HEARTS Voucher Respite Program, first piloted in North Alabama by UCP Huntsville in 1994, has successfully been replicated by all UCP affiliates statewide. The program serves caregivers of children up to age 19 and is funded by the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention.
Alabama Respite began in 2000, working with a task force of around 45 volunteers from state agencies, non- and for-profit organizations that serve people with disabilities and consumers. The task force developed an initial Strategic Plan to identify the respite needs of caregivers in Alabama and the gaps and barriers they face accessing services.
Our advocacy efforts with the Alabama Legislature resulted in Alabama Respite receiving state funding beginning in 2006. The funds are administered by the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services. This money is used as matching funds to secure federal funding.
Alabama Respite hosted the 2007 National Respite Conference in Huntsville.
In 2007, the Alabama Department of Mental Health began contracting with Alabama Respite to manage voucher respite funding for caregivers of adults and children who have intellectual disabilities.
In 2009, the Alabama legislature passed resolution HJR170 to establish Alabama Respite as “the lead entity for lifespan respite coordination in the state of Alabama” and designated coordinator of the Alabama Respite Coalition. From that effort, the Alabama Lifespan Respite Resource Network Act. No. 2012-410 (SB89) was passed into law. The Governor appoints our statewide coalition of stakeholders of about 30 individuals representing the legislature, state agencies, organizations, and consumers. The Coalition collaborates to address issues related to respite in a productive process and limits duplication of effort when possible.
Respite Awareness Month is recognized annually in November by the Governor through proclamation.
Alabama was one of the first of 12 states to receive a Federal Lifespan Respite Grant in 2009. The primary goal of this grant is for the Alabama Department of Senior Services (ADSS) to work in partnership with Coalition to provide a statewide, comprehensive, and coordinated approach to providing lifespan respite care to all Alabama family caregivers regardless of disability, illness, age, income, race, ethnicity, special needs, or situation.
Alabama Respite contracted with ADSS and partnered with the Coalition for a second Lifespan Respite grant that allowed our staff to enhance and expand caregiver education statewide.
Alabama Respite staff participates as our state’s representative to the National Respite Coalition (ARCH) and on state and local committees which address services related to caregivers.
In 2017, Alabama Respite partnered with Alabama Department of Senior Services (ADSS) for a third Federal Lifespan Respite Grant. The goal of this grant is to increase actual respite services and educational opportunities for caregivers as well as further developing public policy and awareness on caregiver issues.
The 18th Annual National Lifespan Respite Conference was held in Huntsville in October of 2017. This was the 10 year anniversary of the first time Alabama hosted the conference and they remain the only state to host the conference twice.