January 2024 in Review

January wasn’t as busy as some other months of my reign because I was ill in December and am still catching up. The illness may have slowed me down a bit but it did not stop me, so I still have some advocacy updates.

On the first Tuesday of January, I attended the initial Breaking Silences Advocacy Committee meeting of 2024. Representatives from the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) answered questions that committee members had regarding the wage increase for home care providers and how the increase will be rolled out. Honestly, while I am very grateful for the wage increase, I will admit that most of what I hear about the state budget and the wage increase roll out is very confusing. With that being said, I was very grateful to hear that ODM is working very hard to reach out to providers on a personal level via email and surveys to make sure that they understand the wage increase and are receiving it. I was happy and relieved to hear that ODM is doing its due diligence and helping to ensure that the wage increases are being rolled out. There is still ambiguity in terms of what the wage increases will look like for those who need long-term nursing care. Furthermore, there is some ambiguity as to who qualifies for long-term nursing care. I was able to point out to the ODM during the meeting that, while Ohio makes it seem a lot more complicated, there are some people with disabilities that should qualify for long-term nursing care just based upon the fact that their care requires a skilled nursing task that they are unable to perform with their own hands. Others on the committee agreed with me. I am very glad that my voice was heard. I am hopeful that the other advocates on the committee and I will have a lasting impact on the Ohio disability community in 2024 and for many years to come.

On January 16th, I participated in my first Healthy Relationships and Sexuality Education webinar geared toward parents. During the webinar, we discussed the classes that Greene County Board of Developmental Disabilities hopes to soon hold for youth and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities to help them learn about sexuality and how to navigate healthy relationships. I am happy to say that the webinar went well and was well attended by parents who asked a lot of questions. In fact, so many questions were asked that the webinar went 30 minutes over its scheduled time. I am so pleased that so many parents were interested in hearing about the classes and were willing to listen to our presentation. I can’t wait to help youth learn about navigating healthy relationships when I help to teach the classes. On a side note, we did not have an assistant that afternoon, so I didn’t think I would be able to put my Ms. Wheelchair Ohio regalia on prior to the presentation but, as it turns out, I was able to put my crown on independently and I was able to put my sash on with the help of my husband, Dylan Boot. This may not seem like a very big deal but to us it was actually quite an accomplishment.

On January 25th, I attended the virtual town hall hosted by Disability Rights Ohio. The directors of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, the Ohio Department of Medicaid, and the Ohio Department of Aging were all present at the meeting to tell attendees about how the money in the 2023 budget is going to be allocated and utilized.  A large portion of the discussion at the meeting was about how Ohio is going to ensure that direct service providers get the raises that they very much deserve. I was happy to hear that the departments have specific plans to make sure that the money goes to the right people. This includes surveying various providers and creating plain language documents to make sure that providers understand the level of pay raise that they should receive. This made my heart so happy. I realize that statewide and nationwide we still have a long way to go but I am hopeful that this may be a start to the end of the home care crisis.

February will be the last full month of my reign which I truly have mixed feelings about. If I am being honest, I fear that people will not take me as seriously once I am a former state title holder and not a current state title holder. Only time will tell, but my advocacy will never stop regardless. I already have some speeches scheduled for after my reign is complete, so please continue to follow my social media platforms throughout February and beyond. I am grateful for all my followers and supporters and would really appreciate your continued support.