Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 10:39 AM on Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Key Coalition holds rally today

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

A rally to draw attention to the needs of individuals with disabilities will be held at WKFL Park today at noon-1 p.m. It is organized by the Key Coalition of Alaska and is one of many rallies going on across the state.

"It's about raising awareness," said Lisa Magnuson of South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services' Pride Program.

The rally will include speakers and there will be information available on what the Key Coalition of Alaska is currently advocating for in Juneau this year.

"It's also a joint effort with other agencies in the community that work with people with disabilities," said Carol Schuler, also with the Pride Program. Among the participating agencies are Sprout and the Independent Living Center.

This is the coalition's 26th years in Juneau, representing Alaska families in both urban and rural settings. There are Key chapters in Fairbanks, Kodiak, Mat-Su, Dillingham, Anchorage, Kenai-Soldotna, Juneau and Homer.

"Today our service delivery system faces serious challenges meeting escalating costs associated with health benefits, workers compensation and other insurances, transportation, and housing," said John Cannon, president of the Key Coalition of Alaska.

The coalitions five legislative priorities for 2013 include:

• A real cost rate review: The coalition is requesting the Legislature to establish a community rate review in statute, adjust current rates by thoroughly re-examining and recalculating agency costs and supporting adjustments to direct support professional salaries.

• Funding increment for early intervention/infant learning program: The coalition is requesting the Legislature to support the $1.5 million increment to the Early Intervention-Infant Learning Program included in the Governor's budget.

• Annual funding for the Complex Behavior Collaborative consultation and training: The CBC provides support and intervention to individuals at risk of being removed form their community and sent to an institution. The coalition is requesting the Legislature include $650,000 funding to continue necessary services provided by the CBC in the Fiscal Year 14 budget.

• Supported employment grant: The coalition is asking the Legislature to support a $500,000 increment in the FY14 budget to provide the opportunity for as many as 45 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to secure meaningful community employment.

• Wait list eradication: The coalition is asking the Legislature to continue supporting the state's commitment to reduce and eliminate the list of individuals waiting for community services by removing monthly at least 20 individuals waiting for full community services and removing annually at least 200 individuals from the wait list for full service delivery.

Locally, 49 people individuals are eligible to receive services available to them, while 24 are receiving minimal services while they wait to be deemed eligible, said Magnuson. Statewide, more than 635 families are wait-listed.

In addition to those five priorities, the coalition supports re-authorization of the Special Education Service Agency until June 30, 2021, with increased per-student funding as recommended by the legislative audit report. SESA services make it possible for students to receive special education services in their home community, keeping students with their families.

"Hundreds of Alaskans with disabilities and their families still wait for critically needed services, services essential for keeping families together, services needed for living safe and healthy lives, services needed for meaningful community participation and inclusion," said Cannon. "Together in Key we resolve that a great state must provide the care that is so sorely needed by some of its most vulnerable citizens."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@Homernews.com.