Arcare Charitable Fund grant will help shape the future of supported decision-making

The Arcare Charitable Fund is proud to announce it has awarded $25,000 in grant funding to The ARC of Douglas County, in concert with existing partnerships with the Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas (SACK) and the Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities (KUCDD).

Grant funding received from the Arcare Charitable Fund will support the creation of a comprehensive website, development of online training materials and delivery of trainings for Kansans with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families on the topic of supported decision-making.

What is supported decision-making?

Supported decision-making is a tool that allows individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities to retain their decision-making capacity by choosing a group of supporters to help them make choices. The ideal group, or “circle of support,” comprises trusted advisors, such as friends, family and professionals, who serve to assist the person with an intellectual/developmental disability in fully understanding, considering and communicating their decisions. Supported decision-making can help individuals in many areas of life: personal, financial and professional.

Research has shown that individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities who participate in supported decision-making can experience a better quality of life, including enhanced employment and independent living outcomes. With a knowledgeable, trained, and caring circle of support, supported decision-making can be an appropriate alternative to guardianship.

Developing a leading-edge resource

The comprehensive website developed with funds from the Arcare Charitable Fund will feature user-friendly information and materials about supported decision-making, as well as resources for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities, their families and their circle of support. In addition, training materials and course agendas will be available on the website for other organizations who may wish to develop their own trainings on the topic. Currently, no other organization inside or outside the State of Kansas provides this level of training and resources on supported decision-making. This initiative will help position Kansas at the forefront of supported decision-making.

The Arcare Charitable Fund is excited for the opportunity to partner with The ARC of Douglas County in its efforts to provide continuing support to Kansans with intellectual/developmental disabilities, their families and their supporters. Together, we can enhance the quality of life, personal satisfaction and independence among Kansans with developmental disabilities. We look forward to sharing the developed resources and tools with you in the near future.

Key facts about receiving coronavirus economic impact payments

In the wake of the spreading coronavirus pandemic, U.S. lawmakers enacted a $2.2 trillion stimulus package that includes economic impact payments to the majority of Americans in order to combat the financial consequences of the outbreak. As part of the rescue package signed into law by President Donald Trump, Americans will receive checks of up to $1,200.

For individuals with a disability and those who may be receiving Medicaid services, here is important information about what to expect and how to obtain economic impact payments:

  • Independent adults (those not claimed as a dependent by a parent on their taxes) will receive the full amount of $1,200, as long as their income does not exceed $75,000 annually.
  • Those who receive Social Security payments in the form of SSDI and are mailed a form SSA-1099 annually will not need to take any additional steps in order to receive this payment. It will be direct-deposited into the account in which monthly Social Security benefits are deposited or mailed to the address where individuals receive monthly checks.
  • For individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), for whom the IRS does not send 1099s, a tax return for 2018 or 2019 is required. If one has not already been filed, a simple or abbreviated tax return for year 2019 can be filed through July 15, 2020. This requirement must be met in order to receive the stimulus check, even for those who do not typically file an annual tax return.
  • An abbreviated tax return can be filed for free online, and many community agencies can assist with preparing the abbreviated tax return. The IRS encourages any individual who must file an abbreviated tax return to include direct deposit information to avoid any unnecessary delays in receiving the economic stimulus. Upon receipt and processing of the abbreviated tax return, the IRS will direct deposit the payment to the account provided, or mail to a home address if direct deposit information is not provided.

It is important to note that stimulus money is not considered taxable income, and it will have no impact on an individual’s Medicaid eligibility or eligibility spenddown. 

Please check back for updates to this process and for a list of community organizations that can assist with filing an abbreviated tax return.

How Arcare is filling the service gap for individuals with disabilities amid Covid-19

It is no secret that the Covid-19 outbreak presents worrisome and sometimes overwhelming obstacles for individuals in the community who have a disability. Some may experience anxiety about bill payments, or the cost of ensuring they have an appropriate amount of medical supplies and necessary prescription medications on hand. Many are facing program cancellations, reduced available in-home services, and the emotional impact of social distancing.

Now, more than ever, Arcare is dedicated to ensuring our clients are receiving the necessary care and support they need during this difficult time.

Financial care

Arcare’s Representative Payee program offers financial peace of mind to enrolled clients by continuing to ensure that financial obligations are met in a timely manner. Payee services are often utilized by clients who have difficulties paying bills and managing a household budget. Arcare’s Payee Program staff works with each individual client to create a monthly budget to prioritize the basic needs of food and shelter expenses. Arcare staff manages the payment of these expenses. On a weekly or monthly basis, Arcare puts money on a bank cash card for the beneficiary to use for spending and groceries. Staff also work closely with each individual and/or the individual’s case manager as needed.

