Point of View: Support and acknowledge the success of your neighbors

You might have seen them waving signs at WKFL Park, or in the offices of our legislators. You might have heard them on the radio or on numerous websites talking about the Key Campaign. They are the Key Coalition of Alaska, a coordinated effort of parents, friends, individuals, state organizations and the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education coming together in a coalition.

The Key Coalition of Alaska has a simple goal. To realize an Alaska where anyone living with a disability can live the life they choose with support they direct.

During this year’s Key Campaign, advocates will be educating communities and elected officials on three priority areas.

One concerns the reform of the State of Alaska’s “waitlist” for individuals with disabilities to qualify under state regulations to access disability services. Currently, there are more than 500 individuals in Alaska waiting for access to services. In 2016, Alaska reduced the number of new recipients to 50 annually. Meaning people currently on the waitlist may be waiting for another decade until the state acts on their needs.

A second focus is for an investment in funding of Intellectual and Developmental Disability Services. The Key Campaign is advocating for updating rate methodology and ensuring that current rate increases are not delayed as they currently are.

The third priority is around Social Determinants of Health and advocacy for any initiatives, efforts or actions that promote independence, self-sufficiency, and/or universal access. And not just to the members of the IDD Community. Social Determinants of Health are things like adequate food and housing. Access to transportation, communication and education. These things are important to all of us, but for people living with disabilities, there are additional barriers making access to these determinants more difficult.

If you think housing is difficult in Homer right now, imagine trying to find housing that supports a disability. Or finding accessible transportation to Save-U-More to get a week’s groceries or to Homer Medical for your physical health. A person living with a disability wants the same opportunities that everyone wants: to thrive, not just survive. They want to live in their own homes and make decisions about their daily lives; they want to go to school, attend church, work and participate and contribute fully in their local community.

In Homer, agencies like South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services, Independent Living Center, Consumer Direct, and others provide individually directed services and support to anyone living with a disability. But it isn’t just agencies that can make a difference. Businesses, churches, private homes all have capacity to encourage those Social Determinants of Health.

As an individual, you can make a difference as well. You have the capacity to ask and listen. Instead of assuming you know what might be best for another person, ask them. What do they need to be successful? What does success mean to them? What kind of support would they need to make that happen?

As humans, we often believe that our pathways to success are the same pathways others must take. Resist the urge to tell someone what success is, try not to define it on your terms, rather let others define what success means to them. Then you have the opportunity to share which pathways have you chosen that may closely align with theirs, and which pathways don’t.

As a member of the MAPP Steering Committee, I try and look at the 8 Dimensions of Wellness (Spiritual, Economic, Emotional, Environmental, Cultural, Intellectual, Physical, and Social) and how our community operates within them. I can’t help but see a parallel between MAPP’s 8 Dimensions and the Key Campaign’s Social Determinants of Health.

So as you think of your own determinants of health, remember the Key Campaign and all of those members of our community that have additional barriers to attaining their own goals.

And who knows, maybe supporting a few people in their efforts will simultaneously increase your own sense of well-being. It’s worth a shot.

Jay Bechtol is on the MAPP Steering Committee and is the CEO of South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services. He has over thirty years of social service experience working with children, adults and families.