LSA-DN Weekly Update

Disability Network News
Friday, July 17, 2020


The Lutheran Services in America Strength & Service Series

Lutheran Services in America is taking full and active advantage of the virtual space to help our member organizations nationwide stay in the know on new and evolving practices and resources — curating a broad lineup of topics and subject matter expertise. This month we are pleased to launch our continuing virtual program, the Strength & Service Series. Strength & Service is an ongoing, interactive, virtual gathering of the best minds in our space, laser-focused on examining and tackling the unintended consequences and uncertainties in today’s climate — all with the goal of helping move your organization forward.     By drawing on the expertise of external influencers and our member organizations’ own vital lessons learned, we’re able to share tailored content and facilitate deeper connections to help meet your unique needs during this historic moment. The combination of our broad array of providers and central thought leaders in our space will make for truly symbiotic, interactive dialogue in a safe and trusting space — exactly when we all need it the most. We view these timely virtual convenings as critical to your organizations, to the many people you serve and to the future of Lutheran social ministry in America as a whole.

Upcoming Series Webinars

  • July 23, 12–1 p.m. EDT: Impact of COVID-19 on Employer Health Care Costs by global advisory firm, Willis Towers Watson. In 2021 employers like you could be facing increased medical costs of between 4% and a whopping 10% for employees, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Given this increasingly challenging climate, Jeff Thiemann, President & CEO of Portico Benefit Services, will host a dynamic interactive session with experts from Willis Towers Watson who will explore the challenging landscape of increasing dependent coverage, delayed elective surgeries and other key trends on short- and longer-term employer health care costs – all of which may greatly affect your bottom line. Register here.
  • July 28, 1–3 p.m. EDT: Workshop on the Path to Become More Racially Aware Leaders—Foundational Elements for the Journey. Professional diversity coach Marion Hodges Biglan will lead a workshop where participants will learn and reflect on their connection to some foundational concepts about racism that will be essential on their journey to become more racially aware and impactful leaders. Register here.

Advocacy Update

Work Continues Toward Next Expected Emergency Relief Legislative Package

With the Senate scheduled to come back into session this coming week, lawmakers from both parties, as well as Administration officials, have continued work on the next expected package of emergency relief legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that he may make public as soon as this weekend a draft version of the legislation, which both he and Administration officials have said they want to cost less than $1 trillion.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has pushed back on this dollar figure, saying a larger amount would better meet current needs. Lutheran Services in America will be closely monitoring ongoing Hill dialogue, meetings, and legislation during this critical time, continually pushing our network’s collective key priorities.

New LSA-DN Infographic

Lutheran Services in America member organizations are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing critical services in more than 1,400 communities nationwide. These services cannot continue without specific provisions enacted by Congress. In an effort to spur action to support our collective work, Lutheran Services in America released a new infographic outlining several key measures that are needed by health and human service organizations in this time of crisis. Together with our outreach to Congress, we are pushing for vital resources and funding for improving the lives of some of our country’s most vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities.   We encourage you to download the LSA-DN infographic, which calls for specific actions we need Congress to take in the coming days, and post it to your website and social media pages. You can find the infographic here.

Coronavirus Resources

Lutheran Services in America has compiled a list of COVID-19 news and resources that is regularly updated. In particular, we are tracking philanthropic and federal funding opportunities and requirements for our members and compiling a list of upcoming webinars, meetings, and events. Be sure to check out these pages and feel free to reach out to or with any related questions you have.

Celebrating the ADA

You are invited to two upcoming virtual events tied to the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to be hosted by Senators Patty Murray (WA) and Bob Casey (PA). Signed on July 26th, 1990, the ADA is the civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

Panel: “Honoring the Fight: 30 Years of the ADA” 7/22 10:30 – 11:30am EST

Click here to register!

Panel: “Continuing the Fight: Ensuring the ADA Works for Everyone” 7/24 1-2pm EST

Click here to register!

CART and American Sign Language will be provided. Please contact or with any related questions.


