This Blog post was written by Stephanie Savarese. For more information on health initiatives spearheaded by Special Olympics Massachusetts, email her at; Stephanie.Savarese@specialolympicsma.org
Imagine if you had to call 10, 20, or 50 doctors before you found one who felt comfortable seeing you, let alone would accept your insurance and have an appointment available. That’s what it is like for people with intellectual disabilities today. It’s hard to believe that our athletes, the same ones who train and show such athleticism on the field, have to endure so many barriers in order to access quality healthcare. The truth is, the majority of health professionals (doctors, nurses, mental health workers, etc) spend no time, none at all, learning about how to interact with people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The result: a population that is suffering. Our athletes, despite their will to be fit and strong, are 40% more likely to suffer preventable secondary health conditions than people without their disability. The amazing thing is that their disparaging conditions have nothing to do with their disability…it’s all about access to healthcare.
So where do we start? Here at Special Olympics Massachusetts we believe the answer is education. First, Special Olympics Massachusetts has announced a partnership with UMass Medical School of Worcester in the development of curriculum meant to address the behavioral aspects of treating individuals with intellectual disabilities. There is a great video here you’ll want to see; http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-263104
If we educate our doctors, nurses and psychiatrists about this population, our hope is that they will see that they can, and should, accept people with disabilities into their practice. With such a strong belief in this, you can imagine how thrilled we were to learn about House Bill 2116. House Bill 2116 mandates all healthcare providers complete training to address the health needs of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Without proper training, many people will continue to see healthcare providers who are ill equipped to deal with the specific medical needs of patients with ID/DD, if they are able to access care at all. Please support our goals of helping improve the quality and access of healthcare for all people with intellectual disabilities by supporting this bill. You can send an automatically generated email that will show your support by following this link to an action alert provided by the Arc. Thanks to the Arc for all the great advocacy work they do! Hopefully we’ll have good news to report soon…