Mark Hassemer

Dear Friends of ACT:

The inaugurations are over. It seems like a moment doesn’t pass now without new news of some major change in Washington, DC or Jefferson City.

I’ll pile on with two observations about what I see happening and not happening in the State Capitol.

First, HB 626 has been introduced by Rep. Jim Neely. If this bill passes, it will change the way Missouri approaches guardianship and conservatorship.

I wrote here last September about the potential harms of guardianship and the expansion of SDM, Supported Decision-Making.

Portions of the bill are taken from model language developed by MO-Wings, Missouri’s Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders. Leadership of the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council has played a key role in crafting this bill. Jonathan Martinis, mentioned in the September article I referred to above, has also contributed to shaping the bill language.

The bill focuses primarily on the rights of persons under guardianship/conservatorship. And it puts an emphasis on selecting least restrictive alternatives. This effort seeks to impose minimal limits on the personal freedoms of those in guardianship so their individual personal needs can be met.

The bill also prioritizes combining person-centered standards of “best interest” and “substituted judgment” for guardians who make decisions for others.

This is good legislation. It doesn’t hold people captive. But it’s not careless, either. Where supports are needed, they can be had.

The bill has not been assigned to a committee. Hopefully, it will advance and become law.

Gladly, what we haven’t seen in Jeff City is a grab back of funds that were authorized for rate equalization. Our new Governor announced $146 million in additional spending withholds. This amount, combined with former Governor Nixon’s holdbacks, brings the total this fiscal year to $346 million.

But the funds for the rebasing initiative have remained untouched.

Of course, we would like to see continued movement toward standardized rates this year. We still have ground to cover to meet the recommendations. Any steps backward due to budget shortfalls would make the situation even more challenging.

We clearly want to hold on to the gains we’ve made. But the future is uncertain. So we remain vigilant.

I think you’ll agree that this is a time of great change in our Nation and our State. HB 626 and the preservation of last year’s gains in the funding equalization effort are positive signs. Let’s continue to hope for, and work for, positive outcomes in this time of change.

Until next month,