For clients who are beneficiaries of an Arcare special needs trust, Arcare’s staff manages and processes requests for disbursement from the trust to enhance the individual’s quality of life. These disbursements are for items or services not typically covered by insurance, public benefits, or considered a shelter expense (food, rent, most utilities). A few examples include paying for internet services to keep clients connected to their friends and family during social distancing, paying for necessary medical equipment for clients to use in their homes if not covered by another source, pet care and supplies, and any medical, nursing, or dental care not covered by another source.

Life Care Plan client support

Many of Arcare’s Life Care Plan clients receive services in their homes or day center through community service providers. Due to the severity of Covid-19, some day services have been suspended in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus. Individuals who usually receive services at a day center are now being served in their homes. Because this creates a staffing strain on community service agencies, Arcare’s Life Care Plan staff keep in constant contact with providers in order to ensure clients’ individual needs are being met. In addition, Arcare staff continue monitoring each client’s living, working, and healthcare environments. Information gathered by Arcare staff is communicated regularly with the community service providers in an effort to identify and address potential issues before they become crises.

In the unfortunate event of a Life Care Plan client requiring hospitalization, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state Medicaid agency restrictions often inhibit the regular community service provider from continuing services while the individual is hospitalized. After discharge from the hospital, some clients need skilled rehabilitation services before successfully transitioning back into their homes and community-based service programs. Arcare bridges the service and communication gap between hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and community service providers by continually monitoring, reporting, advocating, and keeping complete records for our clients. With Arcare’s assistance and continual communication with providers, Life Care Plan clients can seamlessly transition back into their homes and the community with the necessary care and services they require.

For Life Care Plan clients who may not have day services, Arcare helps address how these individuals continue to meet the needs of daily living, including access to food, in-home support, and having sufficient prescription medications on-hand. Additionally, Arcare staff educate and remind our clients about proper handwashing techniques, provide them with up to date resources on how to stay safe at home, and connect clients with additional community resources if necessary. With the help of Arcare, our clients can continue receiving the help that they need while maintaining a safe and healthy home environment.

Isolation mitigation

Perhaps one of the most prevalent concerns our clients face at this time is social isolation. Arcare’s Life Care Plan staff contact clients regularly to appropriately prevent and address feelings of isolation and the anxiety that isolation may cause. At this time, meetings with clients take place over the phone or web-based video conferencing, if available. In addition to these efforts, Arcare can appropriately communicate with service providers our isolation concerns and advocate for providers to assist clients with contacting their friends and family by phone, video calls, and social media.

Individuals with disabilities in our community are experiencing unprecedented challenges during the current Covid-19 pandemic. Together, with families and the support of community service providers and agencies, Arcare will continue to provide essential services and assist clients in achieving his or her highest level of well-being.

EMFV volunteer appreciation luncheon

Arcare executive director recognized as Honorary EMFV

Earlier this summer, the K-State Research and Extension Master Food Volunteer (EMFV) Program presented Barb Helm, Arcare’s executive director, with the first-ever Honorary EMFV certificate for her support and contributions to its Four-Course Living program. The honor was announced during the Johnson County EMFV annual volunteer appreciation luncheon, which was held at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center.

EMFVs are a designation of volunteers through the extension passionate about healthy living, food and giving back to the community. Back in 2015, two EMFVs, Jean Porter and Sherry Carter, approached Barb about developing a program through the extension catering to adults with disabilities. Barb then wrote a grant through the Arcare Charitable Fund to establish Four-Course Living. Four-Course Living provides adults with special needs information and skills necessary to live safe, independent lives. Classes offered through the program underscore the importance of four specific topics:

Barb Helm
Barb Helm during the Johnson County EMFV annual volunteer appreciation luncheon

Nutrition – Class participants learn the importance of healthy eating and portion control. To encourage healthy choices, students are each given the USDA’s MyPlate food icon as a guide.

Safety – Kitchen tools and appliances can be dangerous to use without the proper training. In safety courses, students are shown how to handle food properly, use basic knife skills and safely prepare meals.

Planning – Planning ahead can make eating on a fixed income less stressful. Students learn how to combine ingredients across multiple meals, grocery shop using a circular and plan their meals in advance.

Prep – Students combine skills from the other courses in this cooking class, in which they work together to prepare a meal from start to finish and enjoy the food afterward.

