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Minutes — Public Policy Committee Meeting, February 11, 2010

(As approved by the Committee May 6, 2010)


Call to Order — Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Public Policy Committee convened on Thursday, February 11, 2010, at the Omni Southpark Hotel 4140 Governors Row, Austin TX 78744. Committee Chair Rick Tisch called those present to order at 1:30 PM.

I. Introduction

Committee members, staff and guests were introduced.

II. Public Comments

No public comments were offered.

III. Approval of Minutes

Tisch asked for corrections or additions to the minutes of the November meeting.

MOTION: To approve the November 13, 2009, Committee meeting minutes as presented.
MADE BY: Mateo Delgado
SECOND: Cindy Johnston
ABSTAIN: Amy Sharp
The motion passed without opposition.

IV. TCDD Position Statements

The Committee discussed TCDD’s position statements on education, criminal competency, children and families, and family support services. The Committee approved the recommended changes to all of the position statements, and recommended Council approval of the position statements as presented in meeting materials. The Committee postponed discussing the access to health care position statement, until the May meeting, due to ongoing activities at the federal level which may impact health care access in general. Tisch asked the Committee for volunteers to work on the access to health care position statement with him. Kris Bissmeyer and Hunter Adkins volunteered.

MOTION: To recommend Council approval of the Education Position Statement as presented.
MADE BY: Lora Taylor
SECOND: Kris Bissmeyer
The motion passed without opposition. (Attachment 1 as approved.)
MOTION: To recommend Council approval of the Criminal Competency Position Statement as presented.
MADE BY: Kris Bissmeyer
SECOND: Hunter Adkins
The motion passed without opposition. (Attachment 2 as approved.)
MOTION: To recommend Council approval of the Children and Families Position Statement as presented. (Attachment 3 as approved.)
MADE BY: Kris Bissmeyer
SECOND: Lora Taylor
The motion passed without opposition.
MOTION: To table discussion regarding the Access to Health Care Statement.
MADE BY: Mateo Delgado
SECOND: Kris Bissmeyer
The motion passed without opposition
MOTION: To recommend Council approval of the Family Support Services Position Statement as presented.
MADE BY: Kris Bissmeyer
SECOND: Lora Taylor
The motion passed without opposition. (Attachment 4 as approved.)

V. Public Information Report

The Committee received an update regarding recent public information activities. Melissa Loe and Lucy Walker discussed future plans for the annual report/communications plan. The Committee discussed, provided guidance to staff and decided to continue to review at future meetings.

VI. Public Policy Report

The committee received a public policy report by Angela Lello and Belinda Carlton which included updated information on the proposals for a 5% budget reduction of state funds this biennium that state agencies were requested to prepare by state leadership. A brief report of Biennial Report activities was given by Lello.

VII. Future TCDD Public Policy Collaboration Activities

The Committee discussed future public policy collaboration activities. The Committee decided to recommend that the Council adopt a deadline by which a decision should be made on future activities.

MOTION: To recommend that the Council make a decision regarding future public policy collaboration activities no later than the May 2010 quarterly meeting.
MADE BY: Mateo Delgado
SECOND: Hunter Adkins
ABSTAIN: Lora Taylor, Amy Sharp, and Frank Genco
The motion passed with opposition by Kris Bissmeyer.

VIII. Other Discussion Items

The Committee had no additional discussion items.


There being no further business, Tisch adjourned the meeting at 4:15 PM.

Roger A. Webb, Secretary to the Council


Attachment 1: Education Position Statement

All people with disabilities in Texas should have the opportunity to achieve their maximum potential for independence, productivity and integration into the community. Education is a lifelong learning process which is vital to attaining a full and complete life. The postsecondary results of an appropriate public school education for students with disabilities should be evidenced by employment, enrollment in postsecondary education, or both within one year of leaving high school.
The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities believes that all students regardless of individual needs must be provided with individualized appropriate instruction, research-based positive behavioral supports, access to the general curriculum, and related services in the least restrictive environment. Related services include but are not limited to adaptive aids, assistive technology, modifications, therapies and supplementary aides. The delivery of individually appropriate instruction and related services must be provided by qualified teachers and service providers with administrative support and opportunities for continued/ongoing professional development in all areas of identified need. It is the position of the Council, as well as the policy of the state, that all children should be treated with dignity and respect when addressing their behavioral and disciplinary needs.
The Council believes charter schools or schools accepting voucher payments must provide students the same educational rights and opportunities that they would be accorded in the public education system. The Council believes that schools that accept state money to educate students must accept any student with a developmental disability who may apply for admission to that school, abide by federal and state education laws that protect the rights of students with disabilities, abide by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act that requires any entity receiving federal funds to include people with disabilities in its program, and accept any student at the state rate of payment asking for no additional tuition or fees beyond the normal fees required by the student’s independent school district. If these criteria are not met, then the Council adamantly opposes publicly funded school vouchers and charter schools. The Council is opposed to any initiative that would deplete funds from the public education system and ultimately from funds available for the education of students with disabilities.
The Council believes that full inclusion should be approached as a value and underlying philosophy by which we educate all students. We believe that successful inclusion requires that teacher education programs prepare all educators and administrators to work with the full range of students in inclusive settings. Special education is not a separate educational system, but rather a service provided to people with specific needs within the general educational system. Professional preparation programs should emphasize the shared responsibility of all educators and administrators for every student.
The Council believes that full inclusion requires the ongoing, shared responsibility of students, parents, guardians, educators, administrators and the community at large.
It is therefore the position of the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities that all students have a right to learn, play and work with students their own age, with and without disabilities, in the same schools, classrooms and other educational programs attended by their brothers, sisters and neighbors, and that schools, classrooms and programs must be both physically and programmatically accessible to all students.
Reviewed February 12, 2010

