Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc of the United States, paid a visit to The Arc Southern Maryland to see “what the world looks like at the local level where the real work is being done.” The Arc Southern Maryland is one of nearly 700 chapters of The Arc – a nonprofit organization which is present in 47 states – providing support and advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
During Berns’ visit, he sat with employees and members of the leadership team at
The Arc Southern Maryland. He spent time learning about the strides being made by the local chapter to create opportunities throughout Southern Maryland for people with various abilities to find employment, achieve academically, and to be included and valued for their unique abilities and strengths. Berns also toured the computer lab the chapter recently added, which has allowed them to become a Tech Coaching Center, teaching people with I/DD how to use technology in all areas of their lives, from grocery shopping to the work environment, to everyday social interactions.
During the latter part of his visit, Berns spoke during a meeting with The Arc Southern Maryland’s Board of Directors and leadership team about the organization’s goals and challenges. “In the immediate short term, we hope to prevent the new congress and administration from dismantling everything we’ve worked to build over the last 67 years,” Berns said. People receiving services from
The Arc are being especially challenged by the impending healthcare changes, particularly those that threaten to cap and cut Medicaid, potentially removing $880 billion over the next eight years out of discretionary funds – of which home and community-based services, like those that The Arc provides, are a large part. While much of The Arc’s work is focused on the support provided to individuals in their daily lives, The Arc – both nationally and locally – continues to advocate for and educate the public on the impact public policy may have on people with I/DD. “One of the unique things about The Arc, as opposed to other provider organizations, is that it really approaches things from a civil rights perspective,” said Berns.
While the visit from the national organization’s CEO was a treat to The Arc Southern Maryland, it’s not uncommon to find Berns visiting chapters all across the country. Berns said he enjoys visiting each of the individual chapters “that are – day in and day out – supporting individuals with disabilities to achieve their dreams.”