April 4th and 5th marked our second annual Grassroots event. Because of Covid, this year’s event was held via Zoom, rather than at the State Capital. The Association of Regional Centers of California (ARCA) led our campaign. The evening of April 4th was a training on how to best present yourself on Zoom. Tammy Torum joined that training with me; she really appreciated the encouragement and training we received. “People like stories,” Tammy said. A lot of the training focused on helping us think about which stories and examples we could share as we introduced the laws and budget recommendations to the legislators that we would be meeting the next day.
Grassroots is a time when ARCA helps co-author or sponsor laws that will be most beneficial for the people we serve in the Regional Center system, as well as for our direct care staff. A big part of Grassroots is the individual stories we share with legislators and their support staff. Each one of us spoke on those areas we had a lot of knowledge and/or a personal connection.
This year, we spoke about several different items including:
- AB2378 a tax break for employers who hire workers with developmental disabilities
- SB 882 specialized police training for when they interact with the disabled population
- SCR 91 designating May as Disabilities Inclusion Month for the month
- A proposed removal of family fees for children under 18 years of age- eliminating the annual tax families pay for receiving Regional Center Services.
- We also requested 21.6 million in additional funding for Service Coordinators to boost base salary and reduce caseloads by hiring more Service Coordinators
Tammy spoke on behalf of Service Coordinators as well as SB882. With two sons in law enforcement, SB882 was true and dear to her heart. “Police officers appreciate being trained,” Tammy said. Tammy also was sure to point out, “police are the first responders to an emergency situation which is another good reason to provide them training and it’s important to teach law enforcement how to interview victims.” In the disabled community, there are many incidents of abuse and more training would help officers obtain information that is more accurate.
Change starts from the bottom up; it is similar to a sunrise, getting gradually lighter until the sun bursts into the sky. Each of us have our own unique experiences that when combined puts a personal face on these bills and proposals and can really help gather support for moving them forward. Nicole Curran, who was representing Assemblyperson Jim Ward, gave us some encouragement. She told us that even though the movement we are all part of has started out slow it is beginning to pick up momentum. That momentum built to a climax that day at the very end, as we had a direct audience with Assemblyperson Megan Dahle! Others who we met with included Assemblyperson Jim Gallagher, Representative Benamati, Assemblyperson Nielsen and Representative Sadie Foster. I felt a genuine interest and connection with each person we met. They were all very helpful and down to earth.
It was wonderful to represent my peers as an FNRC peer advocate and to stand together with other noteworthy individuals from other Regional Centers across the state. It is sort of like a small delicate snowflake in the beginning that eventually joins with thousands of others and creates a snowball of incredible momentum and force. Remember that every voice matters, together we can all make a difference. A voice that goes beyond our community and can affect change for our State, our Nation and our World.