Mark your calendar!

The Assistive Technology for Kansans (ATK) AT Expo for 2012 will be on September 27th from 1:00pm to 7:00pm and September 28th 7:30am to 4:00pm.

The 2 day event will be held in Wichita this year at the Wichita Hyatt – Century II.  The theme for this year’s AT Expo is “Imagine the Possibilities:  Active Living, Learning and working with AT.”

There will be over 90 exhibits of assistive technology, durable medical equipment and solutions for home, school and work.

To get your free admission ticket call (800) KAN-DOIT or (800) 526-3648.  ATK will begin giving out free admission tickets on July 1st.  Also, ATK will be offering scholarships for travel and hotel expenses to eligible consumers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just like any other twenty-seven year old American woman I just want to live a happy, successful, and meaningful life. From the outside I look like a “normal” woman. When you look at my brown hair, brown eyes, and average height you will see a woman who looks pretty “normal”. What you won’t see is my disability.

I don’t use a wheelchair, I don’t have crutches, no cane, and no tell tale sign that says I have a disability. As a young child I had severe medical problems that gave way to Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and damage to the Ulnar nerve in my right arm. I also happen to be right arm dominant.

I struggled for much of my life to maintain “normal” activities with my right arms movement and use being somewhat limited. As I got older the limitations increased and the pain became a daily companion. At the age of 24 I finally gave up and applied for SSDI. I was approved in April of 2008.

Difficulties mounted

This was a minor victory because I quickly came to a place where I realized that I was entering a very dark phase of my life. December 2009 I moved back to Kansas after spending three years in Maine. I settled on Ottawa, Kansas and purposed in my heart that I would make this work.

January of 2010 I moved into my apartment with my roommate. By March I began to realize that I was in trouble. My roommate worked more than ever before and that meant that I spent more time alone. My depression and anxiety became so severe that I stopped going out in public. The fear and anxiety related to the social stigmas surrounding disabilities weighed heavy on my heart.

I saw 2 to 4 doctors a week and took 23 medications a day. I honestly spent my days sleeping and mindlessly passing the hours. Life continued on his murky path for months. I realized that I had more trouble doing the basic things around my home that “normal” people just do. I was struggling to function.

Finally I heard about a company in town that had some services for people with disabilities. I called this company and spoke to the receptionist. I scheduled an in-home appointment and within two weeks cancelled it.

I was embarrassed and ashamed. Here I sat at the age of 26 unable to carry out the most basic human tasks. I was struggling with just brushing my hair and would just throw it up into pony tails to hide the tangles.

Taking the First Steps

Two months later I gave in, swallowed what tiny bit of pride that I had left, and called that company back. I expected them to just hang up on me. I mean who would blame them? I wasted their time and cancelled last time.

Instead of being faced with indifference or rudeness I was treated with respect and more kindness than was even deserved. I set the appointment and hung up feeling, if even only slightly, hopeful!

A week later the gentleman from that company came to my house. As we went through the appointment I felt so ashamed and embarrassed that tears came. I found myself having to tell this kind stranger things about my body and my health that I had never told anyone.

After the assessment he told me about the steps involved and the waiting list. I was disheartened. I had opened up about all of this and told all my secrets. I told him all of it and it was for nothing because I would not see services for years.

Finding Hope in Working Healthy

Then he told me that there was the working healthy program. He explained the basics and also told me that he may be able to get me a job where he works. I was delighted. Could this really happen?

After our appointment was completed I called Working Healthy. I was accepted into the program within two weeks. I interviewed at the gentleman’s company and got the job in September 2010. I was just amazed. I kept thinking was there really a CHOICE for me? Could I really get out of this dark place and modulate towards a better future?

I look back at the way my life was and compare it to my life now. I went from being so depressed that I would not go out in public and dealing with so much chronic pain that I could not function to who I am now. I am so proud to say that I am now in a much better place.

One year to the day after being hired I was promoted. I help people with disabilities every day. I help them learn to help themselves and I understand their struggles. I help with wheelchair ramps, mountains of paperwork, assistive technology, medical equipment, finding funding sources, youth advocacy, and I help people learn Independent Living Skills.

