One of the true measures of a society is how well it cares for those who cannot, through no fault of their own, care for themselves.

My brother-in-law is intellectually and medically disabled and lives with mental illness. He has lived with these challenges since birth. He relies on a well-trained workforce and person-centered plan to allow him to function. He lives in a group home and attends a day program in Brunswick.

When the Legislature passed the budget last year, it incorporated into law a recommended 125% of the minimum wage be paid to direct-support professionals. Without notice, Maine DHHS changed the reimbursement formula and agencies received nowhere near that amount. My brother-in-law’s agency is short more than $300,000 because of this tactic, and this year’s supplemental budget did not provide the relief needed.

While Gov. Janet Mills and the Legislature put forth a plan to stop the closure of two veterans’ homes and provide oversight for the future, over a two-week period, 30 group homes for individuals with disabilities have closed. Many more will follow.

Does this administration not value people with disabilities equally to our veteran population? Now Maine’s DHHS has put in place its interpretation of federal Home and Community Based Services regulations that appear to be designed only for very minimally disabled individuals.

I fear the 2,000 individuals with disabilities on the waitlist will be a drop in the bucket compared to what is ahead. I call on the Legislature to not only fully fund into law the 125% minimum wage increase for direct support professionals but also to oversee DHHS as it does not appear to be committed to the well-being of those individuals it is charged to care for.

Please contact your Maine legislator today to pay for the critical needs of our most-overlooked group of fellow Mainers.

Albert Edwards