few ways you can participate:

  • Host a commemoration event and share your plans on the 2018 WEAAD event map;
  • Use #WEAAD in all of your WEAAD social media posts on Facebook and Twitter so that the nation and the world can see your commitment and planned activities;
  • Create and submit art to the WEAAD Virtual Art Gallery, a project of the Elder Justice Roadmap Steering Committee; and
  • Stay tuned for details on a joint WEAAD-inspired webinar with partnering organizations as well as NCEA’s four week social media countdown starting May 18th which will focus on sharing resources, information, and notable news.

Protecting the rights and preventing abuse of older adults and people with disabilities is a key priority for me, and for all of us at ACL. We are working with states to develop systems and programs that prevent abuse from happening, while also supporting individuals who have experienced abuse. We are spearheading a number of proactive efforts to strengthen and improve adult protective services around the nation. ACL has funded over eight million dollars in grants to assist with curtailing neglect, abuse, and exploitation. The funds are having a significant effect, supporting data collection, research, and technical assistance for adult protective services programs.

Over the next 90 days, I hope you will join us in shining a light on the issue of elder abuse: why elder abuse occurs, how we can prevent and address it, and how we can encourage constructive public conversations about the issue. For more ideas and resources to help you get involved, please visit the WEAAD web site where you will find the WEAAD outreach guide, tips on how to take action and other useful tools to spark community engagement and mindfulness.

Comments

Jayne Mullins - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 14:19

I would like to thank you for posting this blog, and to NCEA for posting materials for agencies to utilize in their activities around WEAAD this coming June. I will be sharing this and links for NCEA's tools on a statewide listserv I moderate for over 200 county and tribal APS social workers here in Wisconsin.



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Thanking Our Veterans

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On Veterans Day, we honor all those who have served in the military. It is a time to appreciate our veterans and all they have done to protect our country and make this world a better place. 

As a veteran, this day is particularly meaningful to me. I am proud to have served in the U.S. Army, and I also am proud of the fact that so many of my colleagues at ACL – more than ten percent of our workforce! -- have served or are currently serving this great nation.  (You can see some of them on ACL’s Facebook page.)

ACL Veterans

Photo: A few of our vets who work at ACL Headquarters in Washington, D.C. From left to right; Back row: Phillip McCoy, Christy Samuels, Kenny Moss, Caldwell Jackson, Jesse Moore; Front row: Christine Phillips, Keri Lipperini, Corinna Stiles, Sophia Newman

I thank them, and all veterans for their service, dedication, and commitment to keeping our country free.

Veterans who have served all over the world are now living in every corner of the United States. Many are aging or have disabilities resulting from their service.

As you know, ACL was created around the fundamental principle that all people, regardless of age or disability, should be able to live independently and fully participate in their communities.  Of course, this includes our veterans.

The many community-based organizations that make up the national aging and disability network are uniquely positioned to support these efforts.  We’re working with the network to develop innovative new approaches that improve efficiency, reach more people, and  enhance the quality of the services we provide. 

One of these initiatives is the Veteran-Directed Home and Community Based Services program. Veterans in this program design their supports based on their unique circumstances and lifestyles.  Veterans have the support of person-centered counselors to connect them to available resources and support them as they manage their own flexible budgets as well as hire and supervise their own workers. This flexibility allows them to come up with creative solutions to meet their support needs, including hiring family, friends, and neighbors to deliver their care and services. 

This program was launched in 2008 as a partnership between the ACL and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and has led to many new partnerships between local VA Medical Centers, Aging and Disability Resource Centers and state “No Wrong Door” systems, Area Agencies on Aging, Centers for Independent Living and other network organizations. 

Promising practices from these partnerships in seven states are highlighted in a new report by AARP, The Commonwealth Fund, and The SCAN Foundation.  The paper begins with a checklist to help local organizations enhance collaboration and truly create a “no wrong door” for veterans and the families who support them to receive services in the community.

On Veterans Day, and every day, ACL is proud to honor our nation’s veterans and actively serving personnel, and we believe that one of the best ways of honoring their service is helping them remain in their own homes and communities throughout their lives. To the veterans and their families out there, thank you for your service and sacrifice on behalf of our country’s freedoms and security!

Editor's Note: Today, ACL also launched a new No Wrong Door website which includes many resources on Veteran-Directed Home and Community Based Services and other programs and practices to support veterans.



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