Capital Area Transit Provides Student Summer Fun Passes

Every summer, Capital Area Transit provides students with an affordable way to get around the Bismarck-Mandan area. A Student Summer Fun Pass costs just $20. This pass is available to students in K-12 as well as college students. In order to qualify, K-12 students just need to verify their age. College students must present a current student identification.

The Student Summer Fun Pass is good for unlimited rides from Memorial Day through Labor Day each year. To purchase a pass, you need to present exact cash or check to CAT drivers or stop in at the CAT’s administrative office located at 3750 East Rosser Avenue in Bismarck.

NCD Releases Update on Transportation Access Report Update

The National Council on Disability (NCD) released a comprehensive assessment on transportation for people with disabilities on May 4, 2015. The report picks up ten years after NDC’s 2005 publication of “The Current State of Transportation for People with Disabilities in the United States,” which, in part, led to major improvements in accessible transportation.

The report released on May 4, titled “Transportation Update: Where We’ve Gone and What We’ve Learned,” outlines both the progress made in the last decade and discusses persistent barriers that still remain. The NCD chair, Jeff Rosen states, “Much has happened in the last decade. More people with disabilities are riding public transit than ever before and yet, in many areas, significant barriers to ground transportation for Americans with disabilities remain pervasive.”

Rosen goes on to discuss taxi alternatives such as Uber, SideCar, Lyft, and others that could open up business opportunities that could provide much-needed travel options for people with disabilities.

Here are a few of the findings:

  • Taxi alternatives: Emerging transportation models like Uber, SideCar, and Lyft have vigorously resisted regulations that are usually imposed on the taxicab sector. Uber has openly claimed that it is not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Fixed Route Buses: Ridership of fixed route bus transit and rail systems have grown far faster than ridership on ADA paratransit.
  • Paratransit: There have been gains in the best practices in areas of eligibility, telephone hold time, on-time performance, no-show policies, etc.
  • Rural Transportation: The lack of rural transportation is a serious barrier to employment, accessible health care, and full participation in society.
  • Best Practices: Oregon, Iowa, and Main provide examples of positive coordination of transportation programs for people with disabilities. Cities such as Chicago, New York City, and Rhode Island still lack adequate wheelchair accessible taxi programs even though they have made progress.

New Medicare Cards to be Issued

In April, President Obama signed a bill that will end the use of Social Security numbers on Medicare cards. Currently, more than 4,500 people sign up for Medicare each day. Nearly 18 million people will qualify for Medicare within the next decade. This will bring Medicare enrollment up to 74 million people by 2025.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will begin issuing cards with new identifiers over the next four years. They will have an additional four years to reissue cards to current beneficiaries. The Medicare numbers that will be replacing the Social Security number currently listed on cards will be randomly generated.

It is thought that this change will help to protect Americans on Medicare. It will prevent them from having their Social Security number exposed; however, there will still be a possibility for scams to occur. It is important to always protect yourself against scams. Medicare will never call you or visit you at home.

Medicaid to Cover Mental Health Services at the Same Level as Medical and Surgical Services

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are proposing new regulations that would require Medicaid to cover mental health services at the same level as other medical and surgical services. This rule would hold Medicaid to the standard established under a federal law passed in 2008. Regulations issued in 2013 are similar in that they already require most private health insurance plans to cover mental health services at the same level as medical and surgical. Officials with the National Association of Medicaid Directors are welcoming this rule, but warn that it will likely take years to see the full impact.

Medicaid has become the largest payer of mental health services in the country and this proposed rule will help to allow more people to get the care they need. Nearly 12 million visits made to United States hospital emergency departments in 2007 involved individuals with a mental disorder, substance abuse problem, or both.

Many people who participate in Medicare do not have adequate insurance protection against the cost of treatment for mental and substance abuse disorders. The new proposed rule will affect:

  • copays, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums
  • Limitations on services utilization (limit on the number of inpatient/outpatient days that are covered
  • Coverage for out-of-network providers
  • Criteria for medical necessity determinations

The new proposed rule also would mandate that Medicaid programs provide a reason a beneficiary was denied treatment. The rule will be open for public comment through June 9.

