During the annual Key Coalition rally, more than 20 people gathered to advocate for better disability services Thursday outside of the legislative information office in Kenai.
Hope Community Resources staff, volunteers, people with disabilities and their families lined the sidewalk asking for a number of changes in the way the state handles benefits for people with disabilities, manages individual cases and pays support service employees.
Dennis Haas, parent of a woman with disabilities, said the Key Coalition of Alaska was founded 26 years ago and has continually advocated for services for people with disabilities. The group in Kenai was joined by groups in Juneau, Wasilla and Anchorage demonstrating for the same cause.
“We’ve made a difference over the years,” Haas said. “One of our biggest accomplishments has been the closure of Harborview (nursing home). We are one of five states in the nation that are institution free. We took all the people in that institution, put them back in their communities, we saved over $800,000 that year.”
Haas said the group proved that it was cheaper to provide services to people with disabilities in their individual communities rather than institutionalizing them.
The group has set five priorities for the year including a rate review of funding for agencies and employees that provide services to people with disabilities, $1.5 million to infant learning programs throughout the state, funding for complex behavior collaborative consultation to help keep people with severe disabilities in the state, an employment grant to help people with disabilities find employment and eradicating the state’s wait list for community services.
“It’s just public awareness more than anything,” Haas said. “Everybody deserves to live in the community of their choice and everyone deserves to live in a shared community. It’s for everybody, community is for everybody. So that’s what we support.”
Photos by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion
Shawna Jackson, assistant director of community support services at Hope Community Resources, leads a chant Thursday during the organization’s annual rally in Kenai to draw awareness to issues for people with disabilities.