By Armando Camacho, President & CEO, Opportunity Partners –
I recently attended a pancake breakfast fundraiser sponsored by Opportunity Partners’ self-advocacy group, C.O.A.L. The Committee of Advocacy & Leadership was raising money to send several members to the Self Advocates Becoming Empowered national conference in Oklahoma City.
As I enjoyed a tasty meal that morning, it struck me that this event symbolized much more than whether I wanted juice or coffee with my pancakes; it represented the vast menu of choices available today for people with disabilities who want and deserve to make their own decisions on how they live, learn and work.
Opportunity Partners launched C.O.A.L. in 2011 to empower people we serve to stand up for themselves and ensure their voices are heard. C.O.A.L., now more than 50 members strong, meets regularly to determine what issues are important to them and how to get involved. They’ve written letters, rallied at the Capitol, and are even making a video!
C.O.A.L. was active in the successful 5% Campaign, a nonpartisan effort that secured a desperately needed, long overdue 5% rate increase for Home and Community Based Service providers like Opportunity Partners. No doubt that the voices of the people we serve and their families, combined with the efforts of our dedicated staff, impacted legislators far more than could ever have been imagined.
In addition to our role in keeping C.O.A.L. active and growing, I’m proud to say Opportunity Partners is engaged in a number of other public policy initiatives, including:
• Meeting with legislators – inviting them to tour our residences and facilities, educating them about the services we provide, and helping them understand why disability policy matters to us all
• Leading interpretation and implementation of new licensing standards for disability services
• Monitoring changes to center-based services through the federal Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act, Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan, and proposed Employment First policy
• Developing a Family Action Network. We urgently need more families to get involved with our advocacy efforts. Become part of our mission to let lawmakers know why your loved ones and the issues that impact them need to be prioritized!
To get involved in Opportunity Partners’ advocacy efforts and learn more about our policy priorities, please contact Alicia Munson, Public Policy & Advocacy Associate, at 952-930-7696 or firstname.lastname@example.org.