One of our time-honored beliefs at the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is “no numbers without stories, no stories without numbers.” It’s not enough for us to present data, nor is it enough to tell great compelling stories. To make the kinds of social and policy changes GCDD is charged with, you must do both.
Since becoming Executive Director of GCDD this past fall, I’ve spent a lot of time focused on the work of the state Senate Study Committee – formally known as the Senate Study Committee on People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Waiver Plan Access. The committee has held meetings in Rome, Tifton, and Atlanta, hearing testimony from hundreds of people in the disability community.
What did we hear in the testimonies? We heard testimonies from the community. Families shared that their loved ones were sent for treatment out of state then came home without any services, throwing them into crisis. People have spoken about waiting over a decade or more to receive a waiver, being denied multiple times even with high needs and formal diagnoses and struggling to go about daily life.
Below is a list of more concerns that the community shared at the Senate Study Committee meetings:
“Families are absolutely swamped, they need help.”
“I live in a group home. I have worked hard to learn skills to live on my own. I can’t find a place that I can afford the rent for a one-bedroom apartment.”
“Caregivers are overworked, underpaid, and cutting corners.”
“We have probably at least one family a week come say my child is finishing high school. How do we get services? They think they’re just going to go get a waiver. It’s going to be a year or 5 or 10 years.”
“People with disabilities want to live a normal life just like you.”
That last one was spoken by a self-advocate who went into her first institution when she was five years old and moved out of Central State Hospital in 2007.
It’s time to invest in this community. We need to remember developmental disability services are not only critical human services. They are invaluable tools for economic development in Georgia. People with disabilities can contribute to their communities and build careers when they have proper support. When their loved ones with intellectual and developmental disabilities have support, parents and family members can continue working and advance in their own employment. When our providers can pay employees a livable wage, they can add jobs, retain employees, and those employees put their money back to the local economy.
The disability community in Georgia faces many challenges today, but the momentum we’re building gives me great hope that together, things will change for the better. A way that you can help to make change is to participate in GCDD’s Advocacy Days, an opportunity for the community to connect with and share their concerns with Georgia state legislatures. For more information about Advocacy Days, click here.
GCDD Executive Director