Schools for Deaf, Blind Feel Effects of Teacher Shortage

The Arizona Capitol Times reports that more than 200 teachers currently serve approximately 2,000 children in two schools for the deaf, one school for the blind and at statewide cooperative programs in local public schools.

The Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind has 13 teacher vacancies and will need 21 more teachers if a proposal from Gov. Doug Ducey to provide $1.6 million in additional money to the schools' early childhood program is approved by lawmakers, agency spokesman Ryan Ducharme said.

About half of the agency's teachers will be eligible for early or full retirement within the next five years, Ducharme said.

The schools have used relocation stipends and sign-on bonuses to sweeten the deal for teachers who may want to work for them.

The agency spent $33,500 — more than any other agency — this year on relocation expenses aimed at enticing teachers to come work in Arizona, according to figures from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

This year, 26 agency teachers got a $1,500 stipend to relocate from out-of-state, Ducharme said. New teachers to the agency also get a $1,500 sign-on bonus.

The agency's average teacher pay — $47,636 — is slightly higher than the state's average for teachers overall, $47,218. The majority of the schools' teachers, nearly 83 percent, have master's degrees because of the specialty training required to work with students who are deaf or blind, Ducharme said.

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SHEP Moves Towards Bridging the Gap for Deafblind and Substance Abuse Resources

Sensory disabilities, such as blindness and deafness, can be frustrating and challenging to manage in a sight- and sound-focused world. This challenge becomes even greater if the person with the disability has a substance abuse problem. While addiction treatment can provide the tools and skills needed for an individual to recover from and manage substance use or abuse, many facilities are not equipped up to manage the needs of those who are vision or hearing impaired.

As a result, people who are blind or deaf and need substance abuse treatment may be turned away from some facilities or don't get the message and help they need. In many cases, they have even avoided trying to find treatment, due to the concern that they won't have the services or resources available at the facility.

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Oklahoma Watch: Will state’s makeover of developmental disabilities wait list be fair to families?

As the number of people waiting for developmental disabilities services has reached an all-time high, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is considering abandoning the first-come, first-served approach to the developmental disabilities services waiting list.

Instead, it would prioritize the list according to need, meaning families who have waited for help for years could be moved back in line while others are shifted to the front.

But how that system would work, and whether it would be fair and effective, is unclear. DHS officials said the change will take years to implement. The agency has made relatively little progress during the past two years.

In the meantime, the waiting list for government-paid services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities continues to grow, hitting a record 7,560 this year.

Personnel changes at DHS and the agency’s attention to other matters, however, have delayed changing the first-come, first-served approach, a DHS official said.

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