June 1, 2018
VOR Weekly News Update
VOR is a national organization that advocates for high quality care and human rights for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
VOR promises to empower you to make and protect quality of life choices for individuals with developmental disabilities
VOR's Annual Meeting & Legislative Initiative
Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
June 9 - 13, 2018
VOR 2018 Annual Conference and Washington Initiative
June 9 - 13, 2018
All meetings will take place at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.
Saturday, June 9, 2018
Registration: Network with families from across the country
VOR Board of Directors Meeting & Report to Membership
          Annual meeting of the VOR Board of Directors, open to all members
          Committee Reports and Presentations
          Time will be provided for member questions and comments
Installation of VOR 2017-2018 Officers and Board Members
Reports from the States

Sunday, June 10, 2018
Registration: Network with families from across the country
VOR Legislative Initiative 2018
      Opening Remarks - Joanne St. Amand, President and Hugo Dwyer, Executive Director
      Panel Discussion on State Advocacy – Liz Belile (TX). Susan Jennings (PA), Rita Winkeler (IL)
      Guest Speakers – Kate McSweeny, Vice President on Govt. Affairs & General Counsel at ACCSES
     (Other speakers TBA)
Legislative Briefing
           Discussion and Issue Briefing. Folders for Congressional visits will be distributed.
Awards and Events

VOR’s Sunday Dinner at The Dubliner - 7:00 pm

Monday, June 11 – Wednesday, June 13, 2018
The Washington Initiative
Visits to Capitol Hill - Personal meetings with Members and Congress and their staff are the most effective way to educate and influence federal lawmakers. Join VOR members and advocates from around the country to convey the importance of residential choice and family decision-making to Members of Congress.

VOR's 2018 Annual Meeting & Legislative Initiative:
What you can do if you are not attending this year

Unable to come to D.C. this year? We understand, of course. But there are still things you can do to support VOR from the comfort of your own home.

  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Re-post, Like, or Retweet our posts
  • Follow up with your senators and representatives this August, when they come back to their state offices. All of the materials from VOR's Legislative Initiative will be available on our web site after the conference
State News
Missouri - Caregivers Forced Developmentally Disabled Missouri Man to Fight to the Death, Lawsuit Claims
By Margaret Stafford, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 1, 2018
A developmentally disabled Missouri man was forced to fight another man for the “amusement” of people who ran the private care home where he lived and was left to die in a bathtub from injuries he suffered in the clash, his mother has alleged in a lawsuit.

Carolyn Summers, the mother of Carl DeBrodie, 31, also alleges in the lawsuit filed Tuesday that government agencies responsible for her son didn’t provide required care and didn’t check on DeBrodie for months. DeBrodie’s body was found in April 2017 encased in concrete in a container inside a storage area, months after he went missing.

No one has been arrested or charged in DeBrodie’s death.

According to the lawsuit, DeBrodie and another resident of Second Chance Homes in Fulton, Mo., were taken in October or November 2016 to the
home of two Second Chance employees, where they were forced to do manual labor, sleep on the basement floor and fight each other. DeBrodie suffered serious injuries in the fight, including at least six broken ribs.

That night, DeBrodie was found screaming and convulsing on the basement floor. He was bleeding from his nose and mouth when he was placed in a bathtub with the shower running, but no emergency medical help was called before DeBrodie died, according to the lawsuit. The body was likely left in the bathtub for two or three days before it was hidden in the storage area, the lawsuit alleges.

DeBrodie was not reported missing until April 17, 2017, and his body was found April 24. The body was so badly decomposed that investigators determined he had been dead for months.

Virginia - A Photo Emerges and a VA School System’s Use of Seclusion comes under Scrutiny
By Debbie Truong, The Washington Post, May 26, 2018
In the photo, Gigi Daniel-Zagorites grips the edge of a small bookcase, her tilted head peering over. The bookcase and a cabinet barricade the 13-year-old in one corner of a classroom. Two women sit, backs turned.

Months have passed since the moment in September when a classmate at Belmont Ridge Middle School in Loudoun County captured that image on an iPad. But many questions have yet to be answered for Gigi’s mother, Alexa Zagorites.
Why was her daughter, who has a disorder that hampers her ability to speak, confined? How long was she there? How often did this happen?

“I was embarrassed for Gigi. I was sad for Gigi. I was worried. I couldn’t imagine what was going on in her mind because she can’t tell me,” Zagorites said. “It’s a cage.”

