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Indiana may get direct support professional abuse registry. Disability advocates say it’s not enough

“We see prosecutors not moving forward because there are concerns about how the victim will be able to tell their story on the stand, what kind of witness they will make or, unfortunately, sometimes because prosecutors don't necessarily think what happened was that bad.”

- Emily Munson, IDR Policy Director

On May 4, 2023, Governor Holcomb signed HB 1342 into law. It requires the Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services to create a registry to track substantiated cases of abuse and neglect by direct support professionals (DSPs). Advocates note it is merely one step toward addressing the victimization of people with disabilities. Read the full article here.

Reform of HIV Criminalization Laws Gaining Traction in Indiana but Not Yet There

“Laws criminalizing people living with HIV without basis in current objective scientific evidence risk violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”

- Melissa Keyes, IDR Executive Director

HB 1198, which would have prevented certain criminal charges from enhancement due to the offender’s HIV status, did not pass this session. HIV Modernization Movement-Indiana and other advocacy groups built bipartisan support to amend existing laws that effectively criminalize having HIV or AIDS. Although the bill passed through the Indiana House and many policymakers were educated about the current science regarding these disabilities, the bill died in the Indiana Senate. TheBody covers advocates’ efforts and future plans. Read the full article here.

IDR’s Policy Director Honored in 2023 Forty Under 40 Class

Emily Munson, Policy Director for Indiana Disability Rights (IDR), was inducted into the Indianapolis Business Journal’s (IBJ) 2023 class of Forty Under 40 honorees. The IBJ annually honors local leaders who have achieved success and excelled in their field before the age of 40. Read the IBJ’s coverage of Emily here.

New Accessible Absentee Voting Option Rolling Out for Voters with Print Disabilities

Indiana Disability Rights (IDR) encourages voters who are bling or have a print disability to use a new accessible, absentee ballot marking tool in the primary election. Eligible voters can use the tool to mark their ballot, complete and sign other necessary documentation, and email completed materials to county election officials.

Read the press release as a pdf here. Read the press release in HTML here.

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Senate Guts Bill to Better Track Direct Support Professional (DSP) Abuse of People with Disabilities

“Concerns about liability regarding aggrieved DSPs added to a potential registry has historically been the reason Indiana has not created a DSP abuse and neglect registry.”

- Emily Munson, IDR Policy Director

HB 1342 was recently stripped of language that would have required the Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services to create a registry to track substantiated cases of abuse and neglect by direct support professionals (DSPs). Munson explains that the struggle to create a DSP registry has been ongoing for years, despite the existence of a similar registry for home health aides. Read the full article here.

Listen to IDR Staff on Bloomberg’s “The Big Take” Podcast

“Just because someone isn’t able to manage their affairs one hundred percent independently doesn’t mean they need all of their rights removed and given to someone else.”

- Justin Schrock, IDR Staff Attorney

The March 29, 2023 episode of The Big Take features IDR attorney Justin Schrock discussing the hazards of guardianship. Listen to the full episode online or wherever you get your podcasts.

IDR Staff, Clients Featured in Bloomberg Law Guardianship Series

“If someone like Nick can remain under guardianship, a full guardianship at that, for several years beyond the time it was necessary, who isn’t at risk of potentially being placed under guardianship?”

– Justin Schrock, IDR Staff Attorney

For six months, Bloomberg Law investigated the patchwork state guardianship systems throughout the United States. The result is the five-part series, “In the Name of Protection," which highlights many problems within the guardianship system, including guardian abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Read the Series

Settlement Agreement Creates Accessible Absentee Voting Options for Voters with Print Disabilities

A historic Indiana lawsuit seeking increased ballot accessibility for voters with print disabilities has settled. As a result of the settlement, the state has agreed to acquire a new remote accessible ballot marking tool that will allow these voters to cast their absentee ballots privately and independently. Voters will be able to access and mark their ballots digitally with their own assistive technology thanks to this tool. Once the ballot has been marked, voters will be able to submit it via email. The tool will be available to voters in time for the May 2023 primary election.

Read the press release as a pdf here. Read the press release in HTML here .

Read the settlement agreement as a pdf here. Read the settlement agreement in HTML here.

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Federal Judge’s Ruling Improves Absentee Ballot Access for Voters with Disabilities in the General Election

In advance of the approaching midterm election, the Honorable Jane Magnus-Stinson ordered increased access to the ballot by granting voters with print disabilities the freedom to select the person of their choice to assist in marking their paper absentee ballot.

Read the press release as PDF here. Read the press release in HTML here.

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IDR Joins National Community of Practice to Promote Alternatives to Guardianship for Youth with Disabilities

On May 4, 2022, the Center for Youth Voice, Youth Choice (CYVYC) announced five State teams chosen to join its nationwide Community of Practice (CoP) to promote less-restrictive alternatives to guardianship for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Although 25 teams applied to join the CoP, only five were selected – Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, and South Carolina. CoP states will receive intensive technical assistance from CYVYC to expand access to alternatives to guardianship and center youth with I/DD in leadership positions.

Indiana’s efforts will be led by IDR and the Self-Advocates of Indiana. “IDR is excited to partner with Self-Advocates of Indiana and leverage our work coordinating Indiana’s Supported Decision-Making Coalition,” said Melissa Keyes, IDR Executive Director.

Read the press release as PDF here. Read the press release in HTML here.

