Partners In Policymaking® 30th Anniversary
1987 – 2017
In 1986, a new way of thinking demanded new leadership. Medicaid reform was the critical public policy issue. A Congressional hearing on September 19, 1986 ended with a young mother presenting testimony in favor of dramatic changes to Medicaid – changes that would keep families together and provide a range of services to support families with a child with developmental disabilities.
Communicating effectively with public officials could be taught. Self advocates and parents could learn how to best speak with their elected public officials and elected public officials could be educated about policies – in partnership with each other. At that moment, Partners in Policymaking® was born.
The vision of Partners in Policymaking was ambitious. Based on a foundation of core values about people with developmental disabilities and a set of principles that continue to guide the Partners program today, the first class of Partners got underway the weekend of May 1 and 2, 1987.
The growth of Partners was rapid. In the first three years, four states adopted the program. A series of national Academies beginning in 1990 brought together states that were already carrying out the Partners program and states that were interested. By the year 2000, nearly all states had implemented some type of leadership training program.
The number of graduates likewise shows the same remarkable growth – from 35 graduates in 1987 to 8,637 in the year 2000.
As the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act was approaching, a survey was conducted across all states and international sites in the hope that we could match that anniversary date with 25,000 Partners graduates. That number was exceeded – more than 27,000 self advocates and parents of children with developmental disabilities have graduated nationally and internationally.
Partners is Changing Lives Changing Policies. The personal stories and testimonials of graduates speak to the impact of the Partners program and the value placed on this learning experience. The legacy continues as graduates have not only made changes in their own lives but have been inspired to make changes at the local, state, and national levels.
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