King County Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) Developmental Disabilities and Early Childhood Supports (DDECSD) division hosted the 33rd annual Developmental Disabilities Legislative Forum last week. Hundreds registered for the event, and more than 200 people attended and heard from community members, councilmembers, and state legislators. County officials, including King County Executive Dow Constantine and Chief Equity Inclusion Officer Anita Whitfield also shared messages at the forum. Sixteen interpreters provided language supports in six languages to ensure that all attendees could fully participate.
Community Members Share Their Stories
One of the most impactful parts of our legislative forum is the ability for community members and legislators to connect on issues most important for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) or delays.
A young community member shared why behavioral health supports were essential for creating equitable systems for people with I/DD.
“We deserve to be understood. We want to be healthy. We want others to stand by us through our lows so we can also celebrate good times. I’m much more than my diagnosis,” she said. “I’m kind. I’m creative. I’m loved by my family. I’m a strong advocate. When you’re making your decisions, remember my story and that behavioral health for I/DD people matters.”
A mother of a multilingual family shared the challenges she faces in providing her children with speech therapy supports.
“My community needs high quality interpreters, translation services, and a family service navigator. Because language is a big barrier to understand each other: for my community to advocate for our children is even harder,” she said. “I wish my children (could) have received speech therapy in a more natural environment. (That) means in our home language. Our home language is the foundation for our children. (It) is the base for them to learn everything else. And when my children receive services only in English (it) made it harder for us to practice and to support them.”
A New Way to Connect
This year’s forum gave space for King County residents and legislators to talk in virtual roundtable discussions organized by district. This opportunity to connect one on one with their legislator was a powerful experience for many people. Individuals and families who participated in the roundtable discussions highlighted challenges that included finding employment supports, navigating the education system, seeking adequate funding for service providers, finding accessible and affordable housing, and how low rates for benefits impacts individuals and families.
We tried a new platform for this year’s forum. We pride ourselves on being as inclusive as possible and believed that this platform would best meet our needs and incorporate more voices in the forum. However, as people in attendance experienced, technical challenges prevented us from completing our live program. In case you missed the event, or you were unable to view the program because of our technical difficulties, we want to make sure you have a chance to learn more about our priorities and hear directly from the community here:
2023 Legislative Priorities
King County’s developmental disabilities legislative priorities for 2023 include:
- Increase funding for services that are linguistically accessible and culturally relevant. Invest in interpretation, translation, cultural navigation, and other language and cultural supports so all people with I/DD and their families can access services in their language and culture.
- Fund the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Employment and Day Rate Study recommendations, which includes increasing rates to stabilize provider networks to ensure community members access to services and increasing the county administration rate.
- Improve access and eliminate barriers to quality supports and services for families with young children (0-5) with delays and disabilities. Invest in coordinated efforts across systems to support child and family needs, including eliminating family out-of-pocket costs for Early Support for Infants and Toddlers
- Fund services for students leaving high school. Provide Basic Plus Waiver services for all State Developmental Disabilities Administration eligible students leaving high school in 2023-2025 to support their journey beyond school.
- Invest in the Housing Trust Fund and other revenue sources to support community-based housing solutions. These investments are needed to ensure people with I/DD and their families can live in accessible, equitable, safe, and affordable housing in their local communities
- Invest in I/DD behavioral health supports. Individuals and families need a range of available behavioral health supports. The response to the growing behavioral health crisis must include I/DD informed comprehensive and accessible options in addition to out-of-home services.
Here is a link to background papers that provide more information about each priority: Annual Legislative Forum – King County.