Bob Krist is the proud parent of a special needs daughter, Courtney, who has filled their family with much joy. He is the former president of the Madonna School in Omaha, whose mission is to serve students and adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities to become as independent as possible.
Lynne Walz started her career working as a Direct Care Staffer for the Eastern Nebraska Office on Retardation. During her stay, she was part of an effort to help provide residential services to individuals with developmental disabilities. Through hard work, she quickly moved up to the position of Residential Manager. In this position, she began supervising residential care facilities that provide some of the most crucial services to those who need it most.
She later transitioned to Bethphage, now known as Mosaic, an organization dedicated to the needs of people with disabilities. As the Executive Director in Fremont and Columbus, Senator Walz oversaw residential and day service programs.
On the other hand, Governor Pete Ricketts has taken an adversarial role toward the special needs community. The most blatant example is when he vetoed $17 million of funding for health care providers, including those addressing the needs of those with developmental disabilities. Both Krist and Walz voted to override the Governor’s veto.
Bob and Lynne understand that access to vital services must be provided in a consistent and efficient way for all individuals. Our schools and communities must be looking to provide differentiated education and job-training opportunities to help individuals learn and succeed. Policies to encourage financial independence and planning must be prioritized so that individuals with special needs and their families can have the means to get the care they need both now and in the future.
Senator Walz introduced legislation to require the state Department of Health and Human Services to develop a comprehensive strategic plan to provide services to persons with developmental disabilities. Senator Krist co-sponsored legislation (which is now a law) that allows individuals with disabilities to create tax-free savings accounts to set aside money for education, housing, assistive technology and other needs. Krist also co-sponsored legislation that passed that requires insurance companies to provide health care services to kids with autism.
When it comes to addressing the special needs community, two very different paths and two very different set of priorities are pursued by Governor Ricketts and the Krist-Walz team. The choice is clear.