September 2022 Newsletter

September 2022 Newsletter Message from the Chairman: 

AFAM, as a legislative advocacy organization, is acutely aware of the legislative and budgetary cycles. Our work is focused on accomplishing goals that will meaningfully benefit the autism community. Throughout the year, we advocate and, from time to time, send out alerts so that you – our grassroots members – can participate in this vital advocacy. 

September is a month of new beginnings – school begins, the Legislature returns to session, and we return to our work and routines with renewed energy and commitment. AFAM can certainly take pride in all we have accomplished! However, knowing that so many of the people we care about have yet to return to the schedules and normalcy of pre-pandemic times, we must remain committed to all the work yet to be done.
And so, we call on you – the families, self-advocates, professionals, and allied human service agencies who share in our mission, to stand firm with us to ensure our elected officials and other decision-makers keep people with autism in their hearts and minds.

Michael J. Borr, AFAM Chairman
Government Affairs Committee

FY’23 Budget Wrap Up

The final FY ’23 budget included an additional $79 million in DDS line-item funding for $118 million. Lawmakers responded to the advocates by increasing funding for Community Day and Employment, Transportation, Children and Adult Autism, and other line items. The Conference Committee understood the needs of individuals with autism and IDD and agreed to the higher funding increases and three important policy priorities included in the budget. We are grateful for a budget that makes an impact on our community. The Governor signed the budget with no vetoes of our priorities.

Chapter 257, the Human Services Workforce rates were not increased through the budget process but were included in the Economic Development bill, which is set to be taken up again by the legislature in late September. The bill was waylaid at the end of the session by the Governor’s announcement of a 1986 referendum that would require billions back to tax payors.

The workforce is a top priority for AFAM, and we hope to see at least the Senate’s original proposed $150 million included to advance salaries for Direct Support Professionals. Without an increased rate of pay – hiring, retention, and returning individuals to services and supports will not happen. The workforce crisis has left thousands without programming – at home and struggling. AFAM continues to work with our advocacy partners to educate the legislature and the administration to take these steps to lead us out of the covid/workforce ongoing crisis.

One of AFAM’s Top Priority Bills Passes!

Higher Education Opportunities for Individuals with Autism and IDDpassed through the FY’23 budget with the help of our advocacy partners (particularly Massachusetts Advocates for Children) and our dedicated legislative sponsors. AFAM’s legislator of the year, Representative Sean Garballey, was steadfast in his support along with Senator Joan Lovely and Rep Pat Haddad. After many sessions of testifying at hearings and advocating with our Reps and Senators, the legislation is now law. People with autism and IDD will have equal access to higher education opportunities (Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment), and appropriate funding has been provided by the legislature.

Adult Services Committee

Last May, AFAM’s Task Force on Day Habs and Community Based Day Services co-sponsored a webinar with the Autism Alliance of Metrowest focused on the transition for families that occurs when a parent retires, begins receiving Social Security retirement benefits, ends employer-based commercial health insurance, and enrolls in Medicare. Attorney Svetlana Uimenkova of the Disability Law Center presented about this transition and its impact on the adult disabled family member’s social security and health insurance status. AFAM was also assisted by The Insurance Resource Center for Autism and Behavioral Health. Here is the link to the webinar recording, available on the Autism Alliance YouTube Channel.

The Massachusetts Autism Commission will meet by zoom on Thursday, September 15th, from 1 – 3 pm. This is the quarterly meeting of the Autism Commission, during which the Commission’s subcommittees present their annual reports and proposed recommendations to the Commission as a whole. These recommendations are taken under advisement and finalized at the Commission’s quarterly meeting in December. Chris Hubbard represents AFAM on the Commission and co-chairs the Subcommittee on Adults. Amy Weinstock also serves on the Commission and co-chairs the Healthcare Subcommittee. AFAM Executive Committee members also are active members of several Autism Commission subcommittees, including subcommittees addressing healthcare, employment, and students aged 14-22. All Commission meetings are open to the public. (Autism Commission Zoom Meeting Information: ID: 971 1700 8790 Passcode: x54VVg).