UNLOCK THE WAITING LISTS!
Sponsored by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
The Unlock the Waiting Lists! Campaign advocates investing in Georgians with disabilities so they and their families can live full lives and contribute to Georgia Communities and the Georgia economy. We believe Georgia must rebalance its system of long-term services and supports, so that fewer dollars are spent on institutional care and more dollars are invested into Home and Community Based supports
February 26, 2014
16th Annual Disability Day at the Capitol
Thursday February 20, 2014
Governor Nathan Deal's Comments
Welcome to the Georgia state Capitol! It's a privilege to once again take part in Disability Day with all of you, and I of course want to extend a warm thank you to the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities for sponsoring this event.
My main goal as governor has been to create job opportunities for Georgians, and there's a reason for that. A job serves as the launching point for independence, financial stability and, in many instances, a sense of purpose. My desire for people to have access to these benefits of employment certainly extends to those in our state with disabilities.
But it's not just jobs we're focused on. We long to give Georgians, with or without disabilities, the chance to live in real homes in real communities and to have access to quality learning that leads to meaningful careers. I will continue to work to make this vision a reality for more people with disabilities throughout our state.
This is why we have included in our budget new waivers  and support services for an additional 500 families through the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. We have also added 125 new elderly and disabled waiver (CCSP & ICWP) slots through the Department of Community Health, and we are proud to have done so. These waivers provide crucial services and support to those individuals in our state who are leaving institutional living to enjoy the benefits of community living. We will strive to ensure this transition remains an option for as many as possible.
Yet, true self-sufficiency does start with a job. While the unemployment rate has dropped significantly since I took office, we know that it is still too high for people with disabilities. The majority of high schools students with disabilities graduate without work, and end up sitting at home during what should be the most active and productive part of their lives.
To help those with disabilities get the skills needed to find employment, we took an important step last year. We provided funds for post secondary inclusive education to expand the existing program at Kennesaw State University while also funding a new one in South Georgia [East Georgia State College]. The latter one expects to take students this fall. We will continue to look for ways to increase these opportunities.
This improved access to higher learning offers Georgians with disabilities the opportunity to pursue competitive employment, which all individuals in our state should be afforded. As such, we must continue to make sure our education, training and support systems have the policies and resources needed to prepare individuals with disabilities to enter the workforce and become contributing members of society.
This method is the most direct and cost-effective means for helping an individual achieve independence and self-fulfillment, which should be the primary objective of public assistance programs wherever possible. To address the barriers to employment confronting people with disabilities, we have a work group in the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities looking into these issues. I am asking them to recommend how we can move forward with an Employment First Initiative in Georgia. It is in this way that I hope to see more individuals able to pursue their own path to a job, a career or another form of participation in community life.
This year marks the 15th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead Decision. Already, we have made great strides in moving more individuals from institutional care to community-based care. Our current Olmstead priority is the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] Settlement. But we're not done yet. It is for this reason and for the benefit of Georgians that I am committed to finding ways to make an independent life a more attainable life.
Now, with all this in mind, I am happy to stand before you to proclaim this day "Disability Awareness Day" in Georgia!
The Unlock Steering Committee: The Georgia Advocacy Office · The Arc of Georgia · The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities · The Statewide Independent Living Council of Georgia · People First of Georgia · The Institute on Human Development & Disability at the University of Georgia· The Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State University · The Georgia Council on Aging · Parent to Parent of Georgia
Thank you from the GCDD Policy Team
D'Arcy Robb: Public Policy Director
Dawn Alford: Public Policy Specialist
Dave Zilles: Parent Advocate
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