The Arc of Virginia held their annual convention from August 1-3 in Virginia Beach, VA. The theme of the conference was “Reconnect & Re-Energize” recognizing the extended amount of time we have been separated due to the pandemic. The conference met our collective need to connect and through that we gained energy from one another, celebrated our successes, and were inspired to redouble our advocacy efforts to achieve further victories.
During the public policy session, we heard self-advocates plead for their basic human rights and parents express their frustration in the long wait for Medicaid Waiver services for their sons and daughters. It was heartbreaking to hear their anguish. We were saddened to learn that the Medicaid Waiver Waitlist now consists of nearly 14,000 people – 4 thousand more than when I started with The Arc 6 years ago. We are going in the wrong direction! The Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Deputy Secretary of Education, Commissioner of Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, and the interim Director of Dept. of Medical Assistance Services are all new to their positions and were hearing from our community for the first time. We hope they went away with a clear understanding that the DD system is broken and they need to fix it ASAP.
Even with these hard truths we also made time to have fun. We shed tears of laughter when Josh Blue, a comedian with cerebral palsy who won Last Comic Standing and placed 3rd in America’s Got Talent, entertained us. We danced, we visited with old friends and made new friends and connections.
Self-Advocates of the Virginia ALLY Alliance, including our very own Dick Simon, played a significant role in conference planning and leadership again this year. Their voices resonate with me still and motivate me to advocate and serve the DD community with even greater tenacity and enthusiasm. There is so much more to do. We hope we can count on you to raise your voice in support of our efforts to improve disability rights in Virginia and the US.
Written by Executive Director of The Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham, Heather Denman
For more information on how to get involved in advocacy, visit our Advocacy page.