Attachment 2: Criminal Competency Position Statement

People with disabilities often experience more frequent contact with the criminal justice system than other individuals for a variety of reasons, including discrimination, lack of knowledge and training about disabilities, and inadequate community supports. People with developmental disabilities are more likely than the general population to be arrested, convicted, sentenced to prison, and victimized while there.1 Once individuals with disabilities enter the system, inadequate representation in criminal proceedings furthers unfavorable outcomes.
People with developmental disabilities may have functional support needs in one or more spheres of mental functioning that involve perceptual, memory, and judgment modalities. Their ability to process and retain information and to relate cause and effect may be may be affected. Accommodating individuals with cognitive and mental health disabilities in the criminal justice system thus presents various hurdles.2 A particular problem is invalid and inconsistent assessments for:
1) competency to stand trial; and
2) criminal responsibility due to mental disease or defect (the insanity defense) as current assessment procedures do not fully address the needs of people with disabilities.
The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities believes that the following fundamental principles apply to people with disabilities who undergo competency evaluations.

  • People with cognitive and mental health disabilities 3 have the right to equal protection and due process under the law.
  • People with disabilities are entitled to certain protections, rights and benefits under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and these protections, rights and benefits extend to involvement in the criminal justice system.
  • A diagnosis of mental retardation or mental illness does not necessarily mean that a person is incompetent to stand trial, but it is incumbent upon counsel and the court to raise competency as an issue in appropriate cases and at any point in the proceedings where the defendant’s competency is in question.

The Council believes that criminal assessment procedures must fully address the needs of people with disabilities and include the following components:

  • Early intervention that includes a valid and clinically appropriate disability screening prior to, during, and following arrest, and comprehensive officer training in booking and intake procedures of individuals with developmental disabilities.
  • Ongoing training of criminal justice professionals that is based on research and best practices in assessment of individuals with disabilities. Curriculum should include training on recognizing the possible existence of a developmental or psychiatric disability, appropriate communication skills, and stereotypes and stigma about disabilities unrelated to criminal activity.
  • A competency evaluation that is performed by skilled professionals who have specialized training and experience in forensic evaluation. This specialized training should include training in legal competency for adults and fitness to proceed for juveniles.
  • Due process protections that include reliable, age-specific and culturally competent assessments of and standards for:
    • Determining the existence of cognitive and mental health disabilities — example formats include the uniform mental health assessment and the diagnostic eligibility for mental retardation and related conditions formats; and
    • Determining legal competency for adults and fitness to proceed for juveniles — example instruments include the CAST-MR (Competency Assessment for Standing Trial for Defendants with MR) and the MacCAT-CA (MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool – Criminal Adjudication).
  • These assessments should take into account any relevant impact on the results because of the individual’s cultural background, primary language, communication style, physical or sensory impairments, motivation, attentiveness, or emotional factors.
  • Reasonable accommodations must be provided at all stages of criminal proceedings to assist the individual in understanding and participating in the proceedings and their defense.

The Council recognizes that early intervention, assessment due process protections, and reasonable accommodations are overlapping components of a system that is responsive to the needs to people with disabilities and that these components must be available to alleged offenders at all stages of the individual’s involvement in the criminal justice system.
Reviewed February 12, 2010
**While the preferred terminology for “mental retardation” has changed to “intellectual and developmental disabilities,” mental retardation is still used in this position statement because of legal implications based on a specific diagnosis of “mental retardation.”

Attachment 3: Children and Families Position Statement

All children belong in families that provide love, caring, nurturing, bonding and a sense of belonging and permanence that best enables them to grow, develop and thrive. Children with disabilities are no different from other children in their need for the unique benefits that come only from growing up in a permanent family relationship. All children benefit and are enriched by being part of an inclusive environment that promotes physical, social, and intellectual well-being and leads to independence and self-determination.
Families of children with disabilities often need supports and services to sustain family life and keep their child at home and included in the community. Family support services are intended to strengthen the family’s role as primary caregiver, prevent expensive out-of-home placement of individuals with disabilities, maintain family unity, and foster self-determination.
The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities believes that:

