Public Policy

capitol building

The Arc’s network of national, state and local chapters impacts public policy at all levels.  Through our advocacy and grassroots mobilization, The Arc Tennessee works to protect the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families.

The Disability Advocacy Network
Join The Arc Disability Advocacy Network to keep informed of critical issues impacting people with IDD & their families. The Arc network is only as strong as its members. Your voice is critical to ensuring that the needs of people with IDD and their families are included anytime a law is passed or changed or when programs are designed or redesigned.  To learn more about public policy advocacy and how to help, contact Carrie Hobbs Guiden.

Federal Government & Federal Legislation

Current News

Achieve with Us to Prevent Devastating Cuts to Medicaid (TennCare) Funding
There are many leaders in Washington, DC committed to dismantling the Medicaid Program as we know it and we must keep sending them the same message to protect our Medicaid (TennCare)! Most the attempts at dismantling Medicaid have been through pieces of legislation to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), though the President’s draft budget includes devastating cuts to the program as well.

Medicaid (TennCare) Facts
While Medicaid is best known as a health care program for poor people, more than 80 percent of its budget goes to care for the elderly, people with disabilities, and children, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only 15% goes to health care for “able-bodied” adults.

Medicaid (TennCare in Tennessee) is a jointly funded program with matching state and federal funds. Under the current funding structure, TennCare receives $2 in federal funds for every $1 in state funds included in their budget.  Any cuts to the federal portion of Medicaid via per capita caps, block grants or other mechanisms will have a devastating impact on services and supports for Tennesseans with disabilities such as:

  • Losing home and community-based services and supports through the DIDD Medicaid Waivers, through CHOICES or through ECF CHOICES.  Waiting lists would quickly grow, and Tennessee already has a waiting list of nearly 6,000.
  • Losing other critical services such as personal care, mental health, prescription drugs, and rehabilitative services. If funds become scarcer, states may decide to stop providing these services altogether.
  • Being forced into unnecessary institutionalization. States could return to the days of “warehousing” people with disabilities in institutions.
  • Shifting the costs to individuals or family members to make up for the federal cuts. The costs of providing health care and long term services and supports will not go away, but will be shifted to individuals, parents, states, and providers.

What You Can Do

If you have a few hours:

  • Schedule a meeting with the staff of Senator Alexander, Senator Corker and your Congressman at the local office closest to you – go on your own, go as a family, or go as a group representing The Arc
  • Learn more about how to prepare for a visit here:  http://www.thearc.org/document.doc?id=5660
  • Attend a town hall meeting for Senator Alexander or Senator Corker; for a list of meetings, check here:  https://townhallproject.com/

If you have one hour:

  • Write a letter or an email to Senators Alexander and Corker and your Congressman sharing your personal story of how Medicaid (TennCare) has benefitted you and your family and what would happen if the supports went away
  • Share your personal Medicaid (TennCare) story with The Arc here:  http://disabilityadvocacynetwork.org/app/share-your-story?0&engagementId=286214
  • Film a short video where you share your Medicaid (TennCare) story and share it with The Arc TN and/or post on Facebook

If you have thirty (30) minutes (or less):

  • Write a short email to Senators Alexander and Corker and our Congressman that simply asks them to oppose any cuts to Medicaid through legislation or the budget without sharing your personal story
  • Respond to Action Alerts from The Arc TN and The Arc US

If you have five (5) minutes or less:

  • Call the DC offices of Senators Alexander and Corker and tell whoever answers the phone that you are a constituent (and mention your connection to disability) and that you oppose any action that cuts Medicaid funding
  • Contact their local offices and share the same message
  • Join The Arc Disability Action Network at http://disabilityadvocacynetwork.org/app/register?0&m=9899
  • If you use social media, “friend” Senators Alexander and Corker on Facebook – then share posts from The Arc TN, The Arc US and others that provide information on the devastating impact of Medicaid cuts
  • “Like” The Arc Tennessee on Facebook and share our posts
  • “Like” The Arc US on Facebook and share their posts
  • Follow The Arc TN and The Arc US on twitter – “retweet” posts

The Message

  • I am a member of The Arc.
  • I am a person with IDD, or I am a family member of someone with IDD, or I am a professional in the disability field.
  • Please oppose any action that cuts Medicaid (TennCare), including block grants and/or per capita caps
  • Supports for people with I/DD through Medicaid (TennCare) is not a partisan issue
  • Any consideration for changes to the Medicaid program should be thoroughly analyzed
  • Congress should continue finding innovative solutions to expand access to HCBS such as through reauthorizing the Money-Follows-the-Person (MFP) demonstration

These activities are not just “one and done” – please keep contacting them!

