MDOD
 

IN THE COMMUNITY

JULY 2011

Martin O’Malley, Governor   -  Anthony G. Brown, Lt. Governor

Catherine A. Raggio, Secretary  -   George P. Failla, Jr., Deputy Secretary

 

INSIDE THIS ISSUE:

 

MESSAGE FROM SECRETARY RAGGIO

In the first six months of 2011 we lost two strong and effective advocates for people with disabilities.  Bill Lee, a resident of Bowie, passed away in February, and in early July, we learned that Kermit Mohn of Rockville had left us, as well.  Each of these gentlemen made significant contributions within their respective communities to advancing the full participation of their fellow citizens with disabilities.

Bill Lee was born with cerebral palsy and experienced significant difficulty with both mobility and communication throughout his life.  He was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a dedicated employee of Northrop Grumman Technical Services for more than 30 years. 

Bill served on numerous committees and boards in Prince George’s County.  He was a founding board member of Independence Now, the center for independent living serving Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.  In his 14 years on the Board, he held several positions, including President and Treasurer.  Bill became an expert on the transportation requirements of the ADA and on county zoning requirements, then used his considerable knowledge to advocate for all people with disabilities.  He served on the WMATA Elderly and Handicapped Advisory Committee and the Metro Access Paratransit Subcommittee. He served on the High School/High Tech-NASA/Prince George's and Montgomery Counties United Cerebral Palsy Project Advisory Committee, as well as the Project Empower - Private Industry Council Project Advisory Committee.  He also served on the Maryland Technology Assistance Program’s Advisory Committee.

Kermit Mohn, known as the champion of a barrier-free world, served as Chairman of the Montgomery County Commission on People with Disabilities from 1991-1994 and was later named Chairman Emeritus.  Kermit was to turn 99 on July 17, 2011.  His interest in accessibility began when his youngest son Eric sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident in l963 and became a quadriplegic.  He had concern for his son and for others who would be challenged by inaccessible buildings and transportation.

His early work focused on working to convince Montgomery County to make its Ride-On buses accessible.  At that time the County had only one accessible bus.  As a result of his advocacy, Montgomery County had accessible buses in its fleet long before the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  He worked for years with the State to install an elevator at the MARC station at the Rockville Metro which is used by so many today.  Kermit’s son Eric, a well-known artist who passed away in 2008, was the first student who was a wheelchair user to attend Montgomery College. 

All of us who had the pleasure of knowing Bill Lee and Kermit Mohn are deeply saddened by their passing.   Although neither Bill nor Kermit can be replaced, it is incumbent upon all of us to either step up our advocacy efforts in their memory or, for those who have yet speak out, begin doing so.

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ADA CELEBRATION

On July 26, 2011, Marylanders from across the State will join in the statewide celebration of the 21st Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Held at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland College Park, the event will focus on how far society has come in promoting the rights and community inclusion of people with disabilities in their efforts to lead productive, meaningful and independent lives. 

“Believing in the dignity of every individual, we are deeply committed to the principles of the ADA and ensuring that Marylanders with disabilities receive the same basic freedoms – independence, equal access, freedom of choice and inclusion – afforded to every citizen in our State,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.  “The State’s annual celebration of the ADA is an opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of people with disabilities, recognize their contributions to their communities and the importance of providing opportunities for their future.”

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III will join in the celebration, welcoming everyone to Prince George’s County.   “The Americans with Disabilities Act protects over 54 million Americans with disabilities against discrimination on the basis of their disability,” said Baker.  “It is the most comprehensive federal civil rights law that protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination.  I am excited this nationally recognized celebration is happening in Prince George’s County.  The ADA is a historical benchmark and a milestone in America's commitment to provide access and equal opportunity for all of its citizens, especially in Prince George’s County.”

The anniversary celebration, which is free and open to the public, will begin with a reception in the Grand Pavilion of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.  Light refreshments and beverages will be served from 2 – 3 p.m.  Following the reception, the celebration will move to the Dance Theatre for a program that will include welcoming remarks by County Executive Baker, Maryland Commission on Disabilities Chair Andrew Levy and Maryland Department of Disabilities Secretary Catherine Raggio. 
Featured keynote speaker for the 2011 ADA celebration will be Fred Beam, professional actor, dancer, producer, director and founder of Invisible Hands, Inc., an award winning non-profit organization that promotes Deaf culture awareness through art and entertainment.  Following his remarks, and the highlight of the program, will be a special dance performance by Fred Beam and The Wild Zappers, an all deaf male dance company. 

Interpreter, captioning and assistive devices will be provided.  For other accommodations, please call the Maryland Department of Disabilities at 410-767-3660 or 1-800-637-4113 or send an email to mdod@mdod.state.md.us.

