Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Resources (DDRS) Director Nicole Norvell was first to testify, answering Commission questions regarding the various application mechanisms employed by DDRS and other Family & Social Services Administration (FSSA) divisions. Ms. Norvell discussed FSSA's efforts to simplify and streamline basic questions on program applications, noting that FSSA was in the beginning phase of streamlining applications after receiving a federal grant to do so. The end result will simplify FSSA program enrollment and ultimately save taxpayer dollars. Representative Wes Culver (R-Bristol) encouraged FSSA's recent work and requested that the agency fast-track this project.
Ms. Norvell also highlighted recent efforts to develop a strategy to address the needs of individuals dually diagnosed with intellectual or developmental disabilities and mental health issues who are engaged with the county-level criminal justice system. Ms. Norvell cited variances between counties as a significant obstacle in developing a comprehensive approach. She also noted the Division's support is primarily limited to transition back into the community, as Medicaid does not provide coverage for incarcerated individuals.
David Mank, Executive Director of the Indiana Institute of Disability and Community (IIDC), introduced IIDC as a practical, education-based organization committed to providing tangible resources for those providing supports for students and adults with disabilities. With a focus on education and building educational resources, IIDC offers training for teachers and works with disability advocates and providers to develop integrated networks for resources and research.
Kim Opsahl provided an overview of INARF membership to the Commission, noting the diversity of Hoosier providers and INARF's long history of involvement with the Commission. She explained that INARF serves to unify the provider network, focusing on key industry issues impacting organizations across the state. Emphasizing partnership, progress and opportunity, Ms. Opsahl outlined key issues for providers: resource parity and restoration, improvement of quality supports, and facilitation of efficient services. Overall, INARF is encouraged by the partnership and trust established with DDRS Director Norvell and her staff, who collaborate frequently with INARF and maintain excellent rapport with the self-advocate and provider community. This partnership is most evident in recent Division decisions resulting in the restoration of a portion of the rate reduction enacted in 2010 for select waiver services, the re-introduction of Health Care Coordination as a paid waiver service, and a commitment to restructuring waiver rates in a manner consistent with the nature and intended outcomes for those services.
John Dickerson of The Arc of Indiana noted that the Commission's broad scope encompasses some critical issues, including adult guardianship. Mr. Dickerson expressed support for legislation passed in the 2013 legislative session establishing an office of adult guardianship to be administered by the staff of the Supreme Court of Indiana. Mr. Dickerson also reported that The Arc of Indiana is partnering with the Indiana Hospital Association to address current obstacles to permitting direct support professionals (DSPs) to work with the persons they support in hospital settings, ensuring continuity of services and staff.
In addition, The Arc of Indiana urged the Commission to continue dialogue with the Department of Corrections and local corrections authorities to determine how best to serve the needs of individuals with disabilities who are incarcerated and/or are dually diagnosed with intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental health issues. Mr. Dickerson concluded by thanking the Commission for their years of partnership and reiterated The Arc's commitment to collaborating with policymakers and other advocacy organizations to develop a strong system of services and supports for persons with disabilities.
Dee Quaglio, Chairwoman of the Direct Support Professionals of Indiana (DSPIN) Board, was slated as the final speaker to address the Commission. A direct support professional herself, Ms. Quaglio provided the Commission with background about both DSPIN and the direct support profession, highlighting the DSP Initiative to provide credentialing through Ivy Tech Community College. Credentialed DSPs would receive wage increases and opportunities to advance in their organizations by virtue of the fact that they were credentialed. DSP Initiative funding was cut during Indiana's economic downturn.
Ms. Quaglio urged the Commission to take the critical role of DSPs into consideration and appoint a DSP representative to serve on the Commission, ensuring that DSPs have a voice alongside self-advocate, parent, and provider representatives. She also encouraged the Commission to explore reinstatement of DSP credentialing programs. The Commission expressed keen interest in learning more about the direct support profession, how providers operate, and exploring a credentialing program for Indiana's DSPs. Ms. Quaglio was invited to participate in the September Commission meeting to follow up on her testimony and elaborate on issues related to DSPs.
Overall, the Commission meeting confirmed the legislative commitment to improving Indiana's system of services and supports and are looking to advocates and the provider industry for innovative ideas and solutions. INARF is proud to join with The Arc of Indiana, DDRS, and our other allies to make our industry stronger through the development of solid relationships and practical approaches to strengthen the system of services and supports.