Citing The Pandemic, Feds Delay New Medicaid Waiver Rule

The Trump administration is holding off on implementing a Medicaid rule establishing a new standard for what counts as home- and community-based services for people with disabilities.

In a letter to state Medicaid officials this week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it would delay the compliance deadline for a 2014 regulation detailing criteria that programs must meet in order to be considered community-based and eligible to be paid for through Medicaid home- and community-based services waivers.

Under the rule, home- and community-based settings must be places that individuals choose to live that are integrated in and provide full access to the community. They also must offer privacy, dignity and respect and allow people with disabilities the ability to make independent choices about their daily activities, physical environment and who they are in contact with.

More from Disability Scoop

Trump Administration Weighs In On Disability Services Amid COVID-19

New guidance continues to flow from the federal government advising states on Medicaid and special education services in light of the pandemic.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services updated its 99-page frequently-asked-questions document for states detailing how COVID-19 may affect Medicaid services.

Significantly, advocates say CMS is emphasizing for the first time that despite the pandemic, states must continue to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1999 ruling in Olmstead v. L.C., which found that people with disabilities have a right to access services in the community.

More from Disability Scoop

People with disabilities protest police violence, COVID-19 discrimination

July marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Disability Pride Month. But that's not why people are marching. 

Disability rights advocates in Austin, Texas, protested the treatment of Michael Hickson, 46, a quadriplegic Black man who died of COVID-19, The Austin American-Statesman reported. Doctors determined Hickson could not be saved after his organs  failed, but advocates argued that his life was devalued because of racism and ableism. The Texas Americans with Disabilities Action Planning Team (ADAPT) called for an investigation into Hickson's death. Families protested in Rockland County, New York, against state coronavirus restrictions limiting visitations to their developmentally disabled relatives in group homes, a CBS affiliate reported. Most of the demonstrators were the parents of minor children.

More from USA Today


Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, controversial Massachusetts facility recently banned from using electric shock devices, gets $1.7 million in coronavirus relief funds

The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center was one of the residential schools that got help from the Baker administration.

Announced Monday, $16.1 million in relief went to 32 special education residential school providers to support costs related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Canton-based Judge Rotenberg Educational Center will receive $1,763,017 of that.

As many students were sent home from schools in March due to the pandemic, these residential schools, including the New England Center for Children and The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, were unable to do that.

For these schools, closing down isn’t always an option.

“[they] have no alternative,” Vinnie Strully, CEO of the New England Center for Children, told WBUR. “They cannot live safely at home, and some do not have a home.”

But many advocates have long been against the methods used at The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton — often calling on the state to intervene.

More from Mass Live

Statewide network begins work to reach those ‘who face even greater challenges in our educational systems’

Students with learning differences are 10% more likely to drop out of school compared to their peers. For kids with learning differences who are also students of color or from low-income families — the numbers are worse. Black, Hispanic, and Native American students with learning disabilities, for example, drop out at about a 35% rate.

Nine organizations across the state are focused on reducing disparities and improving education outcomes for this group of students who live at the intersection of race, income, and learning differences. Durham-based MDC is bringing them together for a program called “Learning for Equity: A Network for Solutions,” or LENS-NC for short.

More from Ed NC

People with disabilities sue Kennywood, Sandcastle and Idlewild over mask policy

The parents of three children with disabilities, along with an adult diagnosed with anxiety, have sued Kennywood, Sandcastle and Idlewild over the amusement parks' COVID-19 mask policy, saying they can't wear masks because of their medical conditions.

Attorney Thomas Anderson, who has brought many similar suits against Giant Eagle, filed the suit Friday in U.S. District Court under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

More from Pittsburg Post-Gazette

Day services to reopen Monday for people with Disabilities

People with disabilities will be able to return to programs that support employment and social activities starting Monday, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).

