Women’s Safer and Stronger Program – Western Montana

Summit has recently contracted with Portland State University to participate in a research project called the Women’s Safer and Stronger Program along with two other centers for independent living, Sources in Fayetteville, AR and ABIL in Phoenix, AZ.

The project will last three years and women from western Montana who have experienced abuse are welcome to participate. The program is an online education tool that is designed to help women with disabilities learn to be safer from abuse and to provide them with information about local resources where they can get assistance if they are experiencing abuse.

Jude Monson, program manager; Susan Morris, outreach specialist; and Leanne Beers, board member, will be taking the lead in this project for Summit. In addition, we will have the opportunity to work with staff at the Rural Institute, including Rosemary Hughes and Rebecca Goe, and their valuable resources. We will be recruiting volunteers from the seven counties in western Montana to participate in this program so if you or someone you know may be interested, please contact Jude or Susan at the Missoula Summit office 728-1630.

How Can You Make a Difference? VOTE on November 2nd!!

One of the most important rights we enjoy as citizens of our state and nation is the right to vote for the people who make and uphold our laws. This right is the foundation upon which our democratic form of government is based. Many people in the world do not share this right. It’s a civic duty we should all feel privileged to perform (sos.mt.gov).

With human service programs in jeopardy of being cut or reduced, the November 2nd Elections right around the corner and the 2011 Legislative Session fast approaching, this election season could prove to be a very important one.

In this edition of The Summit Independent, we will let you know how to vote, how you can vote using an absentee voting ballot, and how to get a ride to the polls if you need transportation. Also, we have provided the names and contact information for legislative candidates who are running for office in your district so you can contact them if you choose and let them know about your needs and concerns. You can also contact them to learn more about them as you prepare to become an informed voter.

Why is the disability vote so important?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 130,621 adults with disabilities in the state of Montana. However, only around 34,600 adults with disabilities who are of voting age actually voted during the 2000 Presidential Elections. That’s only a 26% voter turnout rate among Montanans with disabilities.

Across Montana, people with disabilities are concerned with a wide range of issues that impact our lives. Many of these issues will be of significant importance this upcoming legislative session and you should find out where the candidates in your district stand on the issues that are important to you so you can make the best choice possible when it comes time for you to vote. Some of the possible issues that are important to people with disabilities and may also be important to you and influence the way you vote that you may want to talk to them about include:

How they would go about ensuring Montana has a balanced budget? Do they only support cuts to the programs many people with disabilities rely on or do they support a more balanced approach by also enhancing the state’s revenue?

The Medicaid spend-down. Do they support raising the threshold so that the people who pay the spend-down can keep as much as SSI recipients get ($674) to live off of every month?

Medicaid provider rates. Do they support maintaining the current levels of reimbursement rate for providers so that providers can continue to provide services such as home health care and hire and pay caregivers a livable wage?

HCBS Medicaid waiver slots. Do they support at least maintaining the number of waiver slots that were approved through the last legislature in order to help people stay and receive services in their own homes rather than in a more costly institutional setting?

Funding for senior and disability transportation. Do they support adequately funding senior and disability transportation services to ensure that people, especially in rural communities, have access to transportation services that allows them to take care of their life needs?

And many others.

The opportunity is yours and only yours to go out and make a difference, to let your voice be heard, to ensure the future for thousands of Montanans with disabilities. So use your right to vote and let lawmakers know that the disability vote counts!

Accessibility Assessments of Western Montana’s Community Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics

Summit is working with The Rural Institute and The Centers for Disease Control on a project designed to increase the awareness and knowledge of people with disabilities of the benefits of routine health screenings, and accessible health services available at Community Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics. The project will also provide CHC and RHC management with action plans and resource information for improving access for people with disabilities.