Joining as sponsors of the statewide celebration are Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, University of Maryland President’s Commission on Disabilities Issues, Prince George’s County Commission for Individuals with Disabilities, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Rehabilitation Services, Maryland Department of the Environment, SECU of Maryland, Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, Maryland Department of Transportation, Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, Maryland Military Department, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland State Police, Statewide Independent Living Council.

The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center is located on Stadium Drive, University of Maryland, College Park, MD  20742.  Paid visitor parking is available in the Stadium Drive Parking Garage located across from the Performing Arts Center.  Guests may be dropped off at the entrance of the building prior to parking in the Stadium Drive parking garage.

For more information about the 21st ADA Anniversary celebration, or to RSVP for the event, call the Maryland Department of Disabilities at 410-767-3660 or 1-800-637-4113 or send an email to mdod @mdod.state.md.us.

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NEW MDTAP DIRECTOR

Catherine A. Raggio, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD), announced the appointment of Anne Blackfield, Esq. as Executive Director of the Maryland Technology Assistance Program (MD TAP).  Part of the Department of Disabilities, MD TAP provides a streamlined service of product information, consultation and resource assistance in order to make assistive technology more available and usable for Marylanders who have disabilities.  In her capacity as Executive Director, Blackfield will also oversee the work of the Assistive Technology Loan Program.  

“I am pleased that Anne has chosen to return to the Department upon completion of her legal studies.  Her personal experience with the barriers that individuals with disabilities face and the importance that assistive technology can play in addressing those barriers will be of great value as we work to improve the lives of Marylanders with disabilities,” said Secretary Raggio. 

Ms. Blackfield is an attorney licensed in Maryland. She graduated with honors from the University of Maryland, School of Law where she was an Andrew Levy Leadership Scholar and recipient of the Elizabeth Maxwell Carroll Chestnut Prize.   Prior to coming to MD TAP, Blackfield served on the faculty as a clinical law fellow at the University of Maryland, School of Law supervising law students in the development of alternative adjudication process for offenders and piloting that program in Circuit Courts around the State.  Her background also includes work in disability discrimination and employment disputes with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  As a summer policy intern with the Maryland Department of Disabilities, Blackfield researched and prepared public policy reports on housing, Medicaid/Medicare and employment issues.

Ms. Blackfield also holds a Master’s Degree in Feminist Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in English Language and Literature from Yale University.  Prior to entering Graduate School, Ms. Blackfield applied her passion for literature by managing a local Bookstore. 

MD TAP helps people with disabilities live, work or learn more independently with assistive technology.  That includes low-tech aids for daily living, vehicles with wheelchair lifts, special keyboard and software to operate computers, blind and low vision aids, assistive listening devices, adapted telephones, ramps and other home modifications, wheelchair and scooters and other products.

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NEW DDA DIRECTOR

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has announced the appointment of Frank W. Kirkland as the Director of the Developmental Disabilities Administration. Mr. Kirkland will begin on Monday, August 1.
 
Mr. Kirkland has 20 years of broad experience in the field of developmental disabilities including leadership of the Division of Developmental Disabilities in the State of West Virginia from 1999 to 2008.  Most recently, he has served as the Assistant Director for Individualized Services for the Division of Developmental Disabilities with the New Jersey Department of Human Services from 2009 to 2011.  During his tenure in New Jersey, he led the Department's efforts in the implementation of self-directed services and had oversight for all day and employment services.  Mr. Kirkland has been active with the National Association of Developmental Disabilities Directors and is knowledgeable about national policy on developmental disabilities. 
 
"We look forward to the array of experience Mr. Kirkland brings to the Department," said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "His leadership will be an asset to the people we serve."
 
"Mr. Kirkland's track record of support for independence and employment impressed the search committee," said Renata J. Henry, Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health and Disabilities.  "His history of building coalitions with self-advocates, families, service providers, and policymakers will be valuable as DDA moves forward."
 
"Mr. Kirkland will be a terrific partner as agencies work together to support individuals with disabilities," said Cathy Raggio, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities and a member of the search committee.
 
"I am both excited and honored to be appointed as Director of the Developmental Disabilities Administration," Mr. Kirkland said.  "Maryland is positioned to become a national leader in supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and their families."
 
DHMH, the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council and Maryland Association of Community Services (MAC) will host a “meet and greet” with Mr. Kirkland on Tuesday, August 9 from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. The location is MACS’ office at 8835 Columbia 100 Parkway in Columbia.  People with developmental disabilities, parents, providers, advocates and other stakeholders are welcome and encouraged to visit.

