Legislation to Support the Disabled

Legislation to Support the Disabled 4This week, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed eighteen bills that enhance support for Virginians with developmental disabilities, showcasing Virginia’s deep-seated dedication to fostering inclusivity and accessibility across various critical spheres, from education to recreation, law enforcement, and transitional services.

General Assembly Leaders

“For years we had been told ‘No’ and with Governor Youngkin we have been able to climb over political mountains to improve services for Virginians with intellectual disabilities,” said Senator David Suetterlein. “It is a great day to celebrate the waiting list for priority 1 waivers and expanding the availability of services with the Youngkins and so many Arc friends.”

“I was honored to join in the ceremonial signing of 18 bipartisan bills supporting Virginians with developmental disabilities and their families,” said Delegate Bonita Anthony. “The enactment of House Bill 1040 highlights Virginia’s commitment to an inclusive environment that values the contributions of all citizens, paving the way for equitable participation in public life through enhanced accessibility and inclusion.”

“I am honored to have played a part in advancing legislation that strengthens our commitment to the disability community in Virginia,” said Delegate Chris Runion. “By extending waiver slot-retention requests, we ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families receive the continuous support they need. This bipartisan effort reflects our dedication to creating an inclusive and supportive environment for all Virginians.”

“HB 1165 updates and modernizes definitions used in the Virginians with Disabilities Act,” said Delegate Mark Sickles. “It is important to Virginians with disabilities to have a state law that reflects provisions of federal law, especially on the 34th anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.”

“I’m incredibly proud of the new special education legislation, which represents a significant step forward for students with disabilities and their families,” said Delegate Carrie Coyner. “This law enhances professional development for teachers and administrators, improves our IEP template, funds regional parent resource centers, and improves dispute resolution processes. Together, we’re creating a more inclusive and supportive educational environment for all.”

“We are stronger when every Virginian is given the chance to succeed and these new laws will help make that chance a reality,” said Senator Barbara Favola. “Providing more information on how to create and monitor an IEP and how to support our young people on IEPs will enable individuals to achieve a more seamless passage to adulthood. This passage may include continuing with higher education, choosing a career path or just exploring the world and all of these options help individuals grow and contribute to society. I am grateful that Governor Youngkin recognizes the transformative nature of these bills and has agreed to sign them into law.”

“I’m proud of the work this session to improve services for those living with a disability and tackle the waiver waiting list,” said Delegate Tony Wilt. “Our effort to remove barriers and red tape to allow loved ones to serve as caregivers is a welcome relief to many families that struggle to identify and maintain providers.”

“The training for law enforcement required by my HB 1246 and Senator Bagby’s SB 547 will improve communications between the police and individuals with autism spectrum disorder, helping to prevent misunderstandings and deescalating an encounter that should not be confrontational,” said Delegate Rodney Willett.

“Family caregivers make countless sacrifices to support their loved ones with developmental disabilities,” said Senator Adam Ebbin. “Senate Bill 676 recognizes and honors their critical role, ensuring that the essential services their loved ones depend on remain uninterrupted.”

“Today, we celebrate the signing of HB1318, which transforms Medicaid waivers to better support our healthcare workers and families through fairer eligibility, improved pay, and stronger protections,” said Delegate Joshua Cole. “This law marks a significant step toward a more accessible, efficient, and compassionate healthcare system. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible.”

“I am honored to support this bill,” said Delegate Tim Griffin. “It’s not just an act of legislation but also a powerful affirmation of my commitment to ensure that every individual with development disabilities, born and unborn, has the opportunity to live a life of dignity, respect, and boundless potential.”

“HB 908 is the culmination of several years of work and advocacy. I am proud to have worked alongside parents of people living with disabilities to make our system fairer and more compassionate. Families can now make their future financial plans with confidence that their loved ones will still maintain their DD waivers even after they’re gone and allow those living with disabilities the opportunity to work and lead lives of dignity and purpose,” said Delegate Irene Shin. “During the pandemic, we saw firsthand the benefits of allowing parents to serve as paid caregivers to their HCBS Waiver-eligible children. By reinstating these permissions, HB 909 will stabilize families and ease the strain on our limited pool of for-hire caregivers – providing much-needed relief to some of Virginia’s most vulnerable families, especially in rural areas.”

“Ensuring our most vulnerable Virginians living with developmental disabilities get the help and support they need is critical. Often, that help and support comes in the form of dedicated parents that also function as round-the-clock caretakers for their special needs children,” said Senator Lashrecse Aird. “This is why I was proud to carry SB488 which removes burdensome and prohibitive regulations that effectively discouraged parents from serving as their developmentally disabled child’s paid caregiver in favor of privately hired caretakers. The best care for those with these needs comes from the people that know them best — their parents. By providing those parents with an easier path to receive compensation for that care we are giving these families critical economic independence and support.”

“For too long, many students have struggled to access the disability services they need for an equitable education,” said Senator Saddam Azlan Salim. “This study represents a crucial first step in addressing this issue and ensuring that all public institutions of higher education in our Commonwealth provide adequate disability services. I look forward to the results of this study and to making permanent improvements to our disability accommodation procedures in the future.”

“HB 1040 becoming law is a significant step forward in increasing the participation of people with disabilities and their caregivers in our government,” said Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker. “This law ensures that their voices are heard and makes Virginia more inclusive.”

