2021: A consequential year for people with developmental disabilities

Two AbleLight College students attending their graduation

The year 2021 has proven to be one of both challenges and opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As the year comes to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the stories and trends that mattered most.

Persevering through COVID-19

The pandemic has continued to cause heartbreak and loss for a second year. While not perfect, vaccinations and continued precautions have helped many of our most vulnerable citizens stay safe. In many locations, restrictions were gradually lightened so that families could physically reunite after many months – something to truly celebrate. For many, there was opportunity to see the world beyond home once again. At AbleLight Village, our welcoming community serving people with disabilities and active seniors, residents had a chance to connect over meals and fellowship – and even the neighbors were invited! (We’re excited that more AbleLight Villages will break ground in 2022.)

All that said, COVID-19 is not over yet. Our direct support professionals continue to lead the way in keeping the people we serve safe and protected. We are incredibly grateful for all they do.

No matter where we are, we all need to be alert and do our part.

Making strides in education

AbleLight College, a two-year program at Concordia University Wisconsin, welcomed its largest class ever in 2021. What’s more, the college will be expanding in 2022 to Concordia University Ann Arbor, with more colleges to follow. This program, and those around the country like it, make it possible for young adults to learn valuable life and work skills, empowering them to make lifelong contributions to their communities. Way to go!

On the brink of a huge investment: Congress is poised to approve $150 billion in spending to shore up the Medicaid HCBS (Home and Community Based Services) program. Among other benefits, it will increase federal Medicaid matches to states at least 6%, raise the payment rates for services, and strengthen the severely underfunded direct support workforce.

While it is less than the $400 billion originally proposed by President Biden, it represents the largest investment ever made in the HCBS program. It will literally be life changing if it passes, for both people with disabilities and those who serve them. We want to thank everyone who raised their voice during 2021 to make this investment a priority for your lawmakers. You have made a difference in getting it this far. If you haven’t advocated yet, click here to do so.

A new name for Bethesda

This was a big year for Bethesda, led by the fact that as of January 2022 we will have a new name – AbleLight! Changing our name was not something we did lightly, and in fact it took years of careful study, reflection, and engagement with people who care deeply about our mission.

While we honor all that Bethesda has meant over the years, AbleLight will better allow us to meet the needs of the 6.5 million Americans with a developmental disability who need our help. AbleLight will serve the whole person through comprehensive and individualized services that last a lifetime.

To sum up, AbleLight represents what we believe: The world shines brighter when people with developmental disabilities achieve their full potential. We can’t wait to make it happen in 2022 with your help. Thank you for being part of the Bethesda family, and welcome to the AbleLight family! Happy New Year!