Each year, ANCOR’s Policy Summit & Hill Day is our community’s premier advocacy event, bringing together nearly 200 advocates, experts and public policy champions to learn, connect and take action on the most pressing issues facing organizations that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
This year’s Summit, which took place two weeks ago in our nation’s capital, was among our most successful Summits yet! We welcomed 175 attendees, more than 25 speakers and moderators, and six award recipients to join us for two and a half days of programming, Hill Visits and a special congressional briefing. The theme, Gamechangers, focused our energy on what providers can do to not only keep up with the changing rules of the public policy game, but also to themselves change the rules of engagement to the benefit of the people with I/DD they support.
Among attendees’ favorite sessions, attendees raved about “Power Play,” where congressional staffers offered candid, off-the-record insights about how we can achieve change at a time when Washington seems to be stuck in gridlock. Summit participants also appreciated a breakout session from Stephanie Patrick (Disability Rights Center New Hampshire) and Julia Bascom (Autism Self-Advocacy Network), during which the speakers identified strategies for leveraging the 2020 elections to engage people with disabilities in the substantive conversations about the issues that affect them directly. On behalf of the entire ANCOR team, we extend our gratitude to these and all of our other incredible speakers, who made the agenda for this Summit particularly compelling.
At lunch on the first day, we took a time out to honor a few long-time gamechangers from within the ANCOR community, and on Capitol Hill. We started by honoring the four recipients of the Suellen Galbraith Public Policy Awards, named after ANCOR’s late Vice President of Government Relations, who served the association until 2012. Recipients of the 2019 Suellen Galbraith Awards are Kristen Farry, Woods Services; Esmé Grewal, BrightSpring Health Services; Than Johnson, Champaign Residential Services, Inc.; and Stan Soby, Oak Hill.
During the awards luncheon, we were joined by Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), who has quickly become an outstanding champion of I/DD supports and services. Rep. Fitzpatrick was an unexpected guest, and just one of six members of Congress to participate in the Summit. Later that day, we honored Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) with one of two Congressional Champion Awards (the second award recipient for 2019 was Senator Rob Portman [R-OH], who received his award from a delegation of ANCOR members during Hill Visits on the afternoon of the second day). Then, the following day, we were joined by Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-chairs of the House Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, who answered participants’ questions about how we can advance meaningful change and shape the national legislative agenda in the coming months.
One other highlight was the 79 Hill Visits conducted by 65 ANCOR members, who took to the halls of Congress to lobby their elected officials. Special thanks to our State Navigators for coordinating their delegations and enabling so many productive conversations about three key policy priorities:
- Legislation that would enable Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) to be paid for the time spent working to support individuals with I/DD while hospitalized.
- Encouragement by Congress to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to establish a Standard Occupational Classification for DSPs, which would improve data collection on our workforce on the path to improved retention and reduced turnover.
- The HCBS Infrastructure Act, which would strengthen systems that support people to live in the community, such as funding for professional caregivers, transportation and housing supports, and more.
The HCBS Infrastructure Act was also the focus of the Summit’s capstone event: a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. Sponsored by Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI), who will be introducing the bill in the House in the coming weeks, the event brought together leading researchers, DSPs, self-advocates, providers and inside-the-Beltway influencers to discuss why now is the critical moment to be investing in Home and Community-Based Services.
None of this excitement would have been possible without the support of our two Policy Summit Sponsors: Direct Care Innovations, Inc. and the Centene Corporation. We value these two companies’ partnership, both in making the Summit possible, and for their ongoing support of our growing community of providers.
Of course, there was one other ingredient in the success of the events earlier this month: YOU! Whether you were able to join us in Washington or you wave the flag of I/DD advocacy back home, ANCOR is constantly striving to facilitate significant change when it comes to the ability of people with I/DD to be included in the community. That change would not be possible without you, and so we are immensely grateful for all you do.
Mark your calendars! The 2020 Policy Summit & Hill Day will take place October 13-14 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. More details and registration will be available in late spring.