Community Advocates

“As we mark the 25th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court Olmstead decision this month, I am delighted to attend this bill signing and recognize the Commonwealth’s continued push forward to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the opportunities and services they need to actively participate and be vibrant members of their communities,” said Kathryn Hayfield, Commissioner of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitation Services. “From education to recreation, the bills signed today, touch on a wide variety of areas that are all critical to making Virginia the best state to live, work, and raise a family as well as ensuring that the promise of Olmstead, to end the unjustified segregation of individuals with disabilities, is not forgotten.”

“Today’s legislation, combined with the Administration and General Assembly’s funding for Priority One of the DD Waitlist, marks a significant step toward fulfilling the long-awaited promises of the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. which declared that unjustified segregation of people with disabilities is unlawful discrimination under the ADA,” said Tonya Milling, Executive Director of The Arc of Virginia. “We thank the Governor and General Assembly for their leadership in leading Virginia forward, where with new waiver slots and access to individualized community services, 3,440 people in urgent need will now have the opportunity to build the lives they choose.”

“The Department of Medical Assistance Services strives to provide incredible support and care to help our members with developmental disabilities live fulfilling, independent lives,” said Cheryl Roberts, Director of the Department of Medical Assistance Services. ”Governor Youngkin’s leadership in this area has been instrumental to the improvements we have been able to make for thousands of people and families across the Commonwealth. We look forward to implementing this life-changing legislation.”

“The $435 thousand funding received by the Right Help, Right Now plan will support thousands of individuals with intellectual disabilities that we serve across Virginia,” said Veronica Jennings, Assistant Vice President of Special Olympics Virginia. “This funding will include increased support for our Unified Champion Schools and Healthy Athletes programs. It is a testament to our continued efforts in promoting inclusion and empowerment.”

“As a mother of three, almost four, and my third having Down syndrome, I’ve seen firsthand how meaningful this waiver is for our families and communities. I’m proud to serve on The Arc of Virginia’s Board of Directors and advocate for my incredible daughter, Amelie, and others like her with developmental delays and disabilities,” said Dr Ayah Ibrahim, disability advocate and parent. “Earlier this year my husband suffered a debilitating illness. That is the reason Amelie became a Priority 1 on the Waitlist. I was shocked when late last week, our Community Services Board called and said that Amelie was assigned a DD Waiver! My husband and I are extremely grateful for the waiver. The waiver is going to make a difference not only for Amelie but for our entire family. My daughter’s name, Amelie means “my hope” in Arabic, and it’s our hope that the efforts of our Governor, lawmakers and many allies will lead us to a positive change for our commonwealth. Creating a proactive system that will help to produce an integrated and inclusive society across Virginia.”

“Ensuring Virginians with developmental disabilities and their families have the supports and services they need to live their best lives in their communities has been a priority since day one for Governor Youngkin. Thanks to the work of members of the General Assembly and the action taken by the Governor today, we are one step closer to our vision of a life of possibility for all Virginians. We will continue working with providers to ensure services can be delivered as quickly as possible so that these families are able to get the support they need and deserve,” said Nelson Smith, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

“Yesterday’s bill and Olmstead Proclamation signing continue to show Virginia’s commitment to fully integrating and supporting individuals with developmental disabilities in their communities. I am thrilled by the commitment that the Governor and the General Assembly have shown to individuals and families. The Developmental Services staff are excited to partner with our CSBs, providers, and advocacy organizations to make sure that individuals and their families receive the supports and services they needed to be fully included in their communities and have a life like you and I,” said Heather Norton, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Community Services and Assistant Commissioner for Developmental Services, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

“We greatly appreciate the bipartisan support that has led to eliminating the current waitlist for people with developmental disabilities,” said Ray Ratke, CEO of enCircle. “As a provider of developmental supports and services, we look forward to working with Gov. Youngkin and the General Assembly to ensure we have the workforce that can provide the needed services for these valuable members of our community.”

“I was honored to attend the Ceremonial Bill Signing celebrating bipartisan legislation that will have a significant impact on our disability community,” said Ann Flippin, Executive Director of the Autism Society Central Virginia. “We are incredibly proud of the momentum advocates and legislators are building together across the commonwealth to enhance services and supports for Virginians with developmental disabilities, and we are truly grateful for Governor Youngkin and team for their commitment to our community! We are especially grateful to Governor Youngkin for his leadership in the bipartisan action to remove the priority one waiting list!”

“Individuals with developmental disabilities and their families have long awaited bipartisan support to meaningfully enhance community living options and opportunities,” said Teri Morgan, Executive Director of the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities. “Governor Youngkin’s commitment truly embodies the spirit and promise of the Olmstead decision.”

“It was a privilege for No Bounds and ECPI University to meet Governor Youngkin, along with his gracious wife Suzanne Youngkin and those involved in passing The Right Help, Right Now Plan,” said Tina Bhandari, Executive Director of No Bounds. “We are grateful to have participated in this historic moment, where No Bounders learned about the process firsthand from the Governor himself. At No Bounds, our mission aligns closely with the Governor’s goal of enhancing accessibility to resources and services for adults with intellectual disabilities, ensuring they receive a fair education leading to independence and employability. Together, we aim to foster economically and culturally responsible communities, one step at a time. We are thrilled that individuals and families in need will benefit from this support and look forward to collaborating closely with the Governor’s office and groups like No Bounds to further these efforts. Thank you for spearheading this initiative—we are committed to continuing this important work together.”

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