Nixon headlines Disability Rights Legislative Day

Speaks of great strides for fuller lives

Aimee Wehmeier and Mark Ohremberg applaud comments by Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda, as he spoke at the Disability Rights Legislative Day. Wehmeier is executive director of Paraquad in St. Louis and brought her service dog, a standard poodle named Wyatt. Ohremberg is from Services for Independent Living in Columbia.

Aimee Wehmeier and Mark Ohremberg applaud comments by Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda, as he spoke at the Disability Rights Legislative Day. Wehmeier is executive director of Paraquad in St. Louis and brought her service dog, a standard poodle named Wyatt. Ohremberg is from Services for Independent Living in Columbia.

Chants of “We want Jay” echoed through a crowded Missouri Capitol rotunda Tuesday at Disability Rights Legislative Day as attendees awaited the arrival of Gov. Jay Nixon.

Nixon, Attorney General Chris Koster and disability rights advocates spoke about the importance of expanding Medicaid, the importance of access for the disabled and the importance of advocating for disability rights.

“We’ve made great strides in helping Missourians with disabilities lead fuller and more productive lives,” Nixon said.

He spoke of past legislation that restored health care for blind Missourians, legislation that provided insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders, a bill that removed the term “mental retardation” from state statutes and the Partnership for Hope program.

Partnership for Hope is a waiver program through Missouri Department of Mental Health’s Division of Developmental Disabilities that provides people with developmental disabilities support and services that in the past could only be obtained in crisis.

“It ends the wait for services, avoids delay and keeps families together,” Nixon said.

He said the state budget expands the program to nearly 1,000 more Missourians, with a goal of expanding it to 3,500 Missourians by the end of 2014.

While Partnership for Hope has an impact on the state, Nixon believes expanding Medicaid would have an even greater impact.

Expanding Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, encouraged by the

federal government through the Affordable Care Act, would grant 300,000 additional Missourians access to health care, including some who are disabled.

“We need to move forward,” Nixon said. “The states that move forward will have an advantage and we won’t.

“It’s critical that we not be left as the community not embracing the future.”

While Nixon is advocating for Medicaid, Koster said he and his staff are working on ways to use education and outreach to increase accessibility across Missouri, whether it’s adding additional handicapped parking spaces or taking action against those who abuse the spaces.

“Access for all Missourians is a critical project for us to continue working on,” Koster said. “The Attorney General’s office will continue working on your concerns and for your rights.”

In addition to Nixon and Koster, four other individuals spoke about disability rights.

Andrew Shea, a business owner who has had a stutter all of his life, said he was at the Capitol to speak in an attempt to overcome his fear of speaking.

“You have to fight for yourself,” Shea said.

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