Many of the day service programs for people with disabilities had closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More from KSTP

Research & Reports

Group Home Residents With Developmental Disabilities More Likely To Die From COVID-19

People with developmental disabilities who live in group homes are significantly more likely than others to contract the coronavirus and die from it, a new study finds.

Researchers looked at the experiences of 20,431 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities residing in group homes in New York state as compared to those of the state’s general population from the start of the pandemic through May 28.

Among group home residents, there were 7,841 cases of diagnosed COVID-19 per 100,000 people. That figure was substantially lower — 1,910 per 100,000 — for the state as a whole.

More from Disability Scoop

Online classes leave differently-abled students at a disadvantage: Survey

Online classes are the new normal during the Covid-19 pandemic but the new education atmosphere may leave a large number of differently-abled students from the vulnerable sections at the risk of dropping out of schools owing to not owning smart devices and lack of learning materials in formats suitable for them. Most of the differently-abled students or parents surveyed did not understand technology, some were averse to using "costly" data for online classes owing to their income constraints and teachers complain that they do not have accessible educational material, suitable for online learning, to help them, the 'Digital Education in India: Will Students with Disabilities Miss the Bus?' report said.

More from Deccan Herald

Resources, Opinions & Opportunities

Masks are a barrier against the coronavirus. They also pose a major hurdle for deaf people.

I don’t remember the first time a hearing person got angry at me for not understanding them, but I remember the first time that anger scared me.

I was waiting on the subway platform on my way home from school one night when a hand clamped down hard on my shoulder, spinning me around. When I turned, there was a stranger too close to me, his eyes wide and his breath hot on my face as he shouted at me. I was terrified, and it took me a while to understand what he was saying — he had made a pass at me and was angry that I hadn’t responded.

“Deaf, I’m deaf!” I shouted back, pointing to my ears.

For a moment the man looked confused. Then he let go of my arm and walked back down the platform, as though we’d never interacted at all.

More from The Washington Post

Disability Employment Documentary Headed To TV

A film about an innovative business that’s employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is set to air on television stations across the country.

The documentary “Hearts of Glass” tells the story of Vertical Harvest, a startup urban farm in Jackson, Wyo. with a mission of providing competitive employment to people with developmental disabilities. The hydroponic greenhouse built on just a tenth of an acre grows as much food as 10 acres of regular farmland.

The film follows the business during its first 15 months of operation and looks at how it is addressing issues around food production while also promoting inclusion.

More from Disability Scoop

Virtual education was ‘a disaster’ for her son with Down syndrome. Here’s what students with disabilities really need.

When covid-19 began to spread in the United States this past spring, schools closed around the country and most of them stayed that way through the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

Districts had hoped that remote learning could replace in some measure the learning that students would be missing while not in school. In some places it was enough, but in many it wasn’t — especially for students with special needs.

More from The Washington Post

Lutheran Services in America's Front Line Heroes

Each day, Lutheran Services in America posts a story about heroes working on the front lines. Those posts are meant to celebrate the extraordinary work of Lutheran social ministries, and elevate the commitment to serving communities throughout crises. Read front line hero stories here.

To submit stories front line hero stories, email Caitlyn Gudmudsen at

Share your stories with LSA-DN!

If you have stories or news that you would like to share within the LSA-DN, we would love to include them in the weekly newsletter. Email Caitlyn Gudmudsen at with submissions.

Upcoming Events

LSA-DN 2020 Summer Meeting
August 5-6, 2020
Agenda for what will be our virtual summer meeting due to COVID-19 concerns to be shared shortly

LSA-DN 2021 Winter Meeting
February 24-26, 2021
Details TBD


For more information on our topic specific work groups, please email Jen Beltz at

  • Policy & Advocacy Team
  • Culture and Engagement Workgroup
  • Administrative Cost Survey Working Group

Keep in Touch

Lisa Morgan
DN Convener
Chief Operating Officer, Lutheran Family Services of Virginia

Rita Wiersma
DN Treasurer
Chief Executive Officer, Accord

Jen Beltz 
VP, External Affairs, Lutheran Services in America