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IPAS Commission, Represented by IDR and the ACLU of Indiana, Files Complaint Alleging FSSA and DMHA Deny Timely Competency Restoration Services

The Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services (IPAS) Commission, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana and Indiana Disability Rights (IDR), filed a lawsuit on May 9, 2022, against Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) and Division of Mental Health and Addictions (DMHA) for failing to timely provide court-ordered competency restoration services to people who are found incompetent to stand trial, resulting in these individuals sitting in jails without access to necessary services.

“I am a person who has been through the competency restoration process. I am proof that treatment can be effective, and recovery is possible. Simply sitting in jail is not treatment and allows mental health conditions to fester or worsen,” said Ray Lay, IPAS Commissioner, founder and owner of SMI Enterprises, LLC, and mental health advocate. “The individuals currently not receiving treatment are someone's child, father, mother, brother, or sister. We need to do better and the time to do this is now!”

Read the press release as PDF here. Read the press release in HTML here.

Read the complaint as a PDF here. Read the complaint in HTML here.

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IDR Recipient of 2022 Indianapolis Bar Foundation Community Empowerment Grant

“We are excited to be the recipient of the 2022 Indianapolis Bar Foundation Community Empowerment Grant to help launch a new project aimed at assisting people with disabilities to exercise self-determination. This grant provides the resources, and more importantly, access to a large network of volunteers from the Indianapolis legal community necessary to get this project up and running and giving it the foundation to grow in the years to come.”
- Melissa Keyes, Executive Director

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IDR Finalist for Indianapolis Inclusivity Award

IDR is a finalist for the Employer Award, given to local companies that are demonstrating an extraordinary commitment to providing career training, employment, and/or advancement opportunities to persons with disabilities. As part of highlighting efforts to improve visibility of the disability community and promote inclusivity, the City of Indianapolis’ Mayor’s Advisory Council on Disability is recognizing several organizations during the annual Access and Inclusion Awards. These awards will be integrated into events Mayor Joe Hogsett attends throughout the year.

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Indiana’s Mandatory Absentee Voter Traveling Board as Discriminating Against Voters with Disabilities for May 2022 Election

“Voting by traveling board in 2020 was not only inconvenient, but also I was not able to vote privately and independently. Yesterday’s order bodes very well for our lawsuit and our request to make absentee voting private, independent, and accessible to all people.”
- Kristin Fleschner, Plaintiff

On March 9, 2022, the Honorable Jane Magnus-Stinson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana struck down Indiana’s rule that absentee voters who could not independently mark their ballot may vote at home only by appointment with a “traveling board” of elections officials in the May 2022 election. The traveling board rule was the most restrictive in the country for voters with disabilities and had resulted in at least one voter being unable to cast a ballot in the November 2020 Presidential Election because a traveling board never came to her home to help her vote. As a result of the ruling, voters with print disabilities may ask the person of their choice to help them complete a paper absentee ballot in the May 2022 primary election if they so choose. Click here to read the Court’s order of findings. Click here to read the Court’s Preliminary Injunction.

Read the press release as a PDF here. Read the press release in HTML here.

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IDR Provides Testimony on House Bill 1107

House Bill 1107, authored by Representative Ed Clere with input from the Arc of Indiana and Indiana Disability Rights, is intended to address the school-to-guardianship pipeline and even the due process playing field between schools and parents/students. IDR Legal Director Tom Crishon provided testimony on January 19, 2022, to the House Education Committee. Regarding parents remaining involved in their child's education, Crishon shared that, "there are a number of less restrictive alternatives, where the families can be involved still, but you're not removing all rights of the individual through a guardianship process.” Crishon also noted that due process proceedings are “a tough uphill battle” for parents and families, “and what the burden shift would do is really just an attempt to rebalance things." The bill now moves on to the full Indiana House for consideration.

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Slipping through the Safety Net: How Indiana’s Disability Services System Failed One Client and Jeopardizes Others

This investigatory report exposes the neglect and death of Aaron, a Hoosier man with developmental disabilities. IDR details how each component of the system failed Aaron, including his service provider and state and local government. Critically, the report also addresses how Hoosiers can change law and policy to reduce the likelihood that other people with disabilities will fall through the same gaps that enabled Aaron’s demise.

Read the press release as a PDF here. Read the press release in HTML here.

Read the full report as a PDF here. Read the full report in HTML here.

IDR Client Testifies about Negative Impacts of Guardianship to Senate Judiciary Committee

“I could make medical appointments for my daughter but was not allowed to make them for myself.”

- Nick Clouse, IDR client

This summer, Nick and IDR successfully terminated his guardianship and restored his legal rights nearly a decade after his traumatic brain injury. On September 28, Nick testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, using his story to illustrate the negative impact of conservatorships and guardianships on the civil liberties of people with disabilities. Along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Nick addressed the Committee’s chosen topic, “Toxic Conservatorships: The Need for Reform.” Their comments explained how current guardianship and conservatorship laws can preclude people with disabilities from living self-directed lives and making decisions for themselves.

“We need better protections to keep this from happening, and we need more attorneys like Justin [Schrock] and Indiana Disability Rights to enforce those protections,” Nick said. Congratulations to Nick on the termination of his guardianship and advocating to help others live self-directed lives.

Watch Nicholas Clouse's testimony here.

Read Nicholas Clouse's testimony here.

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