All branches of the federal government play critical roles in affirming, securing, and achieving the vision of inclusion and ensuring that the civil rights of persons with disabilities are realized. One of the leading voices in Washington, D.C., providing a voice for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and direct support professionals (DSPs) is ANCOR. Since 1970, ANCOR has ensured that community-based disability service providers have the resources to deliver quality services to people with diverse support needs.
Each year, ANCOR hosts a policy summit where the agenda is curated based on the most pressing issues and political dynamics of the time. While these factors may change yearly, the constant variable is ANCOR’s commitment to advocating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This year, Sunrise was proudly represented by four employees: Latoria Bethea (Regional Administrator), Paola Castillo (Multimedia Coordinator), Violet Gonzalez (Director of Government Affairs), and Zach Wray (President and CEO).
While in D.C., the team walked the halls of Congress and met with various legislators representing states where Sunrise provides services. On “Hill Day” during the summit, the Sunrise team met with the offices of United States Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Tim Scott (R-SC). In addition, the team addressed many issues facing the I/DD community in which Congress has a direct path to help create progress, such as:
- Increasing Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) share of Medicaid funding for Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS). This increase would allow states to address HCBS payment rates to promote recruitment and retention efforts for direct support professionals.
- Creating a Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) for direct support professionals. This classification would help all levels of government identify and analyze employment trends and design policies for the field. Without this classification, there is no way to collect data on the DSP workforce.
- Establishing a career pipeline for direct support professionals that would authorize federal grant programs to support the direct support workforce’s training, recruitment, retention, and advancement.
This experience is just one of many ways Sunrise has worked to advocate for the people we serve and our remarkable employees. While federal action and results can move slower than we would like, these conversations and interactions help bring us closer to seeing the changes we want.