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Candidates 2018 Answers

Jeanette Rowsey 
(D) Cabell, District/Circuit 17

Disability Rights

1. What initiatives would you undertake to ensure the protection of the Civil Rights of West Virginians with disabilities?

Most Important is to increase and maintain sustainable funding for programs that allow West Virginians to live in their own homes, work and be full participants in community life. I would sponsor Legislative initiatives to secure funding for independent living, employment assistance, waiver programs and other services that help close the gap for adults and children striving for the full benefits of citizenship. I have met with West Virginians with disabilities to learn what is needed, and would dedicate myself to seeking out, raising awareness and amplifying the voices of those with disabilities. Naturally, it would be necessary to find revenue for these investments, and I am open to all possible “non-regressive” revenue solutions, to reverse the budget crisis that was created twelve years ago with the corporate tax giveaways that have not brought the promised jobs to our state.

2. How will you ensure West Virginia state entities and businesses are in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act to prevent discrimination against West Virginians with disabilities?

As the state with the lowest rate of employment for persons with disabilities, West Virginia needs a major cultural and policy shift with regard to this issue. Our State’s Unified Plan, submitted under Section 102 of The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), should serve as a roadmap for improving opportunities for people with disabilities, as should the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for students with disabilities preparing to enter the workforce. Legislative leadership is needed to work with such entities as the Division of Rehabilitation Services, Department of Education, consumer groups, families and individuals with disabilities to monitor progress, outcomes, resources, accountability/enforcements processes and additional needs. I would reach out (acknowledging my limited knowledge as a new legislator) to explore such possibilities as expanded apprenticeships; tax credits to businesses that hire, retain and provide accommodation for employees with disabilities; transition plans for students graduating or aging out of school-based services; supported employment services and attendant care (which currently serve only a handful of West Virginians); and taking better advantage of advances in assistive technology. I also believe a funded campaign highlighting successes and promoting the talent of employees and business leaders with disabilities could make a difference in reducing stigma in our business culture.

3. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act covers all activities of State and Local Governments. The Act states that:

No qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any public entity.

A public entity shall administer services, programs, and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities. (a provision upheld by the Olmstead Decision of the US Supreme Court)

A public entity that employs 50 or more persons shall designate at least one employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities under this part, including any investigation of any complaint communicated to it alleging its noncompliance with this part or alleging any actions that would be prohibited by this part.

How can West Virginia best uphold the Olmstead US Supreme Court decision and comply with the most integrated setting provision in Title II of the Act?
If it has not already done so, West Virginia must fund, resource and conduct a current and transparent “ADA Audit” (as a newcomer, I must assume at this point that such a Federal tool exists and does not need to be invented!) of all state entities covered under Title II, to identify both strengths and shortfalls in compliance with ADA and the Olmstead Decision. See that this is completed in a timely manner (less than 24 months), resulting in an improvement plan with resources allocated through state and federal budget processes. Hopefully we can prevent or circumvent more costly lawsuits in the future by being proactive.


4. Do you support Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act in West Virginia?


5. Do you support funding the Medicaid Waivers sufficiently to eliminate the waiting lists and make them accessible to those who need them? Why?

Yes. In my conversations and research as a candidate, I have seen the statistics: 114 people dying while on the Aged and Disabled Waiver waiting list in 2017; waiting list times as long as 4+ years for I/DD Waiver; nearly 20% of TBI Waiver applicants on a waiting list. To me this is cruel, immoral and ultimately more costly to our state than providing the means to independence and/or family support and freedom from institutionalization.

Community Services

6. What strategies will you use to ensure every West Virginian with a disability has access to a Center for Independent Living?

Funding and coordination. I have more to learn on this question.

7. How will you maximize West Virginia’s access to federal funding to improve and sustain services and supports for people with disabilities?

See answer to #4 – further ensure that dedicated state staffing to explore funding streams and opportunities and “match” resources from the state are in place.

8. How will you ensure FEMA funding received by West Virginia is used to meet the specific needs of survivors with disabilities following a disaster?

Ensure that oversight and accountability processes are in place and enforced.