Gigi’s experience isn’t unique. Thousands of schoolchildren, most of whom have disabilities, are involuntarily confined in U.S. schools each year.
In the 2015-2016 school year, more than 36,000 students throughout the country were subjected to seclusion, according to federal data released in April. Nearly 86,000 more were restricted from moving freely by a school worker holding the child or by being immobilized by other restraints, such as handcuffs.

Even then, experts say, under-reporting probably masks how frequently seclusion and restraint are employed in schools. No federal laws specifically govern either of the closely related practices, resulting in a patchwork of policies across states and school districts.

Ohio - Local Agencies Compete for Workers to Support People with Disabilities
By Kaitlin Schroeder, Dayton Daily News, May 27, 2018
Rochelle Butler said she’s had a rewarding three years working at Choices in Community Living supporting people in the Dayton area with developmental disabilities.

“I have this passion for helping people and it’s a really rewarding feeling,” Butler said.

Agencies that support clients with disabilities are heavily competing now to hire and retain employees like Butler, amid what a trade association for the industry has called a “workforce crisis.”

These professionals play a critical role in supporting clients with tasks like transportation, career assistance, in-home care and other kinds of support. But as Ohio’s unemployment rate has fallen to 4.3 percent as of April, competition for workers has heated up and other industries from manufacturers to retailers to nursing homes and more are all trying to attract employees from a tight labor pool.

Additionally, average $10.24 per hour wage can make it a struggle to hire and hold on to direct
support workers, especially as some retailers and restaurants raise their wages to competing levels.
Workforce recruitment and retention is at a crisis level, said Mark Davis, president of the Ohio Provider Resource Association, which represents companies that employ direct-support professionals.

“It’s a pretty stark reality that we are about 10 to 20 percent short on employees,” Davis said.
Davis said it’s hard to raise wages, however, when Medicaid is the majority of the agencies’ revenue and reimbursements have not kept up with inflation.

In 2013 the turnover rate for direct support professionals was 4 percent. In 2016, turnover had risen to 51 percent. The association stated the cost of turnover for one direct support position ranges from $3,000 to $5,000, depending on an agency’s structure.

California - That Early Help You Need for Your Child Doesn't Come Soon Enough
By Jocelyn Wiener, The Sacramento Bee, May 29, 2018

A statewide system charged with helping infants and toddlers with developmental delays often fails to provide timely access to crucial therapies – and sometimes struggles to provide them at all – according to interviews with dozens of families, attorneys and service providers.

Early Start – a federal program administered in California by 21 non-profit regional centers – serves more than 41,000 children under the age of 3 with cognitive, language, physical or other delays. Under federal law, the centers must identify these children, then provide them with occupational, speech and physical therapies, nursing support and family training, among other services. There is no income requirement to receive the services.

Early Start’s problems are of enough concern that the federal Office of Special Education Programs sent a letter last year notifying the state Department of Developmental Services that the program had been demoted to "needs intervention" status – the only state in the country with such a low designation. That status reflected problems getting children’s initial screenings and paperwork done within the 45 days required by law, as well as failures to prepare children to transition to school-based services at the age of 3.

A report published in January by the state Legislative Analyst’s Office points to "notable weaknesses" in California’s early intervention program, highlighting service delays and disparities in funding offered by regional centers and schools. Provided in a timely manner, these therapies can be life-changing, sometimes meaning children won’t need special education services when they get older. But waiting even a few months can make a huge difference to a child’s development.

California - Problems continue to plague Kern Regional Center
By Jose Gaspar, The Californian, May 27, 2018

Stop me if you've heard this tune before, but it seems there's no end to the ongoing drama at Kern Regional Center.

KRC is one of 21 regional centers which are nonprofit private corporations that contract with the Department of Developmental Services to provide or coordinate services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. These facilities play an important role providing much needed services.

Three years ago, DDS issued a scathing critique of KRC, which in its words, "identified serious and questionable activities by the KRC Board of Directors and Executive Management." This included the lack of management internal controls, questionable pension and deferred compensation activities, and the lack of oversight by both executive management and the board of directors.

One of the hotter issues now is over the employee pension plan. KRC management issued notices two weeks ago informing employees it was "freezing" their pension plan as of July 1 and would replace it with a 401(k) plan. Now employees are threatening to walk out of their jobs, authorizing to strike if necessary.
How did we get here?

KRC maintains it's a matter of financial solvency, invoking a provision in its collective bargaining agreement with Service Employees International Union referred to as Article 40. It states that when the state or any other funding agency does not provide monies sufficient to fund the economic provisions of the contract, KRC has the right to reopen the contract to renegotiate new terms.

When SEIU refused to renegotiate, KRC then simply terminated the collective bargaining agreement citing its right to do so under Article 40.

But SEIU isn't buying it. "It's a pretext to bust the union," said Stephen Curry, regional director of SEUI Local 521. Curry said he does not believe KRC is facing any deficit in its current operating budget of $22 million. SEIU filed a charge of unfair labor practice with the National Labor Relations Board claiming KRC refuses to provide necessary and relevant information as requested.

Oklahoma - Gatesway To Sell Off Real Estate Assets, Cites Ongoing Funding Woes
By Tim Stanley, Tulsa World, May 29, 2018
Pointing to years of inadequate funding both from the state and private sources, the nonprofit Gatesway Foundation announced Tuesday that it will be selling off some of its Tulsa-area properties.

Gloria Morton, president of the organization, which serves adults with intellectual disabilities, said the move is intended to eliminate debt and improve liquidity, ultimately allowing Gatesway “to focus on more efficiently delivering its mission.”

Gatesway’s real estate holdings, accumulated over several years, include its 41-acre campus in Broken Arrow, a commercial building in the city’s Rose District, and several other properties, officials said.

“While the state’s announcement of increased rates effective July 1, 2018, will help our operations,” Morton said, “the reality is that the last
several years of underfunding can’t be reversed without a retroactive adjustment.”

The last rate increase by the state was in 2012 which was followed in 2014 by a rate cut, she said.
Added to this prolonged underfunding are industrywide challenges such as the increasing cost of care, overtime and employee turnover. The result for Gatesway has been a loss of more than $5 million in the last several years, Morton said.

To cut costs, the organization has already in the last year implemented wage reductions, layoffs and outsourcing, she added.

NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities Names New Executive Director
By Josh Frank, Tap into New Brunswick, June 1, 2018
The New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities (NJCDD) today announced Mercedes Witowsky as its new executive director. Witowsky will lead the daily work of the NJCDD in its mission to advocate for individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities in New Jersey. 

“Mercedes has devoted her professional career, in positions of increasing responsibility, to serving individuals with developmental disabilities and their families,“ said NJCDD Chair Paul Blaustein. “She has served as a leader in advocating for the rights of individuals with disabilities to make informed choices, control their own lives and direct the necessary services they receive. Mercedes has earned the trust and respect of self-advocates and families, service providers, leaders of government agencies and legislators, through her commitment to serving the most vulnerable residents of our State. I am confident that Mercedes is the perfect choice to be the Council's Executive Director. I look forward to working with her to advance the Council's agenda of collaborating with all stakeholders, to improve the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.” 

In addition to Witowsky’s nearly four-decade private sector career supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), she has championed multiple family advocacy efforts across the state. For the past four years, Witowsky has dramatically increased the knowledge base of families throughout the State, as Chair of the Family Support Planning
Council. Witowksy has been a driving force in establishing a Family Advisory Council to the NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), providing valuable input to DDD as the system transitions to Fee for Service. Witowsky led the creation of the NJ Developmental Disabilities Action Network (DDAN), bringing together stakeholders to establish and implement a collective advocacy agenda. All of Witowsky's advocacy efforts have focused on strengthening the voices of self-advocates and families to communicate their needs to service providers and government agencies.

On the national level, Witowsky served for 15 years as the NJ representative to the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), a leading non-profit trade organization representing more than 1,400 private community providers of services to individuals with disabilities across the country. Witowsky earned her teaching degree in Special Education from Kean University. She is also the proud parent of Anthony and Tina, a young lady with multiple disabilities.

