House approves tax-free disability accounts, bill moves to Senate. The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to approve a bill that would establish a new way for people with disabilities to save money without risking their government benefits. The Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act passed by a vote of 404 to 17 on Wednesday. The measure will now move to the Senate. (Disability Scoop, Dec. 4)
Congress finds causes to agree on: the ABLE Act. Congress is set to approve the first major piece of legislation affecting Americans with disabilities in nearly 25 years with sweeping, bipartisan support. It’s a distinction shared by no other major piece of legislation taken up by this Congress. (USA Today, Nov. 26)
Supreme Court to weigh police obligations under ADA. The central issue is how the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires government agencies to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities, applies to police conduct toward a person with mental illness who may be violent. (Disability Scoop, Dec. 2)
Steve Gleason asks Twitter to help him get Medicare to pay for the internet. Retired NFL player Steve Gleason put out a request on Twitter to campaign to reverse a new Medicare rule for people who qualify for coverage on communication devices to give them the ability to access the internet, have third-party software or have access to the device in hospice or the hospital. Gleason retired from the league after eight seasons in 2008 and was diagnosed with ALS in 2011.
How brain scans can diagnose autism with 97 percent accuracy. Right now, diagnosing autism relies heavily on interviews and behavioral observations. But new research published in PLoS One shows that reading a person’s thoughts through an fMRI brain scan might be able to diagnose autism with close to perfect accuracy. (Time magazine, Dec. 2)
De Blasio task force proposes changes to address mental health in New York City’s criminal-justice system. New York City would spend $130 million over four years to address the large number of mentally ill people in the criminal-justice system under a plan proposed by a mayoral task force. Among the recommendations by the Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System: decreased use of punitive segregation for all inmates, training for corrections officers to, and expanded substance use treatment. The city also plans to increase support for people as they leave custody, including Medicaid enrollment and supportive housing placement. (The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 1)
New Mexico sues nursing home chain on care, staff. New Mexico’s attorney general has sued one of the nation’s largest nursing home chains over inadequate resident care, alleging that thin staffing made it numerically impossible to provide good care.
40 Percent of older adults report having a disability. About half of older adults with a disability lived in nine of the most populous states: California, Florida, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and North Carolina. (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 2)
Self-driving cars, a potential lifeline for people with disabilities. The self-driving care could prove to be a life-changing breakthrough for many people with disabilities, granting them a new measure of independence. … Automakers have demonstrated cars capable of self-driving operation, and in August the chief executive of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, said the automaker would offer a car with “autonomous drive technology” by 2020. (The New York Times, Nov. 7)
Aging advocates in Kansas urge passage of caregiver legislation. AARP Kansas leaders hope to introduce the Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable (CARE) Act in the upcoming legislative session. The bill is still in draft form, but it is intended to allow patients to designate a caregiver upon admission to the hospital and to require hospitals to demonstrate follow-up care instructions for caregivers before their loved ones are sent home. (Kansas Health Institute, Dec. 1)
New approach with older addicts at nursing home. A surge in baby boomers has driven up the number of elderly people abusing drugs or alcohol, bringing more attention to the sometimes-delicate problems involved in treating addiction in the aging. (The Washington Post, Nov. 30)
Iowans with disabilities still wait for help, despite new money. More than 9,000 Iowans are waiting, often for more than two years, for therapies and services to help them deal with mental or physical disabilities, despite $6 million that legislators earmarked last spring to reduce the number of those waiting for help. (The Des Moines Register, Dec. 2)
Mental health initiative for veterans to take next step. Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus laid out the Texas Veterans Initiative, which is starting with a $1 million investment from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to match local and private funds to expand and better coordinate mental health care services in communities. (The Texas Tribune, Dec. 2)
The evolution of prosthetic devices: A patent history. The history of prosthetic device development has shown that people are interested in prostheses both for regaining mobility lost through amputation or for cosmetic cover-ups, and that the two aren’t always intertwined. (IP Watchdog, Dec. 1)
If everybody had an ocean, could we surf our way to mental health? Waves for Change is an innovative new program that uses surfing and therapy to promote mental health. It offers surf lessons, a safe space and a sense of family — together with life skills training and the opportunity to speak with a counselor. (NPR, Dec. 2)
New gene studies suggest there are hundreds of kinds of autism. “What we’ve learned in the last five years about the underlying genetics is that there are hundreds, if not a thousand or more, different genetic subtypes of autism,” says geneticist David Ledbetter, chief scientific officer at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania. (Wired, Nov. 25)