Saturday, January 24, 2009

End Disparities in Health Care of the Disabled:

I was invited as the Secretary for REDD (Rights, Equality for the Dignity of the Disabled) group to provide a testimony about our group's priorities to area state legislators at the Easter Seals Office in Worcester. For those who do not what REDD is or does, REDD is a group of volunteer advocates with/out disabilities dedicated to supporting and fighting for the civil rights for persons with disabilities in Central Massachusetts. Since REDD's inceptions in 1996, some of our accomplishments include getting accessible taxicabs in Worcester and extending the length of the platform at Union Station, so persons with disabilities would have access to more than two cars in boarding on and off the trains. After I spoke about REDD's two priorities: Transportation and Emergency Preparedness, I changed hats as a private resident who works in mental health to speak about the proposed bill called "Disabilities and Disparities in Health Care," sponsored by Senator Richard Moore.

As a licensed mental health clinician, I support this bill as our profession needs to learn how to work and to counsel persons with disabilities. I said that the mental health profession is operating from the 1950's mode in how some clinicians inappropriately talk to this community. If Disabilities is included as a "minority group" with other ethnic groups, then the profession will learn more about this culture's health and behavioral needs on an equal footing along with these groups. I pushed for the profession to learn sensitivity training in how they counsel this community as it is badly needed and ignored.

The Disability Policy Consortium, a private entity, that lobbies for specific causes across all disabilities, will be coming out with their own study on several health indicators such as "Smoking,"and "Behavioral Risk Factors," affecting these populations this year.

Bill: Disabilities and Disparities in Healthcare as posted on

This bill is also part of the Disability Policy Consortium's 2009-2010's Legislative Agenda: Below is the wording of this bill:

Health Disparities Council SECTION:
1. Section 16O of Chapter 6A of the General Laws, 1as appearing in the 2006 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding after “HIV/AIDS”in line 8, the following: “disabilities”Health Care Quality and Cost Council. SECTION 2. Section 16K of Chapter 6A of the General Laws is further amended by deleting 57 subsections (h) and (i) and replacing them with the following new language:(h) The council, in consultation with its advisory committee, shall develop annual health care cost containment goals. The goals shall be designed to promote affordable, high-quality, safe, effective, timely, efficient, equitable and patient centered health care. The council shall also establish goals that are intended to reduce health care disparities in racial, ethnic and disabled communities.

Contact: Shawn (SEN)"

RATIONALE: While “Universal Health Care” has been the rallying cry of advocates for healthcare reform in Massachusetts, a quieter, but no less important focus has been on health care disparities. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts landmark healthcare reform legislation and the creation of the “Commonwealth Connector” extending health insurance to hundreds of thousand of more citizens has sharpened the national debate on Universal Health Care. Data on racial and cultural disparities along with advocacy on behalf of those who have clearly been racially, ethnically and culturally discriminated against by the previous healthcare and insurance system, helped to lay the foundation for healthcare reform. The discussion of health care disparities has been limited to primarily to ethnicity, and race, issues that highlighted the efforts at healthcare reform. The purpose of this paper is to show that the categories used to measure and discuss disparity in healthcare must be expanded to include people with disabilities. It is the conclusion of the DPC that the discussion on disparities in health care must be changed to include people with disabilities. If, on the other hand, policy advocates choose to continue to focus solely on ethnic and racial factors, the title of the debate should be changed from “health care disparities” to “racism in the health care system."

Robbin Miller

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