It’s tough enough for the ordinary citizens to have their voices heard.
To do that, we encourage people to attend local government meetings, join civic groups, write letters to their elected representatives and to the editor of their local newspaper, and to vote.
It’s challenging enough when you have the time, means and access to make a difference if you’re willing to put in the effort. Imagine how challenging it must be to have your voices heard when you’re the family member or individual suffering from developmental disabilities and living in a group home.
How much more challenging is it for those individuals than ordinary citizens to convey their concerns to state officials about the operation of the residential group homes?
Those people need extra assistance.
And they’ll get it if Gov. Kathy Hochul signs a bill to establish a statewide group home working families group.
The bill (A9162/S7377) would establish a line of communications between group home residents with disabilities and the state agencies that oversee these facilities.
The working group also would bring issues related to group homes before the public by holding regional public meetings to solicit input from those affected and citizens, and would raise awareness of matters such as group home policies, goals and operation.
The bill, sponsored in the Assembly by local Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, would help address issues raised about group homes during the pandemic, including disproportionately high rates of covid infection, fatality rates and mortality rates compared to state residents not living in group homes.
Among the contributing factors to those statistics, as cited in a 2021 report issued by disability rights advocates, was a decided lack of communication and sharing of information between the state and group home residents and their families on issues such as health, quality of life and family relationships.
The working group would provide the structure and means to improve communications to ensure that residents’ concerns are identified, shared and addressed.
There should be no controversy with this bill — that is unless the governor and other state officials fear what failures of state management might come to light when advocates and residents have a greater opportunity to raise the issues in public.
Transparency and advocacy might expose these failures, but it also very well could lead to progress on making improvements in these individuals’ lives.
Gov. Hochul has many controversial decisions to make as hundreds of outstanding legislative bills make their way to her desk in the next few months. This isn’t one of them.
This working group will help people who need help being heard.
It needs her enthusiastic support so it can begin to make a difference.