In fall of 2017, The Arc of Colorado welcomed Christiano Sosa as its new Executive Director. With a strong background in cause-driven work, Christiano has spent his first few months at the helm achieving big policy victories in employment, housing, DSP wages, and more.
Welcome to The Arc Family! Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and what drove you to become involved with the disability sector?
I have worked in social justice the entirety of my career, and I can’t imagine not being involved in social justice. I can’t think of a better organization that aligns with my values more than The Arc. The last 12 years I have worked in philanthropy providing resources to great non-profits that took on the work of addressing systems issues. While I loved my work in philanthropy, I came to understand that money alone cannot solve the problems unless system changes are effectively implemented. This came to be my calling.
What are some of the top priorities for your chapter right now, and how are you addressing them?
We certainly have our eye on reducing the waitlist so people get the right services at the right time. We will be looking at the settings rule and how that is implemented in Colorado. We will be working with our partners to ensure all of the rules and the promulgation of those rules are informed by the collective experience of the 14 chapters across the state. Inclusion and equity, in all of its forms, needs to be top of mind when we think about any systems or policy change. It will be a central focus of the Arc of Colorado moving forward.
Your chapter has worked heavily – and effectively – on a variety of legislative advocacy at both the state and national levels. Tell us about some of your biggest wins over the past few months.
We had tremendous wins in this Session. All five of our prioritized bills went on to the Governor. We had a priority in ensuring that people with intellectual or developmental disabilities have clear paths to employment, and through our work with our partners at the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF), the Disabilities Council, the Arc of Larimer County and countless others, we ensured that people understand best practices under discovery and intake. People with I/DD in the state now have landlord tenant rights, which they were previously excluded from. We were able to increase Direct Service Providers’ wages 6.5 per cent. We whittled down the waiting list for the Comprehensive Waiver to close to three thousand. We were able to reauthorize the Child Mental Health Treatment Act and make that permanent. Finally, we were able to move the Children’s Habilitation Residential Program Waiver (CHRP) over to HCPF from the Department of Human Services, and eliminate the previous waiver requirement that parents give up their custodial rights if their child has mental health needs and requires residential treatment. I am happy to share our journey with others at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are some of the greatest challenges and opportunities you see on the horizon for The Arc of Colorado?
I am fortunate to come into an organization that is widely known and respected at the Capitol for our bipartisan work. This is difficult, complex work. It takes whole communities to rally together. The measurement of success for me will be when I see individuals with I/DD getting the right supports at the right time, throughout their lifetime and are part of society in ways they haven’t necessarily been in the past.
What advice do you have for other chapters working to ramp up their advocacy efforts?
It is incredibly important that we work on a bipartisan level. Fundamentally, I believe policy issues around individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities are bipartisan. Our job is two-fold, one is about education and the other is to work with our elected officials so the voices of people with I/DD are heard. Beyond this, we must always be sure that inclusion and equity are the top values that we adhere to, if inclusion and equity come first, good policy can follow.
Tell us one fun fact about yourself.
I am a certified cake decorator in buttercreams, fondant, gum paste and a variety of other techniques. I find the work relaxing and there is the bonus of sampling the creations!