Information about Four-Course Living’s 2018 classes is available now. Courses can also be tailored for Residential or Day Service Providers interested in learning about managing expenses while also providing healthy options their residents can help prepare. For details, contact Jean Porter at (913) 236-5019.

Grant funding will help hundreds of Johnson County individuals with disabilities secure competitive employment

After being awarded a combined more than $2 million in grant funding, Johnson County Developmental Supports and Johnson County Mental Health will be able to help secure competitive employment for a goal of 320 individuals served by either agency over the next five years. Both agencies have received an End-Dependence Grant from the Kansas Rehabilitation Services division of the Kansas Department for Children and Family Services.

Both JCDS and JCMH will use these grants to improve competitive employment outcomes for Johnson County individuals with disabilities. The target population will be adults served by JCDS or JCMH and require Supported Employment Services to obtain and maintain employment.

The JCDS grant provides 100 percent funding for four employment specialist positions and the grant for JCMH provides 100 percent funding for two full-time vocational counselors, one part-time vocational counselor and one part-time peer support specialist.

“Nationally, unemployment for adults with severe mental illness is estimated at more than 85 percent,” says Tim DeWeese, executive director, Johnson County Mental Health. “Our Vocational Services team receives daily requests from our clients who want to work in the community. We are thrilled this grant will allow us to help an additional 200 clients find work.”

“The End-Dependence grant will allow JCDS to expand our Progressive Employment model which creates temporary-to-permanent work experiences that break down barriers to employment for some of the individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities we serve,” said Chad VonAhnen, executive director, Johnson County Developmental Supports. “We strongly encourage our clients to consider working in the community to increase their level of dependence and self-sufficiency, and are thankful for this grant that will help us with our mission.”

The Kansas Department for Children and Family Services announced this program October, 2014. The goal of the $25 million investment for the state of Kansas is to help 2,000 Kansans secure community employment.

Arcare works closely with JCDS to support positive lifestyle choices of many of our mutual clients.

Photo credit: Johnson County Development Supports

Center for Guardianship Certification

National Guardianship Association certifies Barb Helm

This year, Arcare became a proud member of the National Guardianship Association (NGA). NGA represents more than 1,000 guardians, conservators and fiduciaries from across the United States who share a vision for advancing the nationally recognized standard of excellence in guardianship and protecting incapacitated adults. NGA and its members work to strengthen guardianship and its related services through quality assurance, networking and education.

In October, Barb Helm, Arcare’s executive director, attended NGA’s National Guardianship Conference in Mesa, Arizona, to benefit from the association’s resources and take a comprehensive look at pertinent guardianship issues. Topics included, but were not limited to, elder justice, special needs trusts, protecting digital assets in guardianship and the ABLE Act.

NGA has also led the way in advocating certification of guardians by forming the Center for Guardianship Certification. This week, Barb earned her National Certified Guardian designation, becoming one of just 2,000 individuals who have earned certification as either a National Certified Guardian or National Master Guardian. As a certified Guardian, Barb can:

  • Let potential clients, the court system and the general public know she is held to specific standards of practice
  • Declare her professional competence
  • Demonstrate her commitment to standards and ethics
  • Have an objective measure and validation of her knowledge
  • Be set apart from non-certified guardians as someone who has met nationally recognized requirements, including training and an examination
  • Potentially meet requirements to practice as a guardian in some states

The certification is yet another representation of Arcare’s commitment to being a knowledgeable, trusted resource for individuals who need such services. We plan to have additional staff members complete the application process and examination required for certification in 2016.

View Barb’s official certification here.

National Business Institute training on special needs trusts

Arcare presents NBI workshop on special needs trusts

Special Needs Trusts expertise is at the heart of how our Arcare staff helps families ensure their loved ones with disability can maintain financial independence without jeopardizing eligibility for important benefits. Because of our team’s familiarity with the issues surrounding creating, funding and maintaining these trusts, we are often asked to participate in trainings and workshops about these planning tools.

Yesterday, Lynn Carter and Barb Helm joined board member Emily Donaldson and strategic partner Stacey Janssen in co-presenting at a National Business Institute (NBI) workshop titled “Protect Your Clients Assets Amidst Changing Healthcare Policy” in Kansas City. The focus of this seminar was on how Special Needs Trusts and private health insurance may be impacted under the ACA, and how that may affect decisions about care for individuals with disabilities. This one-day seminar provided attending legal professionals with continuing education credits and information about how to help clients make sound decisions in establishing special needs trusts.

