President Obama Tells NYSARC and Other Advocates "I've Got Your Back"

Medicaid Protection and Federal Cooperation Stressed at White House Briefing

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WASHINGTON, DC (02/13/2012)(readMedia)-- On Friday, NYSARC, Inc. President and Canandaigua resident John A. Schuppenhauer, Esq., Governmental Affairs Committee Chairperson Saundra Gumerove, Esq., and Governmental Affairs Director Ben Golden met with senior White House officials at an exclusive Community Leaders Briefing. Organized by The Arc and the White House, the Briefing provided an opportunity for advocates to discuss issues facing people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.

NYSARC is the largest non-profit organization in the country providing supports and services to people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and is the New York State Chapter of The Arc. President Schuppenhauer was given the unique opportunity to join 150 other leaders from The Arc at the Briefing and invited Gumerove and Golden to join him.

President Barack Obama made an unexpected visit to the exclusive session with leaders from The Arc, declaring "I've got your back" to the enthusiastic crowd.

"It is clear from this meeting that the President understands the issues that people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and the organizations that support them are facing," Schuppenhauer noted. "His appearance at the session underscores his commitment to these people and accentuates the importance of the partnership that NYSARC and The Arc have with Federal and State government as we move forward. This partnership will help us overcome the challenges that lie ahead."

After his remarks, President Obama shook hands with attendees from NYSARC and other Arcs. "I had the rare chance to speak with the President," remarked Gumerove. "I told him that as a parent and advocate, my daughter needs Medicaid in order to live a full life, integrated in our community. I expressed my concern that any change to Medicaid must be done in a careful and thoughtful way to insure that people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities are not hurt by the rush to cut costs." Listening carefully to Gumerove's concerns, the President reiterated his commitment, "I have your back," and thanked her for her input.

The President's visit was the highlight of a day marked with the opportunity to interact, learn, and share facts and opinions with a wide array of high level officials, including Cindy Mann who is the top CMS administrator for New York's 1115 Waiver which will overhaul the State's entire system of services for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Other speakers included Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy; Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council; Carol Galante, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Federal Housing Administration; Robert Gordon, Executive Associate Director for the Office of Management and Budget; and Tom Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights with the Department of Justice.

Over the course of the day, leaders of chapters of The Arc were briefed on topics ranging from Medicaid to education to community living and employment for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Many of the speakers, including President Obama, referenced the impact advocates made during budget negotiations to protect Medicaid and encouraged The Arc to continue these efforts. During the prior day, State professionals spoke extensively with key CMS officials charged with approving state waiver requests, including New York's 1115 Waiver.

NYSARC Governmental Affairs Director Ben Golden said "it is clear from the President on down that the Administration is both committed to protecting Medicaid for its many beneficiaries while giving states the tools to manage Medicaid costs. That is very reassuring, but also makes it clear that we will have to do our part."

After a tour of the East Wing of the White House, advocates took part in policy breakout sessions that allowed for spirited, topic-specific discussions on issues like community living, family caregiving, education, and Medicaid. At her breakout session, Gumerove found that Administration officials were "very interested in what is going on in the states and expressed understanding that we cannot afford to rush into any major changes."

Upon the conclusion of the event, NYSARC President Schuppenhauer noted that "the event included an impressive array of top officials. We left feeling that President Obama takes our issues very seriously, but everyone, including the Administration, is well aware of the challenges ahead."

About NYSARC, Inc.

NYSARC, Inc. is the largest not-for-profit in New York State and the United States serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The 55 Chapters comprising the family-led Organization provide services in every County in New York State. NYSARC, Inc. supports over 60,000 individuals, employs 30,000, and has a membership of nearly 87,000.