Demonstrators plan advocacy rally for disabled

Posted: Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Some of the issues are new, many are old issues still ongoing, but nonetheless, dozens of people who assist the disabled will be rallying in Soldotna again this year in hopes of having their voices heard in Juneau.

Organized as the Key Coalition, health care providers from groups including Frontier Community Services, Hope Community Resources Inc., People First, Ready Care and others in the central Kenai Peninsula area plan to demonstrate at noon Wednesday in Soldotna Creek Park.

“Reducing the waiting list (for receiving services), obtaining hearing screening for newborns and getting adult dental services are ongoing,” said Veronica Delmoral, community alliance specialist for Hope Community, one of the people organizing the local rally.

“We just want to keep reminding them,” she said, of the coalition’s rally to keep the issues before the state Legislature during the current session.

Hope Community Resources serves people with disabilities ranging from autism to the medically fragile, Delmoral said.

At the same time the demonstrators are marching and waving placards in the Soldotna park, others are scheduled to be rallying in Anchorage and Juneau in a collective attempt to persuade state legislators to improve services to disabled people and to abort any plans to cut funding to programs for the disabled.

Another issue on the Key Coalition’s agenda is recommending support for a $200,000 increase in funding for the Infant Learning Program, a system of education and therapy for infants and toddlers with special needs.

The coalition also wants the state to lift the rate freeze the Department of Health and Social Services has placed on community services to the developmentally disabled.

Delmoral said the state always changes the rules, making them “stricter and stricter, and narrowing the definitions of qualified services (for the disabled).”

She said the coalition is pushing for adult dental services because “Medicaid only covers emergency dental.”

“We want preventative care covered so people can avoid it becoming an emergency. We want it for all who are on Medicaid,” Delmoral said.

Two dental services bills currently being considered in Juneau are HB 105 and SB 79, according to a coalition information booklet.

The coalition seeks preventive dental exams and cleanings; restoration, extraction and dentures; and a $1,150 annual cap per person.

Delmoral said people will come from Seward and Homer to join those rallying in Soldotna on Wednesday.

Last year, the group rallied near Soldotna City Hall off the Kenai Spur Highway. About three dozen people demonstrated, several of whom were wheelchair bound.

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