By Carol Meredith and Luke Wheeland
Soon after the Thanksgiving holiday The Arc Arapahoe & Douglas Counties had much more than leftovers to deal with. We received a memo from Health Care Policy and Financing on 11/23/2020 that made changes to Day Programs, titled OM 20-009 . We found this memo confusing. Staff got together to discuss and try to figure it out. Parents and family members were calling because they didn’t understand the memo. Service providers were calling and emailing because they were confused. We asked Developmental Pathways how they were interpreting the memo. We contacted the State of Colorado Medicaid office to let them know that the community was confused. The department then released an FAQ about the memo that made it clear that there would be new caps on Day Program services. We worried that individuals would lose 20-30% of their day programing hours, due to this new cap. We were also concerned because our staff had spent over 16 hours in stakeholder meetings with the department to develop these alternatives to current day program services. We had expressed agreement with the plan to allow services to be offered virtually. We had expressed agreement, that for those who chose to continue to access traditional day program services that option should remain. We advocated for the development of a new rate that would allow services to be provided one on one, because this is safer during the pandemic and more person-centered in general. We knew that these changes had to be budget neutral – that there was no new money – but we never agreed that everyone’s services should be capped and reduced.
What did we do? We at The Arc Arapahoe & Douglas Counties sprang into action. We put on the bat signal, circled the wagons, called for a meeting of the minds and got all the chapters of The Arcs from around Colorado together to start planning our strategy against OM 20-009. Within 48 hours we had a systems advocacy plan. Since we had already contacted the department to let them know that this memo was a problem, we determined that it was time to escalate the issue. So we sent them a formal letter that was signed by all chapters expressing our disagreement with the policy change. Then we prepared to escalate even further if necessary, by contacting the Governor, state legislators, federal legislators and the media. We developed tools to help individuals and families formally appeal this reduction in services. Plans were developed to organize our entire community for action through social media, phone calls and email. Thankfully, we heard back from the department quickly and none of these actions had to be taken, because they had agreed to rescind the memo.
Now we wait for the new memo to come out. Rest assured we will be watching carefully and will be sure to share what we learn with all of you. This is The Arc’s in action. This is the work that many don’t see, the actions we take when we see injustice in the system. Wherever there is a threat to individuals rights, you will find The Arc’s.