In an effort to qualify for a spot on this November’s ballot, the Coalition to End Colorado’s Wait List submitted over 131,400 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State recently.
Dozens of individuals, families, and advocates were on hand to help deliver the petitions.
"In Colorado, more than 12,000 children and adults with developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, or Mental Retardation, need lifelong care and support.
Thousands of people have been waiting more than 10 to 15 years. Solving this problem is critically needed and long overdue," said Marijo Rymer, Campaign Chairperson and Executive Director of The Arc of Colorado.
When approved by voters, the proposed measure will provide children and adults a basic safety net of services such as 24/7 supervision, help with daily living tasks, a place to live, job training, or nursing care through a modest, phased-in sales tax of 2/10 of a percent - 2 pennies on $10.
Gasoline, groceries, prescription drugs, medical services and utilities remain exempt from the state sales tax.
Former First Lady Frances Owens, a long-time champion for people with developmental disabilities, was also on hand to kick-off the campaign.
"Colorado’s waiting list for people with developmental disabilities is not made of nameless, faceless people. They are children and adults who we consider our friends, our neighbors, our sons, and our daughters.
"They are people like Russell, a 63-year-old man with Mental Retardation whose 85-year-old mother put him on the waiting list more than 15 years ago. Due to her age and failing health, she worries constantly about who will care for Russell when she dies," said Mrs. Owens.
Among those who helped collect signatures were Patty Rendoff and her 29-year-old son Aaron, who has both a developmental disability and dementia from brain damage at birth.
The Rendoffs currently are waiting for services and expect to have to wait another decade or two.
Rendoff stated, "For people like Aaron, there are no back-up options. There is no alternative place for us to go, so we wait – but we won’t be here forever.
"With this measure we can do what’s right and care for people in our state who are the most vulnerable, yet least able to care for themselves."
When it comes to providing support for children and adults with Autism, Down Syndrome, Mental Retardation, and other developmental disabilities, Colorado is towards the bottom of the list of all states — only ahead of Alabama, Texas, Florida, Georgia and Nevada.
Also on hand were Kathy Crawford and her young son, who understand first hand the importance of getting off the wait list and receiving services.
"We have a beautiful blonde-haired, blue eyed boy who made life a living hell for all of our family.
"If it were not for the help we got for Kale 10 months ago, I would not be alive today, my husband and I would be divorced, and my other children would not have their mom at soccer games or other activities. I am grateful for these caregivers, who I call my ‘autism angels,’" said Crawford.