From our Friends at ACCSES:
Please sign on!
  • Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-WI-06) recently introduced the Workplace Choice and Flexibility for Individuals with Disabilities Act (H.R. 5658). This bill will restore common sense to the definition of competitive integrated employment and provide increased employment opportunities for people with disabilities. People with disabilities across the country have been denied placements in high-paying jobs because of the regulations that implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). ACCSES supports expanding opportunities and keeping a full array of options available. We were honored to work with Congressman Grothman and his staff to help draft this legislation. Go to the ACCSES Action Center and tell your Members of Congress to cosponsor and pass this important bill to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities!
In Loving Memory
Virginia Lee Lambert Carraway
Born October 26, 1939 in Exeter California to Lucile and William (Bill) Lambert.  She attended school at Elderwood Elementary and Woodlake Union High School, and she attended College of the Sequoias, and Fresno State where she received her Bachelor of Nursing Degree with credits toward her Master’s Degree at Anderson Univ.
She worked at Porterville State Developmental Hospital as the Training Officer for over 2200 personnel, nursing home Charge Nurse., taught nursing to State and local Colleges including DD/ID/MH Dual Diagnosed Psych Tech College level classes. When she retired she moved with her husband to Florida where she volunteered her time as Parish Nurse land Food Bank with the Methodist Church in Yulee Florida and on Board of Directors of local County Mental Health Dept.  And a Nursing Administrator, Barnabas Crisis Health Center, Amelia Island, Fl. And Court Certified Victim Witness Advocate on Domestic Violence. And Founding member of Board of Directors of Florida’s only non-profit for Families of Children with Disabilities. Co-States Coordinator Ca., and Fl. of  VOR, a National non-Profit for the DD/ID/MH Dual Diagnosis  Representative to Congress. and on NGO Communications Coordinating Committee of the United Nations (CCCUN), Women’s Gender Issues and Disability Convention, (CPRD), Olmstead Comm., Ca. Forensic Mental Health Assoc. and past co-V.P’s  Calif  Association of State Hospitals. (CASH/PCR).
Virginia served for twelve years as the International Ambassador of the NDP to the United Nations Greneral Assembly, both as a panelist and an organizer for a treaty signed by 148 Nations. She used the American with Disability Act (ADA) as the instrument to establish Protocols for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)  Platform. She felt one of her greatest disappointments in life was not being able to encourage enough members of the U.S. Senate to ratify this legislation.

Virginia is survived in death by her husband Edward A. Carraway, daughters Sonja Carraway Beebe, Kim Carraway  MacKinnon, spouse Dan MacKinnon and Christina Carraway Hickey, and sons, Richard Paul Carraway, Martin Carraway, 4 granddaughters and 4 grandsons and great granddaughter and great grandson. She is survived by 2 brothers, and 4 Sisters, nine nephews and 3 nieces.
A Memorial Service will be on June 15, at 11am, at Woodlake Presbyterian Church, to celebrate her life. In lieu of flower please make donations to, her passion, your local Food Bank Agency.
VOR's Annual Meeting & Legislative Initiative
Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
June 9 - 13, 2018
The conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill again this year. This is a very nice hotel and it is only a short walk to the Capitol and the Senate and House Office Buildings. We have reserved a bloc of rooms at the hotel for the event.

We are also accepting reservations for our Sunday Dinner at the Dubliner . This is an added event, with a $35 Prix-fixe menu that includes salad, entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverages (alcoholic beverages are available at an additional cost). This event has been popular in past years, so make sure to reserve your seat when you register. Space is limited, and this event has reached capacity in recent years, so make sure to reserve now!
Our Friends at the American Health Care Association (AHCA) / National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL)
Invite you to attend the
2018 Convention
October 7-10
San Diego, CA

Tuesday, October 9 is ID/DD Day
For more information go to

Indiana - Task Force to Examine Support Needs for Hoosiers with Disabilities

A state plan for the support needs of Hoosiers with intellectual and developmental disabilities will get an update soon for the first time in 20 years. A new state task force aimed at helping the estimated 100,000 Indiana residents has scheduled meetings across the state.

The link to the livestream can be found here.
Dates, times and location for each meeting of the task force are as follows:
  • Wednesday, June 27, 2018, 10 a.m.--2 p.m. CT, Valparaiso
  • Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, 11 a.m.--3 p.m. ET, New Albany
  • Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, 11 a.m.--3 p.m. ET, Columbia City
All meetings are open to the public and will be streamed live. Public comment will occur prior to the start of each meeting to provide input regarding services and supports for people with disabilities. Requests for accommodations for meetings of the task force should be made by contacting Kristina Blankenship at Kristina.Blankenship@fssa.in.gov at least 48 hours in advance of the task force meeting.
For more information, visit:

836 South Arlington Heights Road #351 Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Toll Free: 877-399-4867 Fax: 877-866-8377
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