Thursday, April 17, 2014

Housing Placement Recognition

Sinergia was presented with a housing placement recognition award from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS). For over 30 years, S inergia has operated a Tier II program for homeless families with children with disabilities. The program is a transitional family stabilization program intended to help homeless families obtain permanent housing with the support services of case management and housing advocacy as well as wrap around and educational support services for children in the family. 

Claudia Vidal, our Tier II and Respite Coordinator, received the recognition award on February 27th along with other shelters workers who also met their placement target. Claudia has been an excellent advocate for families living in the Tier II shelters and the children placed in our respite facility.  She has a positive outlook  and her pleasant calm  demeanor, has improved the quality of living for the children and families in an exceptional manner. Sinergia applauds her great dedication to families in the homeless system and to individuals with disabilities and families that benefit from our respite services.  

The Spring 2014 Somos el Futuro Conference

Once again Sinergia was represented at the Somos el Futuro Legislative Conference held in Albany on March 22nd.  Sinergia and NYAEMP presented a workshop which discussed whether the Transformation of the NYS OPWDD service system for unserved/underserved individuals with disabilities was “of the people, by the people, and for the people? Panelists were Sinergia Executive Director Myrta Cuadra-Lash, Yvette Watts, Executive Director of the New York Assoc. of Emerging and Multicultural Providers, Yndhira Rodriguez (parent), Frank Ferreiras (consumer) and Robert Kehl (grandfather) who were accompanied by other parents and staff.

The workshop questioned whether “managed care” would bring full blown hospital-style mega-provider consolidation to the field of developmental disabilities and imperil the role of smaller, unique practitioners of community owned and operated multicultural, bilingual services and supports in which New York State has invested to impact communities of color.  Also how the imposition of consolidation into DISCS and very large organizations into the system of very individualized and continuously changing lifelong community services and supports for and with people with disabilities affect person centered, multicultural, multilingual access to services and supports “in the most integrated setting” for minority and limited English people with disabilities.

It is important that through forums and other educational events that family members and community providers bring awareness of the role and the impact that our community organizations play in the lives of individuals and families with disabilities. Legislators and policy makers need to acquire a broader understanding of the need for these services to be supported and delivered in their communities.  As a community based multi-service and multi-cultural, bilingual organization located in East Harlem, Sinergia is governed by a board of directors with a majority of parents and community residents. Services and supports are developed in response to the needs of the individuals and families we serve. The conference was an opportunity to inform the legislators and the public of the need to sustain smaller community based organizations that are of the people, by the people and for the people.

Legislative Breakfast

The 25th Legislative Breakfast sponsored by the Manhattan Developmental Disabilities Council’s took place on March 14th at Barnes and Noble in Union Square. The breakfast was attended by parents, providers, legislators and policy makers who came together to hear the testimonies of a panel of parents and a direct care provider.  The OPWDD acting commissioner Laurie Kelly also participated and gave her support to the families and individuals with developmental disabilities.

Yndhira Rodriguez, mother of Julio Vega and an active member of the Sinergia family was chosen to present her story as a member of the panel. Yndhira has been a strong activist and advocate in raising autism awareness among the Latino population of New York City and increasing the knowledge and participation of Spanish speaking families. Thanks to her tenacity and enthusiasm, her son Julio has been able to access varied services that have made significant changes in his life.  Mrs. Rodriguez is a leader and helps many other parents of children with autism obtain services, parent education, supports and recreational opportunities. We are honored to have such a committed and talented mother as part of our team of parents. We are hoping that her testimony will make an impact on the legislators and their representatives present at the event.

Autism Rates Continue To Rise In Children

The percentage of American children with autism jumped 30 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which found that 1 in 68 children had autism spectrum disorder in 2010, up from 1 in 88 children in 2008. The CDC report is based on a survey of medical records in 8-year-olds from 11 communities throughout the U.S.

The CDC can’t explain specific reasons for the rise. One reason stated may be that we are getting better at identifying autism.” Others say that autism is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental issues. The age of parents is also known to be a factor; the chances of autism increase when parents are older at conception.

 However, certain patterns have remained the same, autism remains five times more common in boys - affecting 1 in 42 compared to 1 in 189 girls. White children are more likely to be diagnosed than black or Hispanic children, though the occurrence of autism in those minorities has risen at a faster rate than for whites. A reason for this may be that minorities, women and girls experience significant under-diagnosis according to other experts.

The average age a child is diagnosed with autism has fallen, but still remains above age 4 though diagnosis is possible by age 2. Research tells us that early identification of autism and the use of early intervention services is crucial  to improving social, communication, behavioral and educational outcomes for children with autism. That’s why it’s so important for every parent to track their child’s development and act quickly if there may be a problem. Parents know your child best. If you have a concern about how your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, or moves, don’t wait. This link will tell what actions you can take You can also track your child’s development with CDC’s free milestone checklists.

More is understood about autism than ever before, but there is a critical need to continue the search for answers and provide help now for people living with autism. For more details about the CDC report, click on this link: 

How State Budget Impacts On Persons With Developmental Disabilities

The 2014-2015 state budget recently adopted under the leadership of Governor Cuomo will provide individuals with developmental disabilities new opportunities for community integration and enhance the safety of individuals we serve, while also providing significant enhancements for the staff that work directly with individuals.
The budget provides a 2% compensation increase for direct support professionals (DSPs) working for nonprofit providers effective January 1, 2015, and provides an additional 2% increase for DSPs and clinical staff beginning April 1, 2015.  The budget also provides funding to design a DSP credentialing program to explore opportunities to improve the skills and compensation for both state and voluntary sector DSPs.

Safe handling measures have been included in the budget to protect the individuals we serve from being injured during transfers and reduce injuries suffered by staff, prolonging their careers. Under this new law, the Department of Health will establish a Safe Patient Handling workgroup by January 1, 2015 to study best practices in safe handling; thereafter each covered facility would establish a committee by January 1, 2016 to establish safe patient handling policies which would be required to be in effect by January 1, 2017.  

An $88 million increase in state and federal Medicaid matching funds is included in the budget to support individuals and families entering the OPWDD service delivery system, or requiring an enhanced array of services, and to help individuals transition from institutional programs into community settings.  Tax credits are also provided for businesses who hire individuals with developmental disabilities.

For individuals seeking greater independence, the expansion of the Nurse Practice Act exemption to non-certified settings will significantly expand supports available to help individuals work in the community, and live where and with whom they want. The budget also establishes an independent advocacy program to help individuals with developmental disabilities navigate managed care, and help ensure their rights are respected and appropriate services are delivered.

These budget investments will help strengthen the system of support for individuals with developmental disabilities as we continue to transition individuals to appropriate community opportunities.