Viewpoint: Gaining Momentum

Heashot of D'Arcy Robb, GCDD's Executive Director
D’Arcy Robb, Executive Director of GCDD

At the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD), we are always driven by our overarching values, and specifically by our public policy agenda. As we gear up to head into another legislative session in 2024, I want to take time to reflect on the wins in 2023 before we call on our advocates and community to continue the work in 2024. 

In 2023, we were excited to have a big win with waivers. This is important for the ultimate goal of getting to the root of the problem which is to end the waiver waiting list. We also had a big win for Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) programs as they are now qualified for scholarships in the form of IPSE grants. This means more access for families and students with disabilities for a college education after high school. 

However, our work is not done. So in a sense, 2024 will be “Part 2” of the work done last year. 

Quote from article.Looking to 2024

Our Advocacy Days will reflect our 2024 public policy agenda – waivers and DSP wages, employment, and support for IPSE grant scholarships. With employment, we anticipate one or two pieces of legislation that advocates will be very excited about. 

Prior to Advocacy Days, we will offer online training sessions for advocates so they know what we’re going to talk about and what to expect. Check out the Public Policy for The People article to learn more. 

Waivers & Wages

In 2024, we will continue to focus on increasing the number of waivers because if a person needs a waiver, they should not have to fight for it. 

We will keep up the momentum of increasing DSP wages by further sharing data provided in the rate study. And we will continue our focus on employment along with bringing attention to the issues that go along with making it a reality, such as access to housing, behavioral health services, and inclusive post-secondary education. 

As a part of advancing employment, we have an interest in focusing on Georgia becoming a State as Model Employer (SAME) for people with developmental disabilities (DD). A related part of that is working to make sure that both budget and service capacity is there to support students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in inclusive post-secondary education. In addition, we are thrilled that Representative Sharon Cooper has stepped forward to take on the elimination of the 14(c) Subminimum Wage Program. This will help us as we advocate with other legislators to understand why we no longer need or want subminimum wages for people with DD. 

We are hitting the road! Virtually, that is! 

Many Georgians associate GCDD with serving Metro Atlanta. But we are not just a metro Atlanta organization. We represent all of Georgia. And we want to make sure Georgians with DD across the state know that GCDD is a go-to resource for education, advocacy, and information when it comes to what impacts people with DD.

How are we going to do that? We’re going on a road tour…virtually! We are excited to launch our new campaign, “G is for Georgia,” where we will highlight the DD community and GCDD’s work throughout the state in a fun, interactive way. 

I hope it makes you engage, learn about how GCDD supports the DD community, and share your stories with us. 

Quote from article.“G is for Georgia” will help us to connect, listen, inform and educate the community – and learn from you as well! We want to be in this loop of engagement with community members in terms of what are you hearing? What’s going on? What’s going well for you? What’s not going well? How would you want to shape our work? Tell us! 

My hope is for people to understand how much we are tied to the community and constantly trying to get feedback, and making choices based on that feedback so we can put out resources and ways to be engaged.

It’s with your input and stories, we build a better advocacy effort to serve all of Georgia. 

Building Momentum

Let’s be real – there is so much need for services and supports! For example, last year a bill sponsored by Senator Sally Harrell, would have created an I/DD Commission. But it failed to move forward. We know many, many folks in our community were incredibly disappointed when that happened. But hope is still alive. All bills introduced last session are still up for consideration, and you never, ever know what will happen during the session. 

On that note, when your boots are on the ground during the legislative session, you know that the session moves so fast that you have to accept that some things just aren’t going to happen and focus on the ones that can. 

Quote from articleBut I think the flip side to that is knowing that you have to look at the long road and know that things can and will happen. Even things you never considered. You have to build momentum!

There are so many examples in front of us.

The need for more waivers was already an issue before the COVID relief budget passed a few years ago. From that, we gained 513 waivers, then another 500 waivers. That’s a huge win and it demonstrates to the legislature that this is truly a need that needs to be met.

Then came the stall in the DSP rate increase, which is an integral part of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) rate study. Conversations continue and an increase in DSP wages will be addressed again this legislative year. 

And while the I/DD Commission was not created, the DBHDD created a work group doing some of the same work, and I am very grateful to have a seat in that work group. 

The democratic process is real and can’t be ignored. You have to believe you can win everything you’re going to go after, but even when you don’t, all hope is not lost. It’s a building block for something bigger.

Advocacy Advice

When it comes to advocating for change, don’t do it alone. Building teamwork builds capacity. And building capacity builds momentum. 

During 2024, your involvement is critical to help keep last year’s momentum rolling to ensure that changes happen to improve the lives of Georgians with DD. Whether you are sending an email to a legislator, sharing information among your community, or grabbing a megaphone and coming down to the capitol to testify, we need your voice at the table! 

See you at the Gold Dome! 

D’Arcy Robb
Executive Director