2020 Presidential Primary Candidate Survey on Disability
Steve Bullock’s Responses
Employment: What are your views on paying a subminimum wage based on disability?
I support eliminating the subminimum wage. It my priority to ensure competitive integrated employment for all individuals with disabilities. increasing job training opportunities for people with disabilities. In Montana, we have worked hard to substantially reduce subminimum wage employment by more than 40% since the passage of the WIOA. Further, I would work to increase funding for career opportunities through state partnerships to ensure that there are more workplace opportunities for people with disabilities.
Assistive Technology: What do you plan to do to increase access to assistive technology for people with disabilities who need it to effectively and independently engage in their communities?
While advances in assistive technology can create new opportunities for people with disabilities, the inability to access AT can be isolating and intensely frustrating.
One important opportunity for the federal government to help increase AT opportunities comes in the reauthorization of IDEA. With one-quarter of students reporting that they have not been able to use AT in the classroom, and nearly 90% of teachers acknowledging that they do not fully understand the capabilities of AT, we can and should update IDEA to increase training for teachers about AT, and encourage more funding for use of AT in the classroom.
Similarly, we need to make sure that federally-supported job training centers and VA facilities are better-equipped to help connect people with disabilities to the tools that can help them get their next job, and examine tax credits for employers who invest in assistive technology for employees.
I will also push to increase federal funding for university centers on disabilities, which help connect individuals with AT. These centers accomplish a lot with minimal resources, and will be able to increase the reach of their efforts with better federal investment.
Special Education: How would you propose to strengthen the IDEA when it is reauthorized so that it truly fulfills its stated purpose of preparing children with disabilities for post-secondary education, employment, and independent living, including children with the most significant disabilities?
I have called for the federal government to meet the original promise of IDEA through full funding. As a governor, I know first-hand how local school districts are limited by the lack of full funding, as states are often called upon to make up the gap. Beyond the money, it is vital that any reauthorization of IDEA support the smart deployment of AT in schools.
Additionally, I have called for an increase in the availability of high-quality accessible child care, but as we seek to increase the availability of child care, it is critically important that we have sufficient early intervention providers so that children with disabilities are given every opportunity at an early age.
Mental Health Services: What is your vision for a system of services to support people with mental illness?
I am deeply concerned that there remains a stigma around mental health and that in turn leads to inadequate services and treatment. There also are significant disparities around mental health that impact communities of color — for example, NAMI reports that African Americans and Hispanic Americans use mental health services at about one-half the rate of Caucasians and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate. We see the impact of stigma in other ways, from the appalling number of veteran suicides to an elevated risk of suicide attempts among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
According to NAMI, approximately 10% of children and adolescents have mental illnesses, yet only 20% of those are identified and receiving services. Early identification and intervention is key. Thus my administration would:
– Increase funding opportunities for school-based mental health screening and interventions, anti-bullying programs and de-stigmatization efforts.
– Work with states that have yet to pass Medicaid expansion to encourage passage. Medicaid expansion makes a meaningful difference in early mental health diagnosis, and treatment.
– Increase funding and support for tele-health options for areas underserved by mental health professionals.
– Lift the ban on CDC gun violence research. With 60% of suicide deaths involving a firearm, we need access to research and red flag laws.
– Finally, further research is needed as we don’t have a great detail about the efficacy of targeted suicide prevention programs. More research and program evaluation dollars are needed to determine best practices and help non-profits, state and local governments and even federal agencies determine whether we are reaching at-risk people effectively.
Workforce Shortage: Please explain how you would address this immediate and growing workforce shortage?
In order to improve provider capacity and serve people in hard-to-reach areas, my administration would:
– Increase the federal role in student loan repayment for mental health professionals and direct support professionals.
– Increase incentives for direct care workers in rural and underserved communities.
– Create a new grant program for training physician assistants in psychiatry (only 1.3% of PAs are currently trained in psychiatry). This training program can have special attention paid to recruiting minority PAs – as more than 90% of psychiatry-trained PAs today are white. Additional diversity in the field can help to break down barriers that can prevent people from obtaining needed care.
– My administration would work with care providers to encourage apprenticeships for direct support professionals to further develop a needed workforce.
– Since mental health issues present at a higher rate among Medicaid patients than the overall population, we would incentivize accountable care organizations and managed care organizations to create accountability in state Medicaid programs for integrating behavioral health and physical health care.