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Public Policy

Public Policy

The Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress is a national leader in the disability policy arena. Through partnerships with legislators, their constituents and other disability organizations, we work to advance legislation and other policies that benefit people with Down syndrome and their families.

Legislative Advocacy Task Force

The primary vehicle for the MDSC’s public policy initiatives is our Legislative Advocacy Task Force. With broad statewide representation, the Task Force’s primary objective is to mobilize the MDSC membership to advocate on behalf of the entire Down syndrome community.

The Task Force does this by providing the following: outreach to members, training opportunities, the chance to testify at public hearings, and templates to use in advocacy efforts. The Task Force also develops its own testimony, recruits members for public rallies, vigils, etc., and organizes and participates in meetings with policy makers both in the Legislature and the Administration.

The task force appreciates your feedback, and is often looking for new members. Contact us at timetospeakout@mdsc.org.

Statewide Policy Initiatives

The blueprint for our statewide public policy work is our state platform, a slate of about 12 bills selected annually by the Legislative Advocacy Task Force (pending board approval) from among the scores of disability-related bills filed in the Legislature.

Last session, on June 22, 2012, the MDSC celebrated its biggest legislative victory in our 30 year history.   Just after noon, in the Governor's chambers of the State House, surrounded by more than a dozen legislative leaders, parents of people with Down syndrome and self-advocates, Governor Patrick signed landmark legislation that promises to bolster a bright future for the Down syndrome community in the Bay State. 

An Act Relative to Down Syndrome Genetic Test Results (H3825), modeled on the national Kennedy-Brownback bill, will have a tremendous impact for decades to come for people with Down syndrome, their families and those who love them in Massachusetts.

The law mandates that new or expectant parents of children with Down syndrome are given the latest, culturally-appropriate information about what it means to have a child with Down syndrome and contact information for services to ensure they have access to the supports that every family in their position needs. The legislation specifically identifies the MDSC's Parents First Call Program as a key resource for these families, formally recognizing our signature outreach program, which is a national model in the field.

The bill, the broadest state legislation of its kind in the nation, was sponsored by Rep. Tom Sannicandro of Ashland, whose son David has Down syndrome and Senator Katherine Clark of Melrose. Both have been tireless champions of good disability policy. Given recent scientific developments around prenatal diagnosis, it was critical to get a bill like this on the books. 

The future is indeed bright for the Down syndrome community in Massachusetts. See the complete communication about the passage of the Prenatal Bill from our Executive Director here.

Below is information about our 2013 to 2014 priority bills and platform...

2013-2014 Priority Bills (187th Session of Mass. General Court)

Click here for the complete MDSC 2013-2014 Statewide Legislative Platform

To find your legislator, visit the Massachusetts Legislature’s recently revamped website.

Buddy Walk on Washington and National Platform

Each February, our national partner, the National Down Syndrome Society brings together hundreds of advocates from across the nation for two-day advocacy event, the Buddy Walk on Washington.

The event, which includes trainings, awards and speeches, and visits to Congressional leaders, serves primarily as an opportunity for the Down syndrome community to interact directly with elected officials and garner their support for key national policy goals, including improvements to education, research and healthcare for people with Down syndrome.

Each year, the MDSC has a significant presence at the Buddy Walk on Washington. Furthermore, in advance of the Buddy Walk, the NDSS publishes its federal policy priorities, which the MDSC adopts as its federal platform.

Legislative and Administrative Partners

The MDSC partners closely with dozens of legislators and administration officials.

We enjoy a friendly working relationship with members of Governor Patrick’s Administration, including Elin Howe, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services. DDS is the state agency that provides services for people with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome.

Legislatively, some of our closest allies serve on the MDSC’s Honorary Board of Directors, which acts in an advisory capacity to the organization’s official Board of Directors. Honorary Board members include:

  • Representative Tom Sannicandro
  • State Senator Karen Spilka

The MDSC recognizes the value in reaching out to all legislators regardless of their past support of issues important to the Down syndrome community. Please make every effort to connect personally and repeatedly with your elected officials.

To find your legislator, visit the Massachusetts Legislature’s recently revamped website

Organizational Partners

The MDSC partners with state and national disability advocacy groups to advance specific legislation, overall policy initiatives and disability funding priorities.

In 2008-2009, the MDSC joined a cross-disability effort to develop a comprehensive 21st Century Disability Policy. Known as the Massachusetts Alliance for a 21st Century Disability Policy, the coalition crafting the manuscript included The Arc of Massachusetts (The Arc), Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change (MFOFC), Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS), Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council (MDDC), and Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM).

Other MDSC partners include, but are not limited to:

  • National Down Syndrome Congress
  • National Down Syndrome Society
  • Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission
  • Disability Law Center
  • Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
  • Federation for Children with Special Needs
  • Massachusetts Advocates for Children
  • The Arc of Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong
  • Mass Families Organizing for Change
  • Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council

For more information on how you can get involved in MDSC's advocacy efforts please contact us at timetospeakout@mdsc.org.