MLAltherMDS is pleased to introduce Marylouise Alther, who will be serving as Family Education and Support Coordinator for MDS. This is a new position that will focus on the families and individuals supported by MDS. Family Education & Support Coordination supports legislative and advocacy efforts for families and individuals who are served by Monadnock Developmental Services and the Region V MDS Family Council.

Marylouise will be reaching out to families in our region in coming months. Her role at MDS is to:
* Build relationships with MDS individuals, families and legislators.
* Keep track of legislation that directly affects MDS families.
* Share legislative and other advocacy information with families.
* Meet with legislators to:
                   * Encourage them to learn more about MDS and other organizations who support people with disabilities.
                   * Show legislators how their decisions affect our families.
Marylouise lives in Keene with her husband, her grandson and two cats. Previously she was Director of Volunteers at Cheshire Medical Center and Director of Volunteers for Hospice of Cheshire County. Marylouise looks forward to meeting with you!

Contact:
Marylouise Alther
Family Education & Support Coordinator
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
603-352-1304 ext 247 or 603-313-8693
MDS, 121 Railroad St, Keene NH 03431

 

At age 21, after school graduation, an individual with developmental or related disabilities is not guaranteed services. Fortunately, historically in New Hampshire, there has been a great partnership between parents of those with disabilities and our policymakers. In the past this included the assurance that resources for continued services would be appropriated in the State budget for those 21 and older.

As background, in 2007, Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, a Democrat from Nashua, and Rep. Peter Batula, a Republican from Merrimack, championed this cause for ensuring continued services through Senate Bill 138. The bill required that appropriate funds for continued care be placed in the budget every two years.Individuals with developmental disabilities and their families fought hard for the bill’s passage. Their advocacy was successful. Governor Lynch signed SB 138, thusassuring that the Legislature would appropriate funds in every budget cycle necessary to provide services to those with developmental disabilities.

Unfortunately, shortly after this, the Great Recession hit. The Legislature put through an amendment to SB 138 during this recession that guaranteed the funding only if the state budget had what the Legislature considered adequate resources. Since then, some level of funding has been given to provide continued service to those who turn 21. However, the funds don’t cover all individuals who need services; thus, a“waiting list” for the Wait List is now in place. The statewide Wait List budget is insufficient for current and projected needs. Without additional funds, New Hampshire will have record numbers of people still on the Wait List by the end of this current biennium (June 2019).

The New Hampshire state budget is created every two years. During this last legislative session, the legislature did appropriate new dollars to support people waiting for services. We, and the families we serve, are grateful. However, the number of individuals who need services continues to grow. As of January of this year, 170 individuals across the state with developmental disabilities are waiting for services.

Here in the Monadnock region, as of early March we have 30 individuals who currently are not getting served, and 23 more who will need our services in 2019. We are working with the Bureau of Developmental Services at DHHS, communicating these numbers and our concerns for those who need services.
Although there is no guarantee, the staff at MDS try to reassure individuals and their families that we are working to get funding. The reality is that after turning 21 they may have to wait. This is a state-wide problem; the state’s Bureau of Developmental Services projects that 316 individuals across New Hampshire with developmental disabilities will not receive the services they need without additional funding.

In the last few months families and area agency representatives have continued to discuss this issue with legislators. Last month, Rep. Rosenwald tried to bring forth legislation to address the waiting list funding, so the issue could be debated by both Republican and Democratic leadership. The Republican leadership of the New Hampshire House refused to allow the amendment to move forward. Meanwhile Sen. Jeb Bradley has also brought forth legislation to address the waiting list.

If we don’t get additional funds, we run the very real risk of leaving vulnerable people without the services they desperately need. That is not what the people of New Hampshire had in mind for supporting people with developmental disabilities.

We are hopeful that our legislators, both Republican and Democrat, in both the House and Senate, will find a way to increase resources this year to help support those currently waiting for services. Individuals need these supports and services.

We will continue to keep you posted as things progress. Your advocacy efforts make a significant difference in helping our state legislators understand the consequences of Wait List underfunding. It is families who bear the brunt, and your voices have the most impact.

Caring for people is neither a Democratic or Republican issue, rather it is an issue for all of us. “People Can’t Wait.”

How is the Wait List built?
The Wait List number is an evolving and revolving number. New additions come on to the list as new or additional needs arise, and reductions are made to the totals as people begin to receive funding or are no longer in need of services.

