Thursday, June 5, 2008


Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law today a bipartisan package of 10 bills that supports Coloradans with developmental disabilities and their families.
More than 8,000 people with developmental disabilities are on waiting lists in Colorado for medical and support services. The measures signed today will help reduce and eliminate those lists. Three of the bills also will expand employment opportunities by increasing incentives for businesses and nonprofits that hire people with developmental disabilities.
Eight of the 10 bills were recommended by the Interim Committee on Long-Term Health Care Services and Supports for Persons with Developmental Disabilities.
"As someone who grew up with a developmentally disabled brother, I know how much it means to these families to get the medical and caregiver support that they need," Gov. Ritter said. "Good public policy intersects with where people struggle the most, and this legislation will do a lot of good for a lot of people."
"By slashing the decades-long wait list that people with developmental disabilities have faced, we have spoken for the voiceless and fought for the powerless," said Rep. Bernie Buescher, chairman of the legislature's Joint Budget Committee and sponsor of one of the bills, House Bill 1220.
Other bills in the package:
Senate Bill 2 (Boyd/Soper) allows qualified family members to be designated as health care providers for people with developmental disabilities and to be compensated as such by the Colorado Department of Human Services (DHS).
"The future of this state starts with a quality health care system that meets the needs of all Coloradans," bill sponsor Sen. Betty Boyd said. "Our families deserve the quality of life and peace of mind that come with good health care. Our work is about demanding accountability and providing affordable access to health care."
SB 4 (Keller/B. Gardner) creates the State Employment Program for Persons with Developmental Disabilities within DHS. The goal is to identify state employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. The bill also creates a working group to study how the state's process for hiring people with developmental disabilities can be improved.
SB 165 (Williams/M. Carroll) codifies through statute the Colorado Advisory Council for Persons with Disabilities within the Governor's Office. Former Gov. Roy Romer created the Advisory Council in 1994 by executive order.
HB 1047 (B. Gardner/Boyd) creates a set-aside program to enable nonprofit agencies that employ people with severe disabilities to bid on certain types of state services.
HB 1072 (Soper/Williams) begins the process of creating a state program that will allow disabled people to work and maintain their Medicaid benefits.
HB 1127 (Liston/Gibbs) creates a pilot program that will establish an income tax credit for taxpayers who hire individuals with developmental disabilities.
HB 1031 (Pommer/Keller) creates the position of "navigator" to help people with developmental disabilities who are on a waiting list for services provided through DHS.
HB 1101 (B. Gardener/Renfroe) creates the Developmental Disabilities Services Cash Fund with the goal of eliminating the state's developmental disability services waiting lists by 2013.
HB 1246 (Green/Keller) directs DHS to create a registry of caregivers who have substantiated allegations of exploitation, mistreatment, neglect, physical abuse, or sexual abuse of a person with a developmental disability. 
"We know that most crimes against people with developmental disabilities go unreported, and that many instances of abuse and neglect are perpetrated by professional caregivers," Rep. Gwyn Green said. "This new law is a critical first step toward protecting our most vulnerable populations, and it will help us stop these horrific violations of trust."