Congressional Phone Numbers

Other Federal Government Advocacy Needed

Protect State Councils on Developmental Disabilities, Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Advisory Councils
The President's proposed budget eliminates these councils and combines them into one entity, called Office of Partnerships for Innovation, Inclusion and Independence and slashes their funding significantly. Elimination of these programs would be a huge loss to Tennesseans with IDD and their families. The Admministration on Community Living (ACL) accepted public comment on the proposed changes. The Arc wrote a letter opposing these proposed changes. For information on this from the TN Council on Developmental Disabilities, click HERE. Though Congress has included level funding for all three entities in their initial draft budgets, the President still has the power to make the organizational changes. 

The needs of people with IDD and their families must be considered when passing or changing any law, or developing or changing any program that could impact their quality of life. People with IDD have the same rights as every other citizen. To learn more about other public policy issues important to people with IDD and their families, visit The Arc US website Public Policy and Legal Advocacy page.

State Government & State Legislation

Current News
Beginning with the 2018 legislative session, the Tennessee General Assembly will have a new home – the Cordell Hull building. The move will likely have an impact on the structure for Disability Day on the Hill (DDH) and other similar events. To read more about the move click HERE.

Save the Date! Disability Day on the Hill is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, February 21, 2018.

Stay Informed
The Arc Tennessee and Disability Rights Tennessee track bills that may impact people with disabilities.  Weekly updates typically begin a couple weeks into session and are available below. In addition, The Arc Tennessee hosts a weekly update conference call every Friday morning at 8:30 am (Central Time) during legislative session beginning every January.  If you would like to be added to the list to receive the weekly updates and to receive conference call information, please contact Carrie Hobbs Guiden.

The Arc TN Legislative Weekly Update:
June 13, 2017 Final [.doc]
June 13, 2017 Final [.pdf]

Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) Weekly Policy Watch:
July 7, 2017 Bills Passed [.pdf]

The Council on Developmental Disabilities publishes a weekly policy update through a listserv. To sign up for these emails click HERE.

State Budget
The Arc Tennessee is grateful to Governor Haslam for his support of Direct Support Professionals.  The additional $8 million included in his budget raised the rates for many of the DIDD Medicaid Waiver services.  We appreciate that Governor Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly recognize the importance of a living wage for the workers that support Tennessee’s most vulnerable adults. While the increase still falls short of getting to a living wage for DSPs, it is a step in the right direction.

The Arc Tennessee is also grateful to Governor Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly for including funds for an additional 700+ slots for the Employment and Community First (ECF) CHOICES program.  This program supports people with IDD to maximize employment and independent living outcomes.

State Legislature
The 2017 session of the One Hundred Tenth General Assembly adjourned May 10, 2017. It will reconvene at 12:00 noon (CST) on Tuesday, January 9, 2018.

To review a list of disability related legislation that passed this session, read our Public Policy Report.

Supported Decision Making
The Arc Tennessee and the DD Network and other community partners collaborated with the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), Senator Becky Massey and Representative Mike Carter to pass legislation that would formalize the process of Supported Decision Making (SDM) in Tennessee Code.  This legislation (SB264/HB941) was deferred to summer study in the Senate Judiciary Committee. To view the testimony at the Summer Study Session click HERE and fast forward to the 2 hour, 47 minute mark.  It was deferred to the first calendar of the House Civil Justice Sub-Committee in 2018.  The bill was completely rewritten to address the concerns of various stakeholder groups.  We continue to work with stakeholders to gain support for the legislation. To learn more about Supported Decision Making, refer the resources below:

Get Involved
Your involvement in public policy advocacy is key to protecting and furthering the rights of people with IDD and their families and there are many ways you can make a difference. Below are just a few of your options:

  • Develop relationships with your elected officials, both federal and state – meet with them in person, email them, call them and share your personal stories
  • “Friend” your legislators on social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Click HERE to get social media information for Federal legislators
  • “Like” The Arc Tennessee Facebook page and “Share” our posts with your Friends
  • Respond to Action Alerts from The Arc US and The Arc Tennessee
  • Agree to be a “point person” in your county to alert other families to important legislative action that needs their attention
  • Respond to requests for public comment on proposed state plans, policies, rules and regulations – the State does take this feedback seriously
  • Attend public forums, town hall meetings and public hearings
  • Join committees, task forces, advisory committees

To learn more, access our Webinar Series – The Power of Public Policy Advocacy:

Contact Carrie Hobbs Guiden for more information on how to get involved in public policy advocacy with The Arc. 

Kindred Stories is a joint project between Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and The Arc Tennessee that shares individual and family stories on topics of importance.  These collections of stories that are shared with state and federal elected officials can be read HERE. To download the latest issue "Access to Health Care" click HERE. Share your story HERE.

Disability Policy Alliance

The Arc Tennessee participates in the Disability Policy Alliance (DPA), a public policy advocacy collaborative that also includes the Council on Developmental Disabilities, Disability Rights Tennessee and the Statewide Independent Living Council.  To learn more about DPA, visit http://www.fulfillthepromise.org/.