President Vicky Calabro Attends NJACP Meeting in Washington

President Vicky Calabro Attends NJACP Meeting in Washington

For more than twenty years, The New Jersey Association of Community Providers has supported the agencies that provide vital services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The broad range of services provided by member agencies affords people with IDD and other physical disabilities the opportunity to live as independently as possible, develop meaningful connections in the community, and make their own choices. Everas has been a member of NJACP since its inception, and we are proud that Everas President Vicky Calabro, is currently serving her third term as President of NJACP.

This past May, Vicky, along with other NJACP Board members, staff and Lobbyist Peter Lillo spent two days in Washington, DC to meet with Congressional leaders from New Jersey and beyond. Vicky called the trip “a historic opportunity for NJACP to affect change at the federal level for providers and the people we serve.”

One particularly pressing issue discussed was the state and national issue of patient safety during hospital visits. Providers fear that the adoption of a Fee for Service reimbursement system may prevent staff from accompanying individuals in their care to the hospital. NJACP CEO, Valerie Sellers, commented “CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] must address the serious consequences for the patient when unaccompanied in the hospital by staff who is able to understand the needs of people who cannot communicate in a conventional way. Under the new Medicaid Fee for Service system, agencies will no longer be able to provide staff as a recognized service to people with disabilities. This policy places those we serve at risk.”

Additionally, President Vicky Calabro spoke to the issue of the potential for increased fines to providers from Medicaid Units. She explains, “While providers should be held to the highest standards, fines are often extrapolated without documenting fraud, which could have devastating financial consequences for providers and the stability of the support system for people. This is unfair to the providers and the people they serve.”

Each Congressional office was responsive to the issues raised. While initial discussion will be with CMS, Senator Menendez (D-NJ) was helpful in directing his staff to look into the issue further and consider a letter from New Jersey legislation. Several Congressional staff indicated that they would be interested in participating in conference calls between NJACP and CMS. This topic is “hot” before Congress, Valerie Sellers recounts. The investigation into the validity of RAC audits that hospitals have faced for years is coming at a great time for the NJACP. The audits place undue administrative burden and costly payment denials on the hospitals and undeniably detract from patient care.

Meetings were also held with the Co-Chairpersons of the Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) caucus, which will explore issues relating to caregiving and include the system serving individuals with IDD. The ACT plans to hold a summit this summer, and NJACP has requested involvement.

Representatives from NJACP shared their experiences and identified critical opportunities throughout the course of the meeting to which Congressional attendees provided positive feedback. We at Everas are optimistic that continued advancement is on the horizon for the communities we serve.

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