Summit’s role in this project is to perform the access assessments at 16 CHC’c and RHC’s located in Western Montana. So far assessments have been completed for clinics in Missoula, Hamilton, Thompson Falls, Plains, Hot Springs, Troy, and two in Libby. We are planning assessments at Eureka, Kalispell, Bull River, Superior, Ronan, Polson, St. Ignatius, and another in Thompson Falls. Hopefully we will be able to get them done before the snow flies!!

Sanders County Update

One of Summit’’s Sanders County Peers, Sandy Davis, was recently featured in an article in the Sanders County Ledger that acknowledged all of her contributions to the citizens of Sanders County. The article referred to Sandy as the honorary “Mayor of Noxon” and announced that she would be Grand Marshal of this year’s Huckleberry Festival and that she is a Grand Dame and deserves applause and recognition for all she has done.

We are planning a get together sometime in October to celebrate not only Sandy’s birthday, but also that of another of our Sanders County Peers, John Gallaher. John and Sandy will also be presented with a Longevity Award for their many years of generous service to Summit and the independent living movement. If you would like to join us in food and festivities in Sanders County, please call Susan at Summit in Missoula for details.

We would love to see you, the more the merrier so give us a call!! 728-1630 or e-mail [email protected]

Montana Medicaid for Workers with Disabilities In Effect July 1st

The Montana Medicaid for Workers with Disabilities (MMWD) program, one of the key achievements of the 2009 Legislature for individuals with disabilities, goes into effect July 1, 2010. The MMWD program is a new Medicaid eligibility category specifically designed for individuals with disabilities to go to or return to work or for those who are already working and may become ineligible for health care coverage under the Medicaid program under other eligibility categories such as the Medically Needy category or through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

Medicaid eligibility is important for individuals with disabilities because Medicaid is a program that covers typical health care expenses for individuals and families with limited incomes, including adults and children with disabilities. In addition, Medicaid covers many disability-specific services and supports not covered by private pay insurance, including things like personal assistance and developmental disability services. The fear of losing Medicaid coverage is one of the primary reasons many adults with disabilities are afraid or reluctant to start or return to work. Many adults with disabilities cannot risk losing the benefits that provide them with the services, supports and medical care they need to live on a daily basis. Through the MMWD program, working people with disabilities can continue to participate in the Medicaid program by paying affordable premiums — similar to purchasing private health insurance (with the exception of Native Americans who will not have to pay a premium). Individuals who are eligible to participate in the MMWD program will be able to retain higher income and resource levels, and still maintain their Medicaid coverage.

To be eligible for the MMWD program, an individual must be employed and be able to show proof that they are having FICA taxes withheld from their paycheck or, if self-employed, proof that they are paying FICA taxes.

Individuals must have a net family income that is less than 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (250% FPL = $27,075/year for 2010). An individual’s net family income will be determined using the SSI calculations for evaluating the income of the working individual with a disability and any other financially responsible adult living with that individual.

Individuals participating in the MMWD program will also be able to increase the amount of resources they are allowed to have beyond what is typically allowed in other Medicaid eligibility categories which, is $2000 for an individual and $3000 for a couple. Under the MMWD program, the resource limit will increase by four times the standard amount. Individuals will be allowed to have up to $8000 and a couple will be allowed to have up to $12,000. These limits also include any resources that may belong to other financially responsible relatives or adults that may be deemed to be available to the individual as well.

One exception to the resource limit is that individuals participating in the MMWD program will also be allowed to have a retirement or pension fund. Any amount that the individual saves in a retirement or pension fund will not count as a resource or towards the $8000 or $12,000 resource limits.

One of the most notable differences between the MMWD program and the Medically Needy program that many individuals with disabilities are aware of is the cost-sharing requirement. Instead of having to spend down or incur costs down to a specified threshold ($645 per month for the Medically Needy program after income exclusions), the MMWD has premiums that are based off the level of an individual’s income. Unlike determining eligibility for the MMWD program where an entire family’s net income is counted, MMWD cost share premiums will be based solely upon the individuals total countable income. The monthly premiums range from a base of $35 all the way up to $175 as noted in the following table:

Total Countable Income as a percentage of federal poverty level (FPL) Monthly countable income dollar amount Monthly payment
Up to 100% $01.00 to $903 $35
Over 100% to 150% $903.01 to $1,354 $75
Over 150% to 200% $1,354.01 to $1,805 $125
Over 200% to 250% $1805.01 to $2,256 $175

If you would like more information regarding the MMWD program, you can contact Travis Hoffman at Summit Independent Living Center or go to your local Office of Public Assistance.  If you think you or someone you know may be eligible for the MMWD program, contact your local Office of Public Assistance to talk to a Medicaid eligibility specialist.  The Department will begin taking applications for the MWD program beginning July 1st.

Now get back to work!

Susan Morris – Outreach Specialist

Susan Morris from Clinton, MT has been hired as Summit’s new Outreach Specialist.  Susan recently graduated from the University of Montana with her bachelor’s degree in Social Work.  Prior to graduating from the University of Montana Social Work program in May, Susan worked at Summit as a student intern completing her Social Work practicum here.

Susan’s new position at Summit will include participating in our outreach efforts to Sanders County as well as helping us with our nursing home transition goals.  Susan will visit and work with individuals who live nursing homes and assisted living facilities to identify people who wish to move out of the institutions and assist them in accessing the resources they need to move into the community and their own homes.

Susan enjoys reading, playing with her five dogs, and horseback riding throughout the Clinton area.

Thinking Back…Looking Forward!

By Bob Liston — President, Summit ILC Board of Directors

As I sit here thinking back to 2009, I can’t help but think about the good things that have been accomplished by Summit Independent Living Center and the disability community across the state and country. It seemed to all start prior to the beginning of the year, trying to find someone to be the lobbyist for Independent Living and the disability community, then figuring out the logistics for Travis Hoffman to fill that role.  Between Travis, all the CIL directors and advocates, other organizations like Disability Rights Montana, AARP, the Mental Health Association, provider agencies and many more we saw a pretty good legislative session. Travis not only did a great job in Helena, but was able to get our community across the state involved in the process by contacting their legislators.

At the same time, there was a national effort to get the Community Choice Act introduced, acted upon and/or included in the Health Care Reform efforts. Since Senator Baucus made it quite clear from the beginning that he would not hear the Community Choice Act (it had to get through the Finance Committee first and Sen. Baucus is the Chair), efforts moved to including it in the Health Care Reform. ADAPT members from New York, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Montana and staff/advocates from Summit ILC met with Senator Baucus’ staff by phone and in person (not invited), continuing to be told that Long Term Services (i.e. CCA) would not be included. This was not acceptable. Advocates across Montana went to virtually every office of Sen. Baucus insisting on a personal meeting and expressing the importance of moving CCA forward. In Missoula, advocates finally got an appointment to meet with the senator during the August recess. We came away from this meeting “guardedly optimistic” that he “heard” what we had to say. To our surprise, when Sen. Baucus got back to Washington D.C., he included the Community First Choice Option (a demonstration project using CCA principles) as part of the “chairman’s mark” or his final bill—a major accomplishment. Way to go Summit, Montana and National Advocates and thanks for your efforts!!!

We have seen a Medicaid “buy-in” program passed through the legislature allowing persons with disabilities to obtain jobs, earn more money and still have insurance. Summit’s Self-Direct Personal Assistance Program is seeing more services to more people utilizing it, which means not only are more people in independent settings, and resulting in more personal assistants being employed and getting more hours. We have been able to pay personal assistants more in wages and provide insurance through a state program to those who want it. Summit also has a greater presence in the high schools.  We made major accomplishments in 2009 and we should take pride in what we have seen done. The Board of Directors thanks the staff, peers and advocates for their efforts.

But we also need to be thinking about the future. We have to keep an eye on the Health Care Reform and what ends up happening to the Community First Choice Option—pushing Montana to apply if possible. We need to continue to fight for the passage of the Community Choice Act. Where one lives should not determine the types of supports and services they are able to receive. This should be uniform across the country and nursing homes should not be the default program—we need to end the institutional bias in Medicaid!

Summit is working with Aging Services to develop ways to ensure the aging and veterans have the opportunity to continue to live in the community, as well as improving outreach and efforts to get younger folks with disabilities out of nursing homes and back into their communities. Summit continues to partner with the Rural Institute at the University of Montana to assess and demonstrate on ways to provide new and improved services to our consumers.

As a Board, we need to ensure that we have the infrastructure for Summit staff to continue to do a great job. Do we have enough space in our offices? Do we have the technology to provide the services? Are there other partners we should be working with? We need to look at fundraising so we have “unrestricted” funds to be able to do the lobbying we need, when we need it. We have the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act coming up this summer—something to celebrate, as well as question its effectiveness of the implementation. We are seeing threats to accessible voting sites threatened. All of our communities can be more accessible to all persons with disabilities. As those of us who are baby-boomers continue to age and increase in numbers, the strain on Summit to meet the needs for services will continue to grow. We must be looking towards the future and be as proactive as possible and not get caught by surprise.

But as ’09 comes to an end and ’10 begins, let’s take time to celebrate our victories, acknowledge our accomplishments and thank the staff, peers and advocates (I would also like to thank my fellow Board Members) for their hard work. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and got rested…now the work begins anew!

2010 Social Security Changes

There will be no cost of living increases for SSI and SSDI recipients for 2010. The 2010 amounts for Social Security are:

SSI

Individual – $674/month
Couple – $1,011/month

Substantial Gainful Activity

Non-Blind – $1,000/month
Blind – $1,640/month

Trial Work Period Month

$720/month

The Montana Medicaid Medically Needy spend-down threshold will remain at $645 after income exclusions.

The Montana Medicaid for Workers with Disabilities program is slated to begin July 1, 2010.  For more information about this program, please contact Travis Hoffman at 728-1630.

Lake/Sanders County Update

It has been a while since our last update but we are still striving to provide services to our consumers in Lake and Sanders County’s.

In the last few months, we have been holding peer meetings and trying to get more actively involved with the schools, community events, and Summit ILC sponsored activities in order to provide more services to members in our small communities.

One of the biggest potential changes that we are currently working on is with the local Peoples’ First Chapter in Lake County. We are working with the chapter about Summit once again being in an advisory role and working closer with People First members to achieve their goals.

As we continue to work harmoniously with diverse races, sexes, person with varying abilities and cultures, we are partnering with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes to better reach out to the Native American population here on the Flathead Indian Reservation.  We have developed a presentation for the Tribal Elder’s Advisory committee.  The Tribal Elder’s Advisory committee advises all departments and programs within the tribal government by adopting traditional principles and values that will provide sound environmental stewardship to preserve, perpetuate, protect and enhance natural resources and ecosystems including our most precious resource, our people.

We welcome and congratulate the new Salish Kootenai College President.  We have been in contact with the college to try to see if we can implement the Living Well with a Disability classes on their campus.  Presently, we have Scott & Michelle Williamson facilitating the Living Well classes and we certainly appreciate the great job they both are doing here in Lake County.

Summit would like to thank John Gallaher for all of his efforts as a peer, friend and mentor.  All of his hard work has truly been a blessing. We would also like to thank Sandra Davis for all of her kind acts of unselfishness to all of the local community members she has reached out to.  Summit also welcomes D’Arla Morgan, soon to be one of our newest peers in Sanders County.  We truly look forward having her with us here at Summit ILC.

We hope all of you had a safe and enjoyable holiday season with your loved ones and we look forward to continuing to serve you in 2010.

I hope you always consider us as a valuable resource to assist you with your needs and concerns.  Give our office a call anytime at 1-(866)-230-6936 or at 676-0190.