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Gregory Bush is a retired U.S. history professor from the University of Miami who now lives in Blue Hill. He started NatureLinksmaine.org in Miami in 2007.
This column is to inform the broader community about the passage of a state law that was initiated by area parents and shepherded through the legislative process — with great skill and patience — by Rep. Sarah Pebworth, a Democrat serving District 133, and Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth. It became law on July 15. The bill established a task force to study the coordination of services and expansion of educational programs for young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities to identify barriers to full societal integration
The bill, L.D. 924, was originally the product of parent concerns about the fate of post-secondary young adults with intellectual disabilities who all too often “fall off the cliff” after graduating from high school. Most cannot attend college. They live at home because there are no adequate housing alternatives or community educational centers. As a result there are few adult education classes for them, and there is little for them to do.
Parents, often older folks with concerns about their child’s future direction, held numerous meetings expressing frustration at the myriad state agencies involved, the complex bureaucratic procedures that are so intimidating to many caregivers and the lack of clarity in terms of programs and information about public benefits.
Overall, the waste of state resources involved can be more efficiently harnessed with better state guidance. No one person or agency is at fault.
Residents of rural Maine are especially vulnerable in this regard, due to the lack of nearby programs and transportation. As a result, many young adults with much to offer and so many possibilities for growth remain hidden, stuck at home, often lonely, endlessly watching social media and unconnected to other young adults.
We started Naturelinksmaine.org as one (now online) outlet, yet more coordinated attention online and in terms of live instruction is needed in this regard at the state level — with inclusion into the larger population as a central goal.
Both Pebworth and Luchini listened closely to the concerns of parents, provided feedback on the evolving legislation, and worked with state officials over several years to oversee passage of the final legislation. We thank them and hope that additional creative forces can emerge in the coming months to enhance the civil rights of this long-overlooked population.