Thankful

All I can honestly say is thank you! Thank you to the wonderful people that I am now lucky enough to call my co-workers who took a chance on me. Thank you to Jonathan Sproule for coming that day to assess me and telling me that I could get up and telling me that I could live and not just survive.

Thank you to my mother Rita Marriott who is also my PCA, helps me be the best me that I can be, comes to work every day to help me, and never stops believing in me. Thank you to the Resource Center for Independent Living! RCIL has helped me find my voice, has helped me find my independence, and has helped me realize that I too can fan the flame of acceptance!

Without RCIL and centers just like it all over Kansas I know that I would NOT be where I am today.

This is a guest post written and submitted by Jennifer S. Thank you, Jennifer for sharing your story!

Tomorrow April 28th, the Resource Center for Independent Living will unite at the Kansas Statehouse with Kansans for Quality Communities members to urge our Legislators to do what’s right for Kansans. You can read about this Action on the Kansas Health Institute site here.

We will be spreading the “Save Our State” message which has been individualized among the different organizations. Centers for Independent Living are focusing our efforts on Saving Our Services SOS.

We are emphasizing to our Legislators the following items:

  • As of March 31, 2011, there are 2,950 persons with disabilities waiting for HCBS to assist with their basic needs.
  • As of March 31, 2011, 129 persons with disabilities have died while waiting for services.
  • HCBS are necessary to make it possible for persons with disabilities to be employed.
  • HCBS makes it possible for people with disabilities to stay married and raise a family thus enhancing family life.
  • Support the Centers for Independent Living (CILs). The Centers provide advocacy, information and referral, peer and job counseling, and independent living skills for over 18,000 Kansans with disabilities. All of these services are provided at an annual cost of $117 per person per year.
  • CILs emphasize jobs and work, with the result being that persons with disabilities who are working reduce their health care costs by 2/3.

If you would like to join us at the Statehouse please contact Summer Ludwig.

This blog entry was adapted from information provided by the Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas (SILCK)

Through the dedicated work of the Centers for Independent Living (CILs), a significant change has taken place in terms of the cost of persons with disabilities who are employed and those who remain unemployed.

KU conducted a five year study of consumers who were working and were able to maintain their medical
card. They found not only were the persons continuing to work but the monthly cost of their medical services substantially decreased.

People with disabilities CAN and WANT to Work!

Through the Medicaid Buy-In or Working Healthy Program, there are over 1,100 people with disabilities currently enrolled. The Working Healthy Program…

  • Allows people with disabilities to return to or increase their work effort without losing critical Medicaid Coverage.
  • Encourages people to work, increase their income and accumulate assets in order to reduce long term reliance on public supports.
  • Requires some people to pay a monthly premium for Medicaid coverage.
  • Has premium amounts that are based on the household’s countable income and are payable monthly.

Researchers at the University of Kansas say one of the surest ways to reduce Medicaid spending on people with disabilities is also one of the most underutilized. It’s called work.

“The problem is most people aren’t aware of Working Healthy,” said Nicolle Kurth, a researcher at KU’s Center for Research on Learning.

Working Healthy is a program that since July 2002 has allowed people with disabilities to hold on to their Medicaid coverage while they work. “They have to pay a premium,” Kurth said, “but the premium is based on a sliding scale and can’t be more than 7.5 percent of their income.”

In Kansas, around 1,100 disabled people take part in Working Healthy. Almost 40 percent of them are mentally ill; more than 20 percent are physically disabled.

Earlier this year, a KU Center for Research on Learning study found that between 2004 and 2007, Medicaid spending on outpatient services per beneficiary per month went from $816 to $718. For the same period, Medicaid outpatient spending on Working Healthy participants went from $434 to $232.
Outpatient services include visits to the doctor, mental health counseling and most other regular services, excluding pharmacy benefits, that do not require hospitalization.

“Being on Working Healthy reduced Medicaid spending by almost 50 percent,” said Shannon Jones, executive director for the Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas. “The fact of the matter is that people with disabilities would much rather be out working than staying home, watching their health deteriorate,” Jones said. “The reason they don’t (work) is they are scared to death of losing their health insurance, which happens to be Medicaid. Working Healthy lets them stay on Medicaid,” she said.

Adapted from a NEWS report by Dave Ranney, KHI, October 25, 2010.