9. Transportation in West Virginia, especially in rural areas is a problem for anyone who doesn’t own a vehicle. However, due to the lack of accessible transportation it is an even bigger issue for people with disabilities. Transportation is critical to the ability of an individual to work, live, and fully participate in his/her community.

What will you do to improve access to transportation statewide for all West Virginians, including people with disabilities?

Based on my longtime experience with families of children with special needs, and my recent exploration as a candidate of this major barrier for West Virginians trying to access services, employment and the means to escape poverty—I have found that West Virginia has a loose and uncoordinated patchwork of transportation programs funded under various medical and non-medical pots of (often-unsustainable) money with differing service populations and criteria. Our Department of Transportation appears only to focus on road system construction and maintenance, and nobody seems to have any role in coordination and oversight of public transportation and public/private partnerships. My first step would be to look to ideas and success stories from other states and places with similar terrain issues as West Virginia to find some best practices related to his issue. As a freshman Legislator, I will build partnerships with those most knowledgeable about state entities and policies related to transportation services, and pursue actions that would lead to a single statewide “information hub” around transportation services, as a crucial start.


10. How will you make sure all schools are aware of and access all transition services available for youth with disabilities?

There is a great need for school personnel to know the resources that are available, including transition services, and this will take funding and dedicated staffing to work with school principles and faculty to keep this information current and easy to access. Gaps in needed services must be addresses in a coordinated manner by all relevant entities from the Bureau for Behavioral Health to the Division of Rehabilitation Services, etc.

B. How will you enforce existing laws ensuring access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education for all youth with disabilities and ensure local school systems understand and comply with their responsibilities?

According to Section 1412 of IDEA, State Departments of Education are responsible for supervising school districts and ensuring that all children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education. Without federal enforcement or adequate funding for services, states are understandably in a bind and largely noncompliant. So the burden falls upon parents and families. As one who has worked very closely with family advocates who work with the schools to ensure FAPE, I believe that the most effective means currently lies within organizations such as Legal Aid of West Virginia, who have parent advocates and trainers (FAST Program) who can work in a culturally competent way within the school system as allies, with the added weight of on-staff attorneys who can assist when needed to address noncompliance. This would be an example of the type of state-level effort that should be sustained and expanded to address the pervasive lack of compliance on the part of schools, and hence help curtail the “school to prison pipeline.”

11. How will you ensure the existence of post-secondary education/training, services, and supports that facilitate all youth with disabilities becoming working, productive citizens?

West Virginia has some exemplary programs that help in the transition to adulthood, but they are too few and without stable funding sources. In addition, I believe this population is particularly vulnerable to the drug crisis, and would be assisted by my priority by ensuring and enforcing/resourcing parity for mental health care and substance abuse treatment, fully funding and quickly implementing ALL the recommendations of the WV short-term opioid response plan. Providing student loan waivers and/or other financial incentives for graduates who can fill teaching and support service gaps in high-need areas.

12. Although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has been federal law since 1975, many students with disabilities are still segregated, bused to a single school in the county, or otherwise excluded from the education in the “least restrictive environment” provision of IDEA. The integration of students with disabilities into general education classrooms and activities with typical students has been shown to increase acceptance, expectations, and inclusion and to reduce fear, misunderstanding, and bullying. What steps will you take to increase integration of all students with disabilities in schools throughout West Virginia?

I believe this relates to the Free and Appropriate Education provision, so my answer to question 10 applies here as well. I believe a well-resourced, collaborative, strength-based anti-stigma campaign should also be funded and implemented by the state.


13. 71.3% of working age West Virginians with disabilities are not in the workforce. What steps will you take to change that? How will you ensure all working West Virginians with disabilities are paid at least minimum wage and eliminate sub-minimum wage?

I would learn from leaders, state entities, advocacy groups and individual citizens to find out what is needed for the Division of Rehabilitation Services to more effectively do the job of helping more adults with disabilities attain and maintain competitive employment that fits their career potential. I would support and/or sponsor legislation to increase the minimum wage to at least $12/hour, indexed to inflation, and eliminate sub-minimum wage.

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