by Mike Hyland, Venture President & CEO
The country is once again moving toward a new beginning, as is inevitable every four to eight years when a new presidential administration is peacefully installed. Though often chaotic, this transfer of power is the most basic tenet of our democracy and should not pass unnoticed. There is a great deal of work to be done and it is more necessary than ever that people set aside disagreements and get on with the task of ensuring that people who need help can get it. In short, we could use a little less anger these days.
One of the great tragedies in government is the erosion over time of simple cooperation between people. The very notion of moving forward requires overcoming disagreements and finding compromise for the sake of a greater good. Unfortunately, in too many cases this requirement is completely lost. Instead of compromise, our system has devolved into something where disagreement has become animosity and cooperation has become forbidden. The sad and predictable result is that people who need help are at constant risk of being left behind because important issues that help them stay safe are used as tools by competing interests rather than as building blocks for growth. These people too are victims of the anger that dominates national discussion now.
It is inevitable that change accompanies any transition of leadership and that old practices and policies are replaced by new ones. What must be kept sacred are the safety nets that allow people supported by human services agencies to live and thrive in the least restrictive environment. This means continued access to programs that provide opportunities for community inclusion, employment, education, and recreation. There also needs to be a renewed commitment on a national level to initiatives that enhance our workforce. It is crucial that we have an actual plan to create a genuine living wage for all direct support professionals as well as a recognition that professionals who do this work are a major economic force in this country. And as always, there must be a united effort from all of the leaders in this country to finally and legitimately remove all stigma and abuses that people with disabilities still face. Adults and children with disabilities are still victims of crime and abuse at a higher rate than their peers without disabilities. It’s time that people with power publicly acknowledge this and take immediate steps to address it.
There should be no debating the idea that people who need help are entitled to receive it in a safe and dignified way. It should also not be debatable to suggest that those who provide support must be paid and respected in a meaningful way. There shouldn’t be anything political about these issues and prioritizing them certainly should not be cause for anger on anyone’s part. To quote our outgoing president, “ultimately we’re all on the same team”. We need to finally behave that way for the sake of the people who tend to be dismissed far too easily.