Viewpoint: Our Advocacy is Growing and Making a Difference

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

As I sit down to write this, I’m feeling raw. We just wrapped up Georgia’s General Assembly session, and it was a real mix of wins and losses.

Win – the developmental disability (DD) rate study. All summer, fall, and winter long, we at the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) worked in tandem with multiple other organizations to press the case for why a rate increase was so critically needed. Thank all that is good – it worked. 

“You all did a good job making the case,” a person deep inside the state budget process told me. “It was a heavy lift, but it was the right thing to do.” Maybe I’m going too deeply into semantics here, but I love how the phrase is used – “you all.” There were so many of us advocating, disability organizations and individual advocates alike, that it was a “you all” kind of operation, for sure. Our state leaders heard us and got behind us – the rate study was supported in Governor Kemp’s budget and by the House and Senate alike. 

Heartbreak – only 100 waivers were approved after 500 were approved last year and 513 the year before. Only 100 new NOW/COMP waivers were added to the budget. From a dollar and cents perspective, it’s true that the rate study was a major investment, which, unfortunately, can make it harder to get additional investments like waivers. But it’s also true that Georgia’s fiscal effort on adult DD services is among the lowest in the Southeast. Most importantly, thousands of Georgians and their families still await much-needed services. 

Infographic of advocacy resultsI think of our advocacy like a snowball. The rate study was a huge step in an excellent direction for Georgia. Now, we keep going to ensure that every Georgian with a DD receives the supports they need when they need them. 

Another beautiful win was the passage of Senate Bill 384, Georgia as a Model Employer. With the passage of Senate Bill 384, every state agency will get training and technical assistance to support them with the recruitment and retention of employees with disabilities. The idea of Georgia as a Model Employer grew wings this year, thanks to its inclusion by Lieutenant Governor Jones on his priority list. And, once again, we brought our best “you all” advocacy muscle to the effort. Disability advocates were all over the capitol on Advocacy Days, educating lawmakers about the contributions people with disabilities can make to the workforce. 

This year, GCDD saw another terrific win for inclusive post-secondary education (IPSE). Last year, IPSE grants were legislatively created and partially funded in the state budget. This year, they were fully funded, putting IPSE within reach of a new group of students for the first time. 

We didn’t get everything we worked so hard for during the legislative session this year. Both, the effort to end the sub-minimum wage and create an Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) Commission in Georgia gained traction. Still, they failed to make it across the finish line. Talk about two heartbreaks on the final day – we were this close! 

However, I remind myself we are not only the beloved community. Our community is resilient, creative, and determined. Together, we will keep working to get where we need to be. 

Let’s stay focused and continue strong in our advocacy to ensure that changes for the better will continue.

D’Arcy Robb
Executive Director