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Where does Pa. rank in helping with those disabilities?
Patriot-News - 1/10/2019
Jan. 10--Pennsylvania is making progress in serving those with disabilities, according to a new report, but the state continues to fall short in key areas.
On the upside, Pennsylvania has risen in a national ranking of states compiled by the ANCOR Foundation and United Cerebral Palsy. The Keystone State rose to 19th among all states on policies to aid those with disabilities, up from 29th place in 2017, according to the report dubbed "The Case for Inclusion."
The state receives high marks for a big reduction in the waiting list for home and community-based services. The number of those on waiting list fell from 18,308 in the last report to 9,728 in this year's report, which was released Wednesday night.
The state is also spending a greater portion of funding on home and community-based services, rising from 79 percent to 83 percent. Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has worked to shift individuals away from large institutions and is offering more services to those with disabilities in home or community-based settings.
But the study noted that far too many people with disabilities can't find work.
In Pennsylvania, only 17 percent of those with intellectual or development disabilities can find competitive employment, down from 18 percent in the last report. The Keystone State also trails the national average of 19 percent.
While the state is increasingly moving services to homes, more than 900 people continue to live in Pennsylvania's five state-run institutions.
Advocates for those with disabilities said Pennsylvania is making progress in helping those with intellectual and developmental disabilities find employment. The state government is offering more support and more companies are willing to hire workers with disabilities.
"We still have a long way to go," said Richard Edley, president and CEO of the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association in Harrisburg.
Transportation remain a big hurdle to employment for some with disabilities, said Carol Ferenz, director of the I/DD Division at RCPA. It's especially challenging for those outside of Pennsylvania's largest cities, where people don't have easy access to public transportation.
Brandy Burnham serves as president and CEO of AHEDD, a group that helps those with disabilities find jobs. She said it's critically important for school districts to prepare young people with disabilities for work. Parents of children with disabilities need to see the value of employment as a tool to greater independence and self-sufficiency.
Advocates generally agree that part of the challenge involves raising expectations for those with disabilities in school and society at large.
"We've got to raise the bar," Burnham said.
Advocates said state agencies need to work to reduce the waiting period to match individuals with disabilities with appropriate work settings.
While the report faulted the state's continued operation of larger institutions to house individuals with disabilities, the Wolf administration is shifting away from such facilities.
Last year, the Wolf administration closed the Hamburg Center in Berks County. The institution had housed people with disabilities for decades.
Advocates for those with disabilities have implored the state to offer more services to people in their own homes or in small group homes. Nationwide, there are 15 states that no longer house individuals with disabilities in large institutional settings, according to the new report.
Pennsylvania trails only California in the amount of money it spends to help those with disabilities continue to live with their families. Pennsylania spends $788 million, an average of $25,081 per family, to enable individuals with disabilities to live at home, according to the report.
The Case for Inclusion report gives higher rankings to three of Pennsylvania's neighboring states: Ohio (8th), Maryland (11th) and New York (18th). Delaware ranks 20th, just behind Pennsylvania. New Jersey and West Virginia rank among the lowest, at 38th and 42nd respectively.
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