The agenda for the workshop was broken down into the following categories:

  1. What Is a Special Needs Trust and Does Your Client Need One?
  2. Drafting the SNT – Sample Provisions Review and Analysis
  3. Protecting Eligibility for Public Benefits
  4. Special Needs and the Affordable Care Act
  5. Ethical Considerations

In addition to the attorneys who attended, other participants included paralegals, home care professionals, nursing home administrators, accountants, financial planners and other professionals working with disabled clients. At the conclusion of the workshop, attendees gave all presenters rave reviews for their knowledge and insight on the topics at hand.

National PLAN Alliance

Barb Helm elected to National PLAN Alliance board of directors

As part of the vital role Arcare plays in helping individuals with disabilities and their families, we are a proud member of the National PLAN Alliance. NPA is the only non-profit organization in America dedicated solely to meeting the planning needs of families with adult children having lifelong disabilities.

PLAN (Planned Lifetime Assistance Network) programs were founded to assist families in planning for the future care of loved ones with lifelong disabilities. Established as a tax-exempt non-profit organization in 1997, the National PLAN Alliance is the umbrella organization for 18 PLAN affiliates in 22 states.

NPA provides a variety of vital support services to existing and new programs, such as program and board development, feasibility surveys, fund raising, marketing, conferences and strategic planning assistance to its affiliate PLAN programs.

Recently, our Executive Director, Barb Helm, was elected to the NPA Board of Directors. The Board is comprised of volunteer and staff leaders, as well as family members representing the 22 affiliates. Barb’s leadership, knowledge and experience are a welcome addition to the Board. Because of her involvement in the Arcare Pooled Trust Program, she will be integral to the continued growth and evolution of this aspect of support NPA provides its state PLAN programs.

For more information about National PLAN Alliance, visit http://www.nationalplanalliance.org/.

Arcare Provides Pooled Trusts Testimony

Arcare provides expert testimony on pooled trusts in Iowa

On February 24, Arcare served as an expert on pooled trusts in front of the Iowa Legislature. Our testimony was in support of a new law that would basically negate Section 633C.2 of the existing Iowa law regulating medical assistance trusts.

633C.2 Disposition of medical assistance special needs trusts.
Regardless of the terms of a medical assistance special needs trust, any income received or asset added to the trust during a one-month period shall be expended as provided for medical assistance income trusts under section 633C.3, on a monthly basis, during the life of the beneficiary. Any increase in income or principal retained in the trust from a previous month may be expended, during the life of the beneficiary, only for reasonable and necessary expenses of the trust, not to exceed ten dollars per month without court approval, for special needs of the beneficiary attributable to the beneficiary’s disability and approved by the district court, for medical care or services that would otherwise be covered by medical assistance under chapter 249A, or to reimburse the state for medical assistance paid on behalf of the beneficiary.

This restrictive clause hinders persons with disability to benefit from distributions currently allowed through special needs trusts by federal regulation.

To view the complete testimony, click here.

Providing food prep skills for individuals with disabilities

For adults with special needs, living independently is a challenge. On yesterday’s edition of Up To Date on KCUR, Steve Kraske interviewed Sarah Mai, executive director of The Mission Project, a local organization dedicated to helping adults with developmental disabilities live on their own. Also joining the conversation was Beverly Palomba, the author of a cookbook specially designed for their needs.

Sarah shared information about the benefits and opportunities The Mission Project provides its residents. She also spoke about how the group is looking for ways to expand its offerings to various locations throughout the Kansas City area and beyond to help a larger population of individuals with disabilities. But overall, the focus of the conversation fell on the importance of teaching food preparation and planning skills to help them live independently and safely.

Listen to the 20-minute program by clicking on the video below.

In addition to learning from the YouTube channel Sarah has created (available online here) that provides “how to” videos on everything from popping popcorn in an air popper to preparing for guests in the home, the individuals in The Mission Project are also benefitting from a new program offered by Master Food Volunteers through the K-State Johnson County Research Extension.

This program is being supported by a grant from the Arcare Foundation, and we are thrilled to be part of its growth and evolution. Run by Jean Porter and Sherry Carter, the to-be-named program will allow individuals with disabilities to develop culinary skills and increase their knowledge about nutritious meal planning for just a few dollars per class. Jean and Sherry hope to get other organizations like The Mission Project involved to expand their reach and help more adults with disability live successfully on their own.

Check our Arcare Charitable Fund page for more information as the program takes shape!