Department of Human Services shifts on proposal for disabled workers

Department of Human Services shifts on proposal for disabled workers

Re-posted from the Times Tribune
HARRISBURG — State officials yanked a proposal requiring disabled people who receive work services to participate in community activities after hundreds of the workers and their families rallied at the Capitol against it.

A family from Throop joined the rally protesting the proposed rule by the Department of Human Services to limit how much time disabled individuals can spend in sheltered workshops, vocational programs and day training programs. The proposal would have required these individuals to spend a quarter of their work week in a community activity as a condition for receiving the work services. More than 20,000 Pennsylvanians participate in a sheltered workshop or day training program.

Phil and Cindy Rossi of Throop said the proposal would be detrimental to their son Matt and interfere with work he likes to do and friendships he made with co-workers. Matt works at a vocational center run by Allied Services Vocational Services Division in Scranton.

At a later House committee hearing, DHS Secretary Ted Dallas said his agency would no longer seek to require individuals to participate in a community activity. Instead, workshop and center operators would be required to offer that voluntary option to anyone who wants it starting in September 2018, he said.

“We definitely heard you,” said Dallas referring to critics of the proposal. “The decision whether to access those (community) services rests with the individual, their families and their (services) team.”

Removing the individual mandate for community activity should address the concerns of area families, said Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich, D-114, Taylor, who spoke at the rally.

Kavulich and Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, Butler Twp., said they have been inundated with calls from constituents after DHS announced the plan last December.

The proposal came about because of new federal mandates that require service providers to provide an outlet for the disabled apart from a workshop or day program or else risk losing $140 million in federal aid, said Dallas. The concept, which has the support of some advocacy groups, suggests that the disabled should be involved in community life to the greatest extent possible.

Dallas said he hopes a requirement that service providers offer the community option will satisfy Washington.

Rally speakers said the original proposal would remove the disabled from places where they want to be without giving them any say.

“Families and individuals want choice preserved,” said Kavulich.

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