Governor John Bel Edwards has issued an executive order to expand Medicaid coverage which shall take effect on July 1, 2016. Governor Edwards has traveled across the state to meet with providers, constituents, and organizations to discuss and answer questions relative to the expansion program. Medicaid expansion will alleviate the state’s budget shortfall and allow more than 300,000 residents of Louisiana to gain better access to health care. The Department of Health and Hospitals project that Medicaid Expansion could save up to $180 million dollars in the upcoming fiscal year. Expanding Medicaid will strengthen the state’s economy and put people to work. Louisiana will be the 32nd state to adopt the Medicaid expansion program. Louisiana residents can sign up for services beginning on June 1, 2016. Please visit healthy.la.gov to enroll and to receive more program information.
The Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs hosted the ADA Roundtable Discussion o May 23, 2016 at the Claiborne Building. This roundtable discussion was free to attend and featured national accessibility expert Kristi J. Avalos, the President and CEO of Accessology. Over 70 individuals participated in the roundtable discussion. The participants included ADA coordinators, human resource directors, governmental agencies, advocates, university administrators, engineers, public, and self-advocates. Those in attendance participated in a Q & A session with Ms. Avalos and discussed various topics relative to accessibility in Louisiana. Deputy Chief of Staff of Communications Julie Baxter Payer spoke at this event on behalf of Governor John Bel Edwards to express that accessibility is an important concern for his administration. The Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs presented Ms. Avalos with a certificate of appreciation for her participation in this event.
Families Helping Families of Greater Baton Rouge Hosted the 7th Annual Active for Autism 5K Run/Walk & Fun Fest on April 30, 2016. Hundreds of individuals packed the State Police Headquarters to participate in this year’s event. The Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs participated and presented a Proclamation signed by Governor John Bel Edwards recognizing the Month of April as Autism Awareness Month in Louisiana.
On Tuesday, May 3, 2016, hundreds of individuals from around the state participated in the Behavioral Health Day at the Louisiana State Capitol. Participants interfaced with vendors and providers of services that benefit individuals with mental illnesses This event was coordinated by Mental Health America and featured keynote speakers Bambi Polotzola, the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs, and Governor John Bel Edwards. Participants met with their legislators to discuss concerns relative to the lack of mental health services in Louisiana. Governor Edwards issued a proclamation declaring Mental Health Awareness Month in Louisiana. John Bel Edwards was the first Governor of Louisiana to speak at this annual event.
The Deaf Grassroots Movement of Louisiana coordinated the National Deaf Rights Rally Day at State Capitol on May 4, 2016. Over 400 deaf advocates from around the state met to bring greater awareness for social justice, equality, communication access, employment discrimination, and increase in living standards. Advocates were seen wearing green shirts in solidary with individuals who participated in this day of awareness across the nation.
Participants met with Governor John Bel Edwards, who spoke to those in attendance about the importance of advocacy. Deaf advocates thanked Governor Edwards for providing interpreters during his press conferences. The Executive Director of Disability Affairs Bambi Polotzola presented a certificate recognizing May 4, 2016 as National Deaf Rights Day in Louisiana to the organizers of the event.
The Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) held their meeting on May 19, 2016. The newly appointed members of the SILC participated in orientation. The members discussed the five year state plan for Independent living. The SILC will be representing Louisiana at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Conference. The NCIL is a grassroots organization that advances independent living and the rights of people with disabilities.
The members of the SILC will participate in trainings and advocate on behalf of citizens with disabilities in Louisiana at the next annual NCIL conference. The next annual conference on independent living will take place on July 25, 2016, in Washington DC.
The SILC is comprised of many self-advocates and individuals who have an immediate family member with a disability. The new appointees of the SILC include: Rocky J. Fuslier, of Lake Charles, Erick W. Taylor, of Baton Rouge, Rashad D. Bristo, of Mansfield, Danny K. Cottonham, of Lafayette, Steven Nguyen of Marrero, Jamie Duplechhine, of Lafayette, and Anita C. Gray, of Baton Rouge. The next SILC meeting will take place on July 7-8 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. SILC meetings are open to the public. For more information please contact Jessica Lewis at (225) 219-7552.