  • All children can and should live in a family. All children need a family to best grow, develop and thrive. All children deserve the love, nurturing and permanency that are unique to family life.
  • Families come from many cultures and are multidimensional. No matter its composition or cultural background, a family offers a child a home and a lifelong commitment to love, belonging and permanency. Parents with disabilities are capable of and do provide loving families and homes to children.
  • Families, including parents with disabilities, should have available the level of supports and services needed to keep children with disabilities in their own homes. Family support services should include, but are not limited to, respite care, provision of rehabilitation and assistive technologies, personal assistant services, parent training and counseling, vehicular and home modifications, and assistance with extraordinary expenses associated with disabilities. In addition, since the vast majority (over 85%) of individuals with disabilities reside with families in their own households, families of children with disabilities need access to appropriate child care and to before- and after-school programs. Child care for children with disabilities should be affordable, safe, appropriate and in the most integrated setting.
  • Providers of family support services must have education and training that will prepare them to work with people with disabilities in inclusive settings to achieve this goal.
  • To be effective and beneficial, supports and services must be easy to access, family-driven, individualized, flexible to changing needs and circumstances, culturally sensitive and based on functional needs rather than categorical labels.
  • When children cannot remain in their own families, for whatever reason, they still deserve to live and grow up in a family. The first priority should be to reunite the family through the infusion of services and supports. When that is not possible and the family can remain actively involved in the child’s life, the natural family should be a key participant in selecting an alternate family situation for their child, including foster families, co-parenting and adoption.
  • When families are not actively involved in their child’s life, permanency planning must occur to allow the child to live in a family.
  • School districts are an integral source of information and training for parents. Coordination among school districts and outside agencies is critical to provide parents with accurate, timely information regarding services and eligibility requirements.
  • The state Child Protective Services system is essential to guarantee that all children are safe from abuse and neglect. Support of the families of children with disabilities from this system is critical to make sure children remain in a safe, family environment and are not unnecessarily removed from families due to the absence of necessary services and supports.

The Council also believes that when children with disabilities grow up in families, the community at large accepts the value of providing supports to children and families at home so that children become and remain participants and contributors to their communities.
The Council believes that the state of Texas should adopt a public policy statement recognizing the value of families in children’s lives and develop programs, policies and funding mechanisms that allow all children to live and grow up in a family.
Reviewed February 12, 2010

Attachment 4: Family Support Services Position Statement

National caregiver studies estimate that more than 85 percent of individuals with developmental disabilities reside with and rely on their families for care. Families that care for individuals with disabilities range from young parents learning to care for children with physical and mental disabilities, to parents caring for teenagers and young adults with disabilities, to frail and elderly parents of aging, dependent adults with disabilities. Emotional, social and economic challenges accompany a family’s commitment to their family member with a developmental disability. To provide sustained care for a child, a sibling, or an adult with disabilities, families need access to supports and services.
Services to families with a family member with disabilities have a dual focus. Those services support the health and integrity of family units, and they maximize the strengths and potential of individuals with disabilities to independently participate in and be included in their communities. During childhood, family support services are intended to strengthen the family’s role as primary caregiver and prevent institutional placement of individuals with disabilities. Throughout an individual’s life span, family support services are intended to strengthen and maintain family connections while fostering self-determination, independence, and participation in school, job, recreational and community settings. Adequate support services must be available to people with disabilities so that they can remain in the community rather than face inappropriate institutional placements.
The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities supports the provision of a full array of flexible family support services that include but are not limited to:

  • adaptive equipment and specialized clothing;
  • assistive technology devices and services;
  • counseling services;
  • financial assistance with the extra expenses of providing support;
  • home modifications;
  • leisure-time planning; person-centered comprehensive planning for transition from early childhood to school, from school to adult life, and from adult life to retirement;
  • personal assistance services/direct care services;
  • respite care that is affordable, safe, age-appropriate and in the most integrated setting;
  • service coordination including information and referral services;
  • training to empower people with disabilities and their families to advocate for lifestyles they choose;
  • transportation; and
  • vehicular modifications.

Providers of family support services must have education and training that will prepare them to work with families and people with disabilities of all ages in inclusive settings to maximize each individual’s potential and inclusion with their peer groups.
To be effective and beneficial, family supports and services must be affordable, easy to access, designed by the individual and their family, individualized based on functional needs, flexible to changing needs and circumstances, and culturally sensitive.
Reviewed February 12, 2010


  1. Up to 24 percent of this country’s adult prison populations are individuals with mental retardation. (Dagher-Margosian, J., Representing the Cognitively Disabled Client in a Criminal Case, Disabilities Project Newsletter, State Bar of Michigan, Volume 2, Issue 2, March 2006, Committee on Justice Initiatives and Equal Access Initiative Disabilities Project, Retrieved 9-24-09.) 
  2. It is estimated that between 50-75 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have diagnosable mental health disorders. (Texas Juvenile Probation Commission. “Mental Health and Juvenile Justice in Texas.” 2003.) 
  3. 20-35% of all persons with intellectual disabilities have a co-occurring psychiatric disorder. (Effective Interagency Collaboration for People with Co-Occurring Mental Illness and Developmental Disabilities (PDF), Kathryn duPree, Deputy Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Mental Retardation Retrieved September 24, 2009.)