For Wait List additions, there are three types of situations that are identified.

A. First, there are those people with developmental disabilities turning 21 within the fiscal year, leaving the school system, who now need adult services – category A.

B. Next, there are those newly eligible who are not in category A, who are not currently being served, but will need to start new services. These could perhaps be people who have been under the radar and not in our system for many years but now need services because of some life change – category B.

C. Lastly, there are those already receiving services who have had a circumstance or life change and now require additional services – the C category. These might be people whose primary caregiver/parents have become critically ill or died, creating a need for residential services on top of the day services they might already receive. Or there could be changes in an individual’s own health that require more and/or different services.

The majority of people moved from the Wait List into services have been in the A and B categories. Individuals and families in crisis who are already in the system (category C) are the ones who are most at risk of being left behind as they struggle to get supports in the midst of adjusting to worsening circumstances.

The NH Department of Education will be restructuring the state's vocational rehabilitation bureau in the next few months to deal with recently discovered overspending by previous bureau leadership, dating back to at least 2012. Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut implemented an agency-wide fiscal review process, during which officials learned the bureau had spent millions more than it was taking in, relying on surplus funds.

To rectify and move forward most effectively, public hearings are being held, with a Public Hearing (Videoconference) scheduled for Thursday, May 3 at 1 p.m.


Thursday, May 3 from 1-2 p.m.
NH Vocational Rehabilitation Administrative Offices
21 South Fruit Street, Room 100 in Concord

Live video conferencing available:
NH VR Regional Office
149 Emerald Street, Suite T in Keene (Center at Colony Mill at Gilbo Ave)

Comments may also be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by mail to NHVR, 21 South Fruit St, Suite 20, Concord NH 03301 by 4 p.m. May 3.

More details available on the NH Department of Education website.

The first critical meeting to address this issue is being held on Tuesday, May 1st and will involve an in-depth discussion with the State Rehabilitation Council. This purely volunteer, Governor-appointed Council is the oversight body and support network that works closely with VR on the success of the program and partners with us in times like this, where we must make changes to obtain financial stability. After they review all relevant information, it is hoped they will support the agency entering an order of selection.

The second critical meeting (with videoconferencing) will occur on Thursday, May 3rd. Simultaneous public forums will be held in Nashua, Concord, Manchester, Keene and Berlin to hear all public comments and questions related to the state plan amendments and the agency policy developed to share the Order of Selection information.

In an order of selection individuals with the most significant disabilities are served first providing the funding is available to meet their employment needs. The agency will have three categories in its OOS (Individuals with the most significant disabilities, individuals with significant disabilities and individuals with less significant disabilities).

The Historical Society of Cheshire County presents a screening and discussion of the documentary film Lost in Laconia on Wednesday, May 16th at 7 p.m. at 246 Main Street in Keene. The discussion panel will include Gordon Dubois, one of the film’s writers and former employee of the Laconia State School, Keene State College professor Graham Warder who was interviewed in the film, and Alan Greene from MDS.

Lol PosterDuring a time when people who were branded and stigmatized as "feebleminded" and a danger to society were banished to a life of isolation and total segregation, thousands of children and adults were institutionalized in large state-operated institutions throughout the country. In the case of New Hampshire, that place was the Laconia State School.

This landmark film traces the history of Laconia State School from its beginnings in the early 1900s as the New Hampshire School for the Feebleminded until it closed in 1991. Using archival footage and current interviews with former residents of the institution, families of former residents, and people who worked at the institution, along with an extensive collection of photos, newspaper articles, and state documents, this documentary examines the social values and cultural ideals of the twentieth century, relative to individuals and families who were labeled "feebleminded," deficient, or disabled in New Hampshire.

The showing is sponsored by the Historical Society of Cheshire County, Keene State College History Department & Office of Disabilities Services, and Monadnock Developmental Services (MDS). The film will be shown at the Historical Society at 246 Main Street in Keene at 7 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

Alan Greene, MDS Executive Director, comments: “It’s hard to imagine that only 30 years ago an institution like Laconia State School existed. There are people living in our area, people you and I see on a regular basis, who spent some part of their lives there. Their stories are now being told, thanks in part to this film. Their lives are much improved because they’ve come back to live in their communities."
Greene continues: “We’ve come a long way from that era…but there’s still much to be done, on a daily basis, to be sure people with developmental disabilities are included in the communities in which they live.”

The screening is free and open to the public.