The aim of the NDSS Government Affairs Committee (GAC) program is to help Down syndrome support organizations, parents, and self-advocates across states to join forces with NDSS to achieve positive systems change for individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities at state and local levels of government.
GACs work in collaboration with the NDSS to promote and pass state legislation and to influence the design of regulation and other policy. In recent years, many federal statutes have given an increasing amount of discretion to the states. In order to ensure that these statutes are implemented in the best interests of individuals with intellectual disabilities, these statewide Down Syndrome coalitions are critical.
NDSS is focused on creating statewide government affairs committees united in their determination to work on key policy objectives across the lifespan of individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.
NDSS has established 18 statewide GACs in the following states:
- New Jersey
Setting Up A GAC in Your State
The criteria for creating a GAC in your state are as follows:
- A significant number of affiliates in the state are willing to participate
- Attendees are interested in helping all individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities through policy and systems change
- There is a commitment to participate in follow-up phone calls after the GAC training
- Follow-up involves teleconferences with the NDSS GAC co-chair phone conferences and on-going email or phone consultation, as needed
- An agreement to equitably share the costs for GAC training with NDSS
What Does a GAC Leadership Conference Look Like?
A GAC conference is a one and half day conference co-hosted by NDSS and affiliates from around each state. In advance of the conference, NDSS will prepare background information that provides vital information participants need to know about your specific state and how your state is serving and supporting people with Down syndrome.
Sample GAC Conference Agenda
Here’s an example of a GAC conference agenda:
- Welcome Address/Goals of Conference
- Keynote Address (by a state legislator)
- Effective Federal & State Advocacy
- Overview of NDSS National Policy Center Legislative Agenda & Priorities
- Reception & Dinner
- Overview of Your State’s Data and Support for People with Down syndrome (focuses on education, adult services and supports, and employment)
- Review State Focus Group Results
- State Resource Panel (a panel of experts from other disability organizations, coalitions, task forces, etc. that support people with Down syndrome and their families)
- Building a State-wide Coalition & Action Plan
- Wrap Up
For more information, please contact NDSS Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy Heather Sachs at firstname.lastname@example.org.