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MEDICAID

There is currently a great deal of discussion about possible cuts to Medicaid and other benefit programs as President Obama and members of Congress work toward resolving the country’s budget issues.   Over the past few weeks, the President has met with families and disability organizations to discuss the impact budget cuts or changes to the Medicaid or Children’s Health Program would have on individuals and families receiving services and supports.   In Maryland, approximately 921,000 people were enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Program as of May 2011.  

The following information was taken from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s “Implications of a Federal Block Grant on Medicaid” issue paper.

Currently, Medicaid covers low-income individuals who meet categorical and income standards including children and parents, individuals with diverse physical and mental conditions and disabilities, and seniors. The federal government sets minimum eligibility standards, and states may expand beyond these minimum levels. Under the entitlement, states cannot cap or close enrollment for individuals who meet eligibility standards for the program.

Medicaid Block Grant Proposals

Several proposals have been put forward to reduce the federal deficit over the long-term that include changes to Medicaid.  Some proposals would convert part or all of Medicaid from an open-ended federal-state matching program to a federal block grant to the states. While a block grant can be structured in a number of ways, block grants generally provide fixed federal allotments to states that are based on current expenditures trended forward using a pre-determined growth rate. 

Block grants would eliminate the entitlement to Medicaid, so coverage would not be guaranteed.  Under the current Medicaid program, eligible individuals are entitled to have payment made on their behalf for a defined set of benefits, and states are entitled to federal matching payments for the costs of this coverage.  (The federal matching percentage is based on a formula that provides relatively poorer states with more federal assistance.  On average, the federal government pays about 57% of Medicaid costs.)  Under a block grant, there would be no individual entitlement. Instead, states would have flexibility to stay within their fixed allotment of federal matching funds by cutting back on current eligibility levels or by freezing new enrollment (meaning some seniors or low-income children meeting eligibility criteria could be barred from enrollment in Medicaid).

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, converting the Medicaid program to a Federal block grant to States would have a “fundamental change in the entitlement nature and financing structure of the program that would have major implications for beneficiaries, providers, states and localities.” 

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MARYLAND MEDICAID ADVISORY COMMITTEE

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), in collaboration with the Maryland Medicaid Advisory Committee (MMAC), is seeking public input on strategies to save $40 million from the Medicaid budget during this fiscal year (2012). The MMAC is a group of providers, consumers, advocates, and legislators who advise DHMH on Medicaid policies and programmatic content. The Medicaid budget includes a savings target of $40 million; however, there is no specific guidance on how to save the $40 million and DHMH must determine how to reach this savings target. We are seeking ideas from the public to help guide us.

We understand that these will not be easy cuts. These savings need to be achieved in FY 2012 – that is, by June 30, 2012. The longer we wait, the more severe the cuts will need to be to achieve our target and balance our budget. Please note that States are barred from reducing eligibility levels under Federal law, therefore ideas that suggest reductions in eligibility will not be considered.

We encourage all ideas and suggestions. Public input is necessary and important to ensure that comprehensive and transparent decisions are made. Therefore, DHMH is seeking your specific recommendations regarding the strategies that the Medicaid Program can implement to meet its budget.

Recommendations may be submitted by e-mail to medicaidcostcontainment@dhmh.state.md.us or presented at the following public hearings:

July 28, 2011
3:00pm – 5:00pm
DHMH
Conference Room L3
201 West Preston Street
Baltimore, MD 21201  August 2, 2011
4:30pm – 6:30pm
Miller Senate Office Building
Senate Finance Committee Room
11 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD 21401

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MORTGAGE ASSISTANCE

Looking for assistance with your mortgage?

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development has received funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Emergency Homeowner Loan Program to assist homeowners who are facing foreclosure due to job loss or a decrease in wages, including those who lost income due to illness.

"Even as we move beyond the fallout of the subprime mortgage and predatory lending crisis, there are still too many families in our State struggling to make ends meet," said Governor Martin O’Malley. "Thanks to our federal partners, this program will strengthen an important safety net for unemployed homeowners and protect the investment they made in the American dream."

The new program provides assistance in the payment of up to 12 months of overdue debt, including delinquent taxes and insurance, and up to 24 months going forward, with a maximum combined total of $50,000.

Eligible homeowners include those who:

  • Are experiencing a loss of employment income because of the economy or a medical condition. Homeowner(s) must have a current income that is at least 15% less than it was prior to the loss of employment.
  • Are 3-12 months delinquent on their mortgage payments and pending foreclosure. It must be the first mortgage on the principal residence of the homeowner.
  • Have a total household income equal to, or less than, 120% of the Area Median Income (AMI), including wages, unemployment benefits, and other income. (See the Pre-Application Eligibility Checklist on www.mdhope.org for AMI chart.)
  • Have a reasonable likelihood (based on industry underwriting standards) of being able to resume mortgage payments within 2 years, when full employment has been regained.

Prospective applicants must meet certain prequalification requirements. Homeowners will be able to access assistance in this process through specially-trained housing counseling agencies approved by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and at various foreclosure prevention events.

Homeowners can get more details on Maryland’s Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program by visiting the HOPE website at www.mdhope.org or by calling the HOPE hotline (877) 462-7555 to find a housing counselor in their area for free counseling and assistance.

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MARK YOUR CALENDARS

Listening Post Scheduled for Prince George’s County
The Maryland Commission on Disabilities (MCOD) and the Prince George’s County Commission for Individuals with Disabilities will co-host a “listening post” on Friday, July 22, 2011 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Prince George’s Department of Family Services offices in Camp Springs, MD.  The listening post will be an opportunity for people with disabilities, their families and service providers to share their concerns and experiences on issues such as health and behavioral health, transportation, housing, employment, community living, education and other disability issues.  The Listening Post will be held at the Department of Family Services, Harriet Hunter Building, 6420 Allentown Road, Camp Spring, MD  20748.  For more information about the Listening Post or if accommodations are needed, please contact the Maryland Department of Disabilities at 410-767-3660, 1-800-637-4113 or send an email to
 mdod@mdod.state.md.us.

Howard County Leadership Award Nominees Sought
The Howard County Commission on Disability Issues has announced that nomination forms are available for its 2011 Leadership Awards program. Awards are given annually to recognize outstanding efforts in advancing full participation in community life for all citizens, and promoting both the spirit and intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Nominees may be a business, a corporation, a building or any place of public accommodation, an individual or agency providing exceptional services, or an individual who has positively influenced others with disabilities. They must live, work or provide services in Howard County. For details about the award categories or to download a nomination form, visit the Department of Citizen Services website at
 www.howardcountymd.gov/CitizenServices.

Baltimore City Mayoral Candidates Forum Scheduled for August 4
The Maryland Disabilities Forum is hosting a Baltimore City Mayoral Candidates Forum on Disability Issues on Thursday, August 4, 2011 from 2 – 4 p.m. at the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore.  Mayoral Candidates from every party have been invited to participate in the event. Candidates will be asked to address their respective platforms on disability issues and also take questions from the audience. The National Federation of the Blind is located at 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230.  The Forum is a free; pre-registration is requested at 
 http://www.mddforum.org/2011forums.html.

Transitioning Youth e-newsletter coming in August
The Governor’s Interagency Transition Council for Youth with Disabilities will be releasing a new electronic newsletter this August to transition age youth with disabilities and their families.  The newsletter will be sent out quarterly and feature tips on navigating the transition process as well as highlighting various transition programs in Maryland.  If you are interested in signing up to receive the newsletter, please email Rachael Faulkner at
 rfaulkner@mdod.state.md.us.  When signing up, please include your name and email address.

Web Accessibility Training Scheduled for September 19
The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute and the Maryland Department of Disabilities will sponsor a Web Accessibility Training Day on Monday, September 19, 2011.  The day-long conference will provide an in-depth look at how to create accessible web content that complies with federal and state regulations.   The event will feature a variety of general-topic sessions, with afternoon breakout tracks on policy and technical development, including:  business case for accessibility, how to evaluate and implement accessibility, mobile accessibility, and easy accessibility fixes.  Participants will also have an opportunity to network with developers, vendors, web accessibility consultants and experts in non-visual access technology.   For more information or to register, please visit
 www.nfb.org/webaccessibility or contact Clara Van Gerven at the NFB (cvangerven@nfb.org, 410-659-9314, ext. 2410).

Maryland Respite Awareness Conference Announced
The 14th annual Maryland Respite Awareness Day Conference will be held on October 24, 2011 at the Maritime Institute, 692 Maritime Boulevard Linthicum Heights, MD 21090-1952.   The Conference brings together caregivers, advocates and professionals throughout Maryland to address respite concerns throughout the lifespan.  For more information about the conference, visit the Maryland Respite Care Coalition website at
 http://www.respitecoalition.org/.

Maryland Transition Conference in October
The Governor’s Interagency Transition Council for Youth with Disabilities, in partnership with the Maryland Rehabilitation Association, is sponsoring 2011 Maryland Transition Conference: Mapping Futures, October 16 – 17, 2011 in Ocean City, Maryland. The conference will focus on assisting families, students with disabilities, community partners and professional staff to promote the successful transition of youth/young adults with disabilities to post-school outcomes.  For additional information, contact Adele Connolly at 
aconnolly@dors.state.md.us.

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