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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Domestic violence – every 88 minutes

BOISE – Idaho sees an incident of domestic violence between spouses, ex-spouses or those in dating relationships once every 88 minutes.

Luann Dettman, director of the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance, shared that statistic with state lawmakers last week. The state had 22 people die in domestic violence incidents in 2011, she said. That same year there were 5,715 incidents of domestic violence.

“Keep in mind these are only the reported stats,” Dettman told lawmakers. “There are many that go unreported.”

The state council, which is funded almost entirely by a $3.6 million federal grant, worked with 21,631 victims in 2012.

Job support wait list grows

Idaho’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation now has 400 people on a waiting list for extended employment services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, with the average wait time about a year and a half.

“They can get work and work in the community, but they just need some supports so they can keep their job,” said Don Alveshere, division administrator.

In the past year, 615 people in the program had jobs in the community, a 12 percent increase from the previous year, and 444 worked at sheltered workshops, down slightly from 480 the previous year.

Alveshere, who presented his division’s budget request to lawmakers last week, didn’t dwell on the agency’s request for a $170,000 boost to the 100 percent state-funded program next year, as Gov. Butch Otter didn’t recommend funding for the request. It would have allowed the program to serve another 50 to 75 people now on the waiting list, plus provide the first rate increase in four years to providers in the program.

“This is a long-term commitment to these folks,” Alveshere explained. The extended employment services, depending on the level of disability, may be needed for life.

The program provides up to 10 hours a week of services to participants. “Only when we get more funding or some people pass away or leave the system can we … get new people,” Alveshere said.

Asked about the size of the waiting list, Alveshere said it includes some people who previously qualified for employment services under Medicaid, but lost those through recent Medicaid budget cuts. “These are people who, when they’re not receiving these employment services, are almost always receiving some other form of Health and Welfare-related services,” Alveshere said, such as adult day care. “So there is a cost to the state by them not being a part of the program.”

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, co-chair of the Legislature’s joint budget committee, said, “I think that we’ll end up looking at it as we start to work on the numerous budgets in Medicaid, and I know that we’ll be interested in hearing from the germane committees what their recommendations are.”

Budget committee members questioned why Vocational Rehabilitation returned $1.6 million of its 2012 federal grant funds, which go to other programs in the division besides extended employment services. The answer: It didn’t have enough state or local funds to match that portion of its $15.4 million grant.

Otter also didn’t recommend a request from the division for a $236,000 boost in state funding for vocational rehabilitation services, including increasing outreach to businesses and transitioning clients from high school. That would have redirected funds from the former renal disease program, which has been eliminated, and allowed the state to leverage another $333,333 in federal grants for those services. The governor did recommend funding for a $16,500 request for additional interpreting services for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Teachers release plan

The Idaho Education Association has released a report on its recommendations to improve public schools in Idaho, a year in the making from the IEA’s Education Excellence Task Force, which included a dozen top teachers from around the state. The recommendations range from making preschool universally available to low-income families and moving to full-day kindergarten to an end to social promotion; from a streamlined dismissal process for underperforming teachers to a “state clearinghouse of quality online courses developed and taught by Idaho teachers.”

“We believe that there’s something here for everyone,” said IEA President Penni Cyr. “We understand that not all of these ideas may be immediately embraced, and we’re confident many other good ideas will come out of the (governor’s education stakeholder) task force, but we believe we’ve offered a useful framework for addressing the different areas of our school system where meaningful change is not only possible but could pay significant dividends for our children, our workforce and our state.”

IEA spokeswoman Whitney Rearick said, “Everybody’s asking us what are our ideas and thoughts. Now we’ve come out with it.”

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