The Fifth Annual Disabilities Conference took place at the Talking Stick Resort on August 24. The morning started off with a continental breakfast as all the vendors from different companies and organizations that cater to those who have disabilities and/or special needs set up their informational tables. Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members and guests from other communities attended the one-day event.
Social Worker I Rudy Buchanan of the VAII Clubhouse provided the welcome, and the Salt River Young Marines posted the colors. SRPMIC Council Member Tom Largo gave the opening prayer.
Young Community member Adrian “AJ” Shorty shared his experience participating in the Special Olympics earlier this year, playing basketball. Shorty also wore the gold medal that his team won in the event.
Kimberly Yellow Robe, regional public affairs specialist for the Social Security Administration, San Francisco Region, was the keynote speaker for the morning. Yellow Robe explained the process for obtaining Social Security (SS) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in terms of who is eligible to apply and at what age.
“People usually have issues with the Title 2 and Title 16, and we can help them with that,” said Yellow Robe.
There are two kinds of benefits if you apply for disability. Title 2 is dependent on the amount you paid into the Social Security system; you can receive Medicare if you are disabled and on benefits for two years and five months.
The other benefit is Title 16, Supplemental Security Income, which provides benefits and resources to limited-income people and people who are 65 or older, blind or disabled. The Social Security Office will make the final determination as to whether a person qualifies.
Yellow Robe also explained that not all Social Security facilities will accept Salt River tribal identification cards.
For more information on Social Security, call (866) 964-1941, ext. 14050, go online to www.socialsecurity.gov/aian, or email Yellow Robe at Kimberly.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next on the agenda was a panel of individuals and staff from Behavioral Health Services: Marvin Stevens, Mary Miguel, Sterling and June Manuel, and Ruth Perkins. They discussed being caregivers for the seriously mentally ill (SMI) and provided tips on how to work with such individuals that they have learned from their personal experience from on-the-job training that they go through on a daily basis. They also shared how they hold fundraisers to raise money so they can take trips throughout the country to attend conferences and gain additional knowledge on this issue.
“Many [people] we have to work with on learning how to express themselves,” said Miguel. “A good example was when my grandson was getting car sick, and he did not know how to tell me. He would keep insisting that he felt he was falling. He is very young and didn’t understand that he was getting car sick, but it’s things like that which we look for in adults who are mentally ill.”
The panel expressed that it takes a great amount of patience to help care for mentally ill adults.
An Emergency Preparedness Panel then took the stage. Tony DiRienzi of AZ Statewide Independent Living Council (AzSILC), Teresa Ehnert Bureau Chief at Az Department of Health Services, Alisa Diggs Program Manager, Office of Preparedness and Response, Maricopa County Department of Public Health and Fernando Cruz of Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL). The panel discussed many different types of disasters, including fires, floods, and biological or chemical spills, and emphasized that there always needs to be a plan of action in case there is an emergency, especially for those households where children or adults are disabled or have special needs.
Lunch came next, followed by a panel discussion with members of the Salt River Tribal Council: Lorna Ray, Tom Largo, Delbert Ray Sr., Deanna Scabby, Leonard Rivers and Ricardo Leonard. They introduced themselves and talked about how the annual Disabilities Conference is very important to the Community.
This was a chance for individuals to ask Council members about their views on programs and services for people with disabilities and what steps they have taken to improve quality of life in the Community for those with disabilities and special needs.
Council Member Deanna Scabby shared that there is a Child Find program in the Community that conducted a door-to-door survey identify the children with disabilities in the Community and be sure they get access to programs and services that they need and are eligible for.
Another question dealt with a common problem in the disabilities community: a child had turned 18 and therefore “aged out” of eligibility for programs and services. This child with special needs recently turned of age and withdrew from high school. Council members explained that youth may stay enrolled in the Community schools until age 21, and there are steps to gain guardianship of children with special needs through Health Services and the court.
Council was also asked about the plans to build an Indian Health Service hospital on the Community. There is a current plan and space available; however, the funds are allocated to those tribal communities that have greater need, such as Alaska. But as more communities receive funding to build their facilities, Salt River moves up the list.
State Senator Jerry Lewis of District 18 stopped by and said he was touched that the Community hosted a Disabilities Conference. He explained that he has a son with special needs.
Entertainment was provided later on that afternoon, followed by speakers from a prosthetics and orthotics company and Arizona Autism United.
More than 40 exhibitors handed out brochures and promotional items, and some sold Native American jewelry.