People Help People with the New Be My Eyes App

Be My Eyes is an app that gives individuals with low vision or blindness more opportunities to be independent. This app connects people with low vision or blindness to people who are sighted.

Sited volunteers can download the app on their iPhone or iPad and create an account as a site helper. Users with low vision or blindness also create an account but do so as a blind user. When a person with low vision or blindness needs a set of eyes, they can open up the app and send a request for assistance. Once a person accepts the request, the two can now communicate with one another. The camera on the phone of the person with low vision or blindness will be activated so the helper can see what the person’s camera is capturing.

This app launched last fall and so far there are 198,886 sited helpers, 17,589 users, and 65,930 instances where people were helped through the app. This app is a free app and is currently only available through the Apple store for Apple devices. There will be an app for Android supporting devices coming out soon.

Check out the website for Be My Eyes for more information and video that gives some example uses.

ABLE Act Gaining Traction in States

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was enacted at the federal level at the end of last year. Since then, 45 states are pursuing ABLE accounts this year to allow families to set aside funds in tax preferred accounts for disability related expenses. Over 29 states have already filed ABLE bills this legislative session.

On March 24, the ABLE Act was passed in North Dakota. As of yet, the legislation is rather vague. It is unknown if it will be following the federal guidelines completely or if there will be guidelines specific to North Dakota. As of right now, it is thought that this program will follow the federal guidelines. This program will be administered by the Bank of North Dakota. They will make sure that it is in compliance with IRS standards. The Bank of North Dakota may impose an annual administrative fee to recover expenses.

If you want to learn more about the ABLE Act, check out the ten things you need to know about the ABLE Act.

A Note on Bullying from our Systems/Community Advocate

I present a bully prevention program. This program is near and dear to my heart because I was bullied growing up. I haven’t had to experience bullying since high school, until recently. While I was at a school presenting the bully prevention program, I was bullied (trust me, I see the irony).

I began the program by defining bullying and soon moved into various bullying situation examples. One of the examples talked about how someone throws a piece of paper at someone. A student then interjected with, “How do you throw a piece of paper?” He held up one of the handouts I had given out as an example.  I had to laugh a little at the odd question. I answered it and moved on.

Soon, odd interjections began to turn into rude comments. Students giggled during videos that discussed bullying and suicide. They said mean things about the kids in the videos. I looked to the teachers to speak up, but none of them did. I pressed the issue of the seriousness of bullying and soon moved on. I began to talk about how students could stop being bystanders and stand up for their classmates. I gave an example of what someone could say to a friend who is bullying. One of the students jumped on the opportunity, “Oh so we should bully each other?” After clarifying my intention, I asked them how they would handle a bullying situation. No one spoke. I asked again, but still no one spoke.   Again, I looked to the teachers for support, but not one of them spoke up.

I continued on with the presentation. I shared personal stories, as I always do, about being bullied as a teen. I talked about how I was bullied because I was overweight and talked about the impact those moments still have on me today. When I finished this story, I paused.  It was then I heard one of the students say, “She really is fat.”

Being called fat isn’t new to me, but it still hurts as much as the first day I heard it. It brings back a lot of pain that I had locked away. I couldn’t let those four words slide away and I knew I couldn’t let that student win. I gave the teachers one last chance to speak up. When they didn’t, I said, “But I’m fabulous.”

After the presentation, I followed my own presentation’s advice: talk to a trusted adult.  The counselor took down a few names of students and I went with her to the superintendent’s office. When the superintendent said those students are the biggest bullies in their school, I wasn’t surprised.

While the administration at the school seemed to take bullying seriously, the rest of the school did not. Bullying isn’t just a part of growing up and it isn’t just a fact of life. Those are just excuses people use so they can beat people down without the consequences. We need to stand up against bullying because there is no reason big enough to excuse hurting someone for life. Every time we bully someone, we put a wrinkle in their heart and it will never go away.