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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living


ADAPT logo: Free Our PeopleSource: ADAPT Action Report, By Tim Wheat

On Saturday, April 20, ADAPT Activists arrived in Washington, DC for a week of direct action.

ADAPT’s campaign to Free Our People has it the 30 year mark. ADAPT began in 1983 to end the segregation of people with disabilities in this country and their current mission is to end the institutional bias in Medicaid, which segregates people in expensive institutions and nursing homes.

“We have not and cannot allow the values of independence and community living to be threatened by proposed austerity policies that totally disregard the basic supports that keep millions of people with disabilities thriving in the community,” said David Wittie of ADAPT of Texas. “We are coming to DC to once again hold public officials accountable to the human rights of people with disabilities, who are often the poorest of the poor.”

  • ADAPT demands that some common-sense principles are used to guide Medicaid policy: Expand the use of community-based services, demedicalize services, expand consumer directed service options and reorganize Medicaid services to eliminate wasteful bureaucracy. All of the ADAPT demands not only help to make the program cost less, they also make Medicaid more efficient and effective. 

Sunday, April 21: The Department of Justice

Saturday morning, ADAPT held the annual Fun*Run for Disability Rights. This year’s Fun*Run was a heartening testament to the willpower and determination of our ADAPT brothers and sisters, and NCIL was proud to be a participant.

ADAPT was not only able to raise funds for the cause, but also raise awareness of our commitment to Free Our People. Shouts and cheers rang out over the din of the storm as ADAPT filled the park grounds next to the U.S. Capitol with the power of a righteous cause wielded from the moral high ground.

NCIL thanks the following individuals for sponsoring our FUN*RUNNER, NCIL Executive Director Kelly Buckland: Allan Bergman; Carol Tyson; Colleen Starkloff; Gregory Care; Jan Day; Karen McCulloh; Lynnae Ruttledge; Mark Derry; Mary Brougher; Merrill Friedman; Michael Murray; Pat Puckett; Patricia Nobbie; Paul Spooner; Paulette Berry; Phil Pangrazio; Roger Howard; and Thomas Foley.

Three representatives of the US Department of Justice, Disability Rights Section, came to the Holiday Inn Capitol to listen to what ADAPT members across the nation have to say about compliance with the 1999 Olmstead decision. Acting Chief Rebecca Bond was accompanied by Deputy Chiefs Anne Raish and Eve Hill.

ADAPT activists told of the inequity of state and federal policy that isolates and ignores people in expensive institutions and frustrates ADAPT and other organizations’ attempts to help people move back into the community.

“We had a situation in Colorado where I’m from,” said Keith Percy of Boulder Colorado, “while the state said they are changing the system; they are actually reinforcing the Institutional bias. They are breaking their own rules on population, they are breaking their own rules on capacity; to put in nursing home beds, 60 new nursing home beds that the community survey said we didn’t need. That is not a philosophical shift that is the goddamn Institutional Bias.”

Mike Oxford of Kansas told how Centers for Independent Living in his state had filed over 600 complaints with about Olmstead violations, only to see the state retaliate against them. Mr. Oxford directly asked that the DOJ step in by creating their own Olmstead plan for 3000 young children in various states who are trapped in nursing homes.

Monday, April 22: The White House

Early Monday morning, ADAPT demonstrated its frustration with the Obama Administration by crashing through barricades at Pennsylvania & 17th Street and blocking the east entrance to the White House. Forty-one people were arrested following a rally outside the White House security perimeter.

ADAPT held up a large report card for the President’s term with failing grades for leadership, integrity, and engagement. “The President needs to live up to the commitments that he made when he was a candidate,” said Heiwa Salovitz with ADAPT of Texas. “He gets an ‘F’ at the start of his second term.”

“The President has not taken the initiative to proactively champion community living or the innovative Medicaid programs that could make it a reality,” said ADAPT organizer Josue Rodriguez of Memphis. “In nearly every way, President Obama and his administration have failed to live up to the promises about community living that he made during his presidential campaigns.”

ADAPT demands that the Administration issue a statement that the President supports the development of legislation that would finally end Medicaid’s institutional bias and assure that people with disabilities have community-based alternatives to institutional placement.

“I would tell the President to make the Community First Choice Option a mandate so that the Medicaid funds are not automatically spent on expensive nursing homes,” said Tom Earl, Director of Liberty Resources (Center for Independent Living) in Philadelphia. Earl personally outlined this idea to President Obama in 2010. “The Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act should include cost-saving home and community based services helping to put an end to the institutional bias.”

A major source of the frustration by the disability community is the progress made on the “companion exemption” that is part of the Department of Labor’s regulations regarding the employment of personal assistants. The DOL was directly mandated to “fully involve” the disability community in creating the regulations, but instead met only with unions and providers – completely ignoring people with disabilities.

  • In order to solve the problems with the “companionship exemption,” ADAPT demands that the Administration recall Executive Order 13563 from the Office of Management and Budget to involve people with disabilities.
  • ADAPT also demanded the President effectively engage the Disability Community by hiring people with disabilities for the Office of Public Engagement and the Domestic Policy Council.
  • And finally, ADAPT presented a list of demands for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Justice. The demands would help coordinate Olmstead compliance over the three departments.

Tuesday, April 23: The Department of Housing and Urban Development and SEIU & AFSCME

On Tuesday, ADAPT used direct action successfully at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the offices of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

ADAPT