Representatives from The Arc Minnesota had a rare opportunity to hear directly from senior Obama administration officials on disabilities. The five Minnesotans were among 150 invited guests from The Arc groups across the nation. They took part in the White House Community Leaders Briefing on disability issues, held on Feb. 10.
“This briefing reminded me how important it is for all of us in the disability community to share our stories and be at the table when decisions are made,” said Steve Larson, Senior Policy Director for The Arc Minnesota. “President Obama himself said that personal stories do make a difference.
Larson relayed the president’s thoughts. “Last summer, you shared your stories about why Medicaid matters, and you helped shape the debate,” he told us. “You can do it again.”
Members of the Minnesota delegation were Larson, Kurt Rutzen, The Arc Minnesota Public Policy Advocate; Debbi Harris, Chair of The Arc Greater Twin Cities Board; Kim Keprios, CEO of The Arc Greater Twin Cities; and Mike Gude, who is the organization’s communications director.
In morning briefings, senior administration officials shared information about federal initiatives to provide more housing for people in the community, to enforce the Olmstead decision and to protect Medicaid from block grants.
Arc representatives had ample time to ask questions and provide feedback. Before lunch, the group was greeted by President Barak Obama. Afternoon breakout sessions provided more face time with senior officials to discuss specific issues in detail – including community living, education, health care and family support.
The event was hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement. The Minnesota delegation was part of a group of about 150 of The ARC’s leaders, members, advocates and staff. The ARC is one of the largest national community-based organizations advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. That’s why the organization was chosen for the briefing day.
The White House Community Leaders Briefing Series is a weekly program that began in the summer of 2011. It is a unique opportunity for grassroots leaders to start a two-way dialogue with the White House about issues that are affecting their communities. The sessions help advocates become better informed about government policies and programs and how they can use or maximize these resources.
“The ARC, as one of the largest organizations working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, brings a wealth of experience and insight to discuss today’s most important concerns facing persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Jon Carson.
Many of those taking part in the session were able to share their stories about issues including the need for support services to allow Arc members to live independently in their communities.
This article was compiled with information from The Arc Minnesota and the White House Communications Office.