Rockland Independent Living Center has been busy this winter representing the interests of people with disabilities at legislative events in Albany.
A newly formed Regional Recovery Services Unit rallied together with over 800 others from around New York State on January 31st, 2012 proclaiming and lobbying for reinvestment into community- based recovery services. Andy Kohlbrenner, Director, along with Peer Recovery Specialists, Levi Riddick, Sean Campbell and Keisha Norris represented RILC. The day was full of keynote speeches from prominent Mental Health Senate representatives, OMH Commissioner Mike Hogan, and leading Peer Advocates. The day was capped by a large, spirited march around the Capitol. There were also a host of meetings with state legislators. The theme of protecting our core services of Peer Support, Housing and Employment echoed throughout the day’s events, and will continue to be part of our advocacy priorities for this and coming years ahead.
On February 14th, 2012, eleven representatives from RILC attended the annual NYAIL Legislative Day. George Hoehmann, Executive Director, Sarah Mitchell-Weed, Director of Independent Living Services, and Joel Taveras, Director of PACER, led the group of RILC consumers and students from local high schools. The group attended a lunchtime rally with other advocates from all over the state to address a wide range of current issues important to people with disabilities, in areas such as healthcare, education, housing and employment. The group then met with Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, and Senator David Carlucci to disseminate materials and share concerns. The advocates addressed Olmstead implementation and the need to maintain quality of service and level of care in the PACER program as the state transitions to a managed care model. They highlighted the cost-effective nature of PACER, which has saved the state of New York approximately one billion dollars since 2001 by diverting individuals out of the costly system of state-operated institutional care. Advocates also discussed the need for additional accessible transportation options in Rockland County, given the relatively high cost and limited availability of TRIPS door-to-door para-transit service. They also highlighted ways to make the current public transportation system more friendly to people with disabilities, such as implementing disability awareness training for all TOR drivers. Finally, the advocates addressed the need for more education about disability in the public school system, where kids with disabilities are sometimes ostracized for their differences. “All in all, it was a very successful day for RILC,” said Sarah Mitchell-Weed. “I was proud to represent the agency in a forum that emphasized substantive civil rights gains for individuals with disabilities, and the participation of those individuals in legislative decisions.” RILC will continue to represent the interests of all people with disabilities in Rockland at this important event in future years.