This fall saw a renewed commitment to partnership between DRM and SUFU (Speaking Up for Us), Maine’s self-advocacy organization for adults with developmental disabilities. DRM’s Protection and Advocacy for Developmental Disabilities (PADD) advocates and attorneys worked with self-advocates from across the state to present trainings and facilitate discussions at SUFU’s annual membership conference in Carrabassett Valley.
One of the first sessions of the conference focused on the new Home and Community-Based Settings rule that all states will be required to comply with by March of 2022. The goal of this training was to teach self-advocates about the new rule and how it seeks to enlarge rights and make services as integrated as possible, with the ultimate goal of eliminating the isolation of individuals with disabilities. As part of the training, presenters and audience members discussed a number of hypothetical scenarios to help people receiving services spot potential issues that may need to be addressed in the future with their own services.
In another of the training sessions, advocates discussed tools to enhance self-advocacy, particularly tools to enforce one’s own rights, including informal advocacy strategies at annual person-centered planning meetings. More formal remedies, like the OADS developmental services grievance process, were also reviewed and explored as options to restore rights in situations where those rights have been restricted.
DRM also participated and collaborated with a number of self-advocate panelists to discuss self-care and the importance of prioritizing wellness in the face of advocacy challenges. With support from the presenters, participants created a list of specific self-care strategies they could try in the future. Several self-advocates identified connecting with other members of the SUFU community as an important way to recharge during their advocacy. Advocates encouraged each other to prioritize their own wellbeing and to contact DRM if they want support communicating their needs to others.
Finally, a DRM advocate and a self-advocate partnered to present a training on Supported Decision-Making and Maine’s new Probate Code. Many of the self-advocates in the audience, who may be subject to some form of guardianship, had heard of supported decision-making but had not had the opportunity to attend a specific training on the new law, which this session afforded.
One of DRM’s priorities continues to be partnering with self-advocates in its training efforts, and self-advocates and DRM advocates alike left the conference feeling energized after re-establishing this important connection between DRM and SUFU. DRM’s PADD team looks forward to continuing to work with SUFU and other self-advocates statewide to maintain and advance the rights of people with developmental disabilities.