The 2018 legislative session brought big wins for kids and parents who experience disability. Two of our priority bills passed and await the governor’s signature. The short session also brought a number of disappointments. We’ve cataloged all of the ups and downs for you, and share a few previews of issues we’ll likely be focusing on in the next session. Thank you to everyone who testified or spoke out in support of bills improving the lives of Oregonians with disabilities.
Every child born in the U.S. is screened shortly after birth for the possibility of hearing loss. The earliest months and years of life offer a limited window of time during which the brain can wire for auditory input to avoid hearing loss. This same opportunity doesn’t exist for kids later in life. But, these services come with a steep price tag, and many private insurance companies won’t cover them.
Thanks to HB 4104 and strong grassroots advocacy that’s about to change in Oregon.
The legislation, which heads to the Governor’s desk, requires insurance companies in Oregon to cover evaluations, fittings and hearing equipment for kids. It would mandate that insurance companies help parents navigate their complex systems, and expand access to pediatric audiologists.
- OPB News story: “Bill Requiring Insurance Cover Hearing Aids Awaits Signature” (February 28).
- Gavin’s story
- Kimberly’s story
The emotional case of Redmond parents Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler captured the attention of Oregonians across the state who were outraged by the discriminatory treatment they received. Statutes that govern the legal process for termination of parental rights treat parents with mental health and intellectual disabilities differently from others. We sought to remove that difference and make clear that parents with disabilities are entitled to supports and services to assist them in parenting.
SB 1526 will make sure that parents who experience intellectual or developmental disabilities are equal in the eyes of the law. It would prohibit the termination of a person’s parental rights for the sole reason that the person has a disability. We’re thrilled this bipartisan effort to stamp out discrimination is headed to the Governor’s desk.
- Bill would prohibit using disability as sole reason to terminate parental rights (The Oregonian, January 17)
- My Letter to the Editor of The Oregonian on this issue (The Oregonian, July 23, 2017)
- Our testimony in support of the bill
We’ll Keep Fighting
On some issues, we fell short of our goals. We’ll keep fighting for workers, people who are subject to guardianship, and many more Oregonians.
One bill on our legislative agenda that did not pass was HB 4041. This legislation would create a task force to create policies and strategies for increasing opportunities for employment of people with disabilities in state government. Although we weren’t successful this time around, we will work with other advocates to have the task force implemented by a state agency or to reintroduce the bill in the 2019 legislative session.
Protecting People Subject to Guardianship
The process for deciding whether to strip an individual of their right to control their own residence, healthcare, and spending is profoundly important. Unfortunately, Oregon doesn’t fund attorneys to represent indigent individuals who are subject to guardianship. Our state also doesn’t require court hearings before the imposition of a guardianship, and has minimal competency requirements for court visitors and little monitoring of existing guardianships.
For years, Disability Rights Oregon has stepped in to fill this gap. We review guardianship proceedings that seek to place protected people in restrictive settings. Our staff reach out to those individuals to assure that they understand their rights and can have any objections heard by the court. This legislation session, we advocated to restore funding for our Guardianship Monitoring Project. We weren’t successful, but will work to make this a reality in the next session.
Session in Review
- SB 1540A: Modifies abuse reporting and investigation standards for people with “severe and persistent mental illness” and residents of the state hospital. Provisions limiting child abuse reporting for minors engaging in sexual behavior were removed from the bill.We want to reinstate abuse reporting protection for OHP recipients who are receiving mental health services and are unable to protect their own safety.
- Testimony: We submitted testimony in support of the legislation.
- Status: Passed the Senate and the House. It now heads to the Governor’s desk.
More Legislative Updates
For additional information on the other bills that we tracked this session, read this blog post.
The 2018 legislature was able to maintain the Oregon Health Plan expansion population and to make some important investments in human services that benefit Oregonians with disabilities. Disability Rights Oregon’s major budget goal was to protect children with intellectual disabilities from losing funding for their in-home supports. Thanks to the work of advocates and self-advocates in the Capitol, this goal was accomplished. Here are some other key gains.