In order to fulfill its mission to enhance the lives of disabled citizens through improved services, members of the Beaufort County Disabilities Coalition needs to know what services are required and who needs them.
To find out, the Coalition is conducting an online survey through Aug. 15 to discover specifics about residents dealing with physical, intellectual or developmental disabilities. The survey is available at www.disabilitiescoalition.org.
David Green, chairman of the Coalition, said the "very thorough" survey is important because of the impact the facts could have on future funding for programs and services for the disabled.
For example, he said, state funding for Medicaid waivers for the disabled is "often determined more by how much or how little the state legislators believe they can allocate to gain Federal matching dollars (at about a 30/70 ratio) and not be subjected to a class action lawsuit or Federal investigation - not by the real needs of the state's residents," Green said.
He said there are currently more than 2,000 people on the state's Department of Disabilities and Special Needs waiting lists for Medicaid waiver funding.
Information gained from the survey will enable the Coalition to present credible, scientific evidence of the types and levels of need for services that residents require in order to have as productive and independent a life as possible.
"We plan to take the data we gather to our state legislators and agency heads and advocate for them to fund programs at a realistic level to meet both the current needs and the needs that will be coming in the near future," Green said.
The more information the 20-minute survey captures, the more accurate the overall picture will be.
"The credibility of the survey depends on getting enough respondents to make the survey results statistically accurate in reflecting the situation of our local residents with disabilities and their families," Green said. "The more respondents we get, the more accurate and credible the data will be regarding current and upcoming needs."
The survey will attempt to answer questions such as:
- What kinds of disabilities do Beaufort County residents have?
- What levels and types of services do they need now? Five years from now?
- Are they able to receive those services that they need now, or are they on waiting lists - or are the services just not available locally at all?
The Coalition has engaged the services of Dr. John Salazar of USCB and his team of researchers to administer the survey and to interpret its results.
Salazar has conducted many research projects for such local tourism events as the RBC Heritage golf tournament and the Concours d'Elegance, as well as for regional and national agencies. "His interpretation of our survey results and recommendations should have a lot of credibility with our legislators and state agencies in Columbia," Green said.
A second survey is being planned for September to assess the connections of the general public to people with disabilities and their attitudes towards providing funding for needed services.
Funding for the surveys was provided by grants from the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry and the Beaufort County Community Services Grant program.
Green said because of the in-depth nature of the survey, the only way to take it is online. All responses remain anonymous, although there is an option to give an email address to receive the survey results.
"We need people to go online and complete the survey - the sooner, the better!," Green said.