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ADAPT Successful in D.C.
Washington, D.C. --- ADAPT, the nation's largest grassroots disability rights organization, went to Washington, D.C. on September 17. Their message on Medicaid cuts and housing was simple, "Don't target low-income people with disabilities." They left on September 22, having made their point to the Congressional leadership, the National Governors Association (NGA), and officials at HUD and HHS.
104 Arrested as ADAPT Occupies
They were fed up with being the targets of Congressional Medicaid cuts, and being pitted against Katrina survivors for essential services. So 500 ADAPT activists occupied the offices of Congressional leaders for 5 hours Monday, resulting in 104 arrests. "Low income people with disabilities are hemorrhaging as a result of the continual cuts to Medicaid by the states and Congress," said Barb Toomer, ADAPT Organizer from Utah. "The leaders of the House and Senate are in a position to stop the bleeding, so we came directly to them. We feel these cuts very personally. We want the Senators and Representatives to feel it personally, too."
Outraged by Congressional plans to cut $10 billion from the Medicaid budge they occupied the offices of Senators Grassley (R-IA), Reid (D-NV) and Frist (R-TN), and Representatives Pelosi (D-CA), Barton(R-TX), Hastert (R-IL) and Delay (R-TX). The next day, all of Congress read about ADAPT's demand for no caps or block granting in Medicaid, and restoration of the planned $10 billion in cuts. The story appeared on the front page of their in-house newspaper, Roll Call..
ADAPT presented each Congressional leader with the following demands:
Katrina Survivors with Disabilities Speak
Earlier that day at ADAPT held a press conference at FEMA Headquarters, and attended by FEMA staff. ADAPT Organizers from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama called into the press conference from their home states. They spoke to the crowd about the Katrina survivors with disabilities in their areas. They told of people with disabilities being the last people evacuated, being actually turned away from shelters because of their disabilities or because they had no attendants with them, being separated from family, caregivers and necessary equipment and service animals. And now they are languishing in nursing homes and other institutions unconnected to the official resources available to other Katrina survivors.
“This really is a matter of our life and death," said Randy Alexander, Tennessee ADAPT Organizer. "A few months ago, Tennessee Gov. Bredesen drastically cut back TennCare, including home care services for people who use ventilators. He openly admitted that he was forcing these people into nursing homes. Just today we got word that we have suffered the first death of a ventilator user, the first casualty of Gov. Bredesen's heartless cuts. Unless Congress acts, the deaths will continue."
ADAPT Gets Commitment From HUD Secretary Jackson
They wanted to be sure HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson got the Point. ADAPT wants HUD vouchers for people transitioning out of nursing homes and institutions into community living. So ADAPT delivered the message simultaneously at Jackson's home in Alexandria, Virginia, and HUD headquarters in D.C. The strategy paid off when Secretary Jackson came down to HUD plaza to personally meet with protestors. And he committed to work with ADAPT on voucher implementation.
"We are pleased that Sec. Jackson did what no HUD Secretary before him has done, namely, come to us in the street, outside the HUD fortress, and pledge to work together to improve the lives of people with disabilities," said Shona Eakin, Pennsylvania ADAPT Organizer. "We have made real progress in recent years getting people out of nursing homes using our own ingenuity, perseverance, and the Medicaid System Change Grants. Our biggest challenge remains finding accessible, affordable, integrated housing for people to move into when they leave the nursing home."
Follow-up with Jackson will also address the problem of affordable housing stock becoming suddenly available, then just as suddenly disappearing, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Many people with disabilities and other low-income people have waited as long as ten years for their names to rise to the top of Section 8 waiting lists in their home communities. As some of those communities have suddenly become home to tens of thousands of survivors of Katrina, thousands of affordable housing units "magically" appeared to help house them.
With so many people with disabilities waiting for that housing, where did those units come from, and why weren't they being used for people who were kept waiting for years? And now that those units are being used to house Katrina survivors, what does that mean for the disability community and other low-income people on waiting lists for housing?
Lack of accessible, affordable, integrated housing remains the greatest barrier to community living for people currently warehoused in nursing homes and other institutions. The dearth of housing surpasses even the universal lack of adequate community based services and supports. According to statistics compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, more than 300,000 of the million and a half people in the nation's nursing homes want to move back into the community. That will only be possible with enough accessible, affordable, integrated housing, and community-based services and supports.
Two Mile March to National Governors Association
On Wednesday, ADAPT took their demands to the National Governors Association. They marched the two miles to NGA offices behind a flower draped casket. It represented those who have died waiting for community-based services. NGA Executive Director, Ray Sheppach came outside to address the ADAPT demands He promised to fax the demands to all of the nation's governors. But he framed his own responses to the demands with the NGA party line about "states rights."
"Funny thing about states rights," said Wisconsin ADAPT Organizer, Toby Tyler. "The states don't want the federal government telling them what to do to run their affairs, yet they have no qualms about telling us what to do to run ours. Well, we aren't about to let that go unchallenged. ADAPT will start hitting the nation's governors, and will keep on hitting them until they stop targeting low income people with disabilities with their budget cuts."
Since ADAPT's "visits" to both HUD and the Department of Health and Human Services, HHS Secretary Dr. Margaret Giannini has begun to gather information about Katrina evacuees with disabilities shipped to nursing homes around the country, And she has pledged to work with HUD to get those people into temporary community housing, just like other evacuees.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, call Bob Kafka 512-431-4085 or Marsha Katz 406-544-9504. Visit ADAPT’s website at www.adapt.org
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