On Thursday, February 8th, the ARC of Nebraska honored Senator Lynne Walz as the Harold Sieck Public Official of the Year. The award is given for outstanding support of citizens with developmental disabilities. The recognition was announced at their annual Senatorial Dinner where state senators gathered with members from across the state.
The ARC of Nebraska offers a wide range of programs and services to meet the needs of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They help individuals and families by providing programs, information, and resource to assist in their daily lives. They also raise awareness and advocate on behalf of individuals for voting rights, employment opportunities, special education, and health care services for people with disabilities.
Senator Walz gave a brief speech after receiving the award. “This is truly an honor. When I was eighteen, I started working at ENCOR and moved in with and cared for three ladies with disabilities. That wasn’t just a job, they became my family. I learned to respect people who aren’t like me. I learned to love people who aren’t like me. And I learned to fight for people who aren’t like me,” said Walz. “I was talking to three young moms this evening. They want what every parent wants, equal opportunities for their children.
We’ve made a lot of progress over the years, but there is still a lot more to do. This is my opportunity to fight for you and I won’t stop until we get there.”
This year, Senator Walz has introduced four bills or resolutions that impact people with disabilities. LB800 would change provisions to the state Olmstead plan, which is required by federal law and is aimed at moving services to a community setting rather than an institutional setting. LB864 would reimburse providers for services that were never fully paid. This has had direct impact on services provided to people who need them most. LB1093 would create an Inspector General of Public Health. This person would oversee all state-licensed care facilities. LR296 would create a legislative investigative committee
to examine that state of our licensed care facilities. Senator Walz was also a leader in fighting to restore disabilities services that were cut by gubernatorial vetoes last year in the state’s budget.
Lynne explains a little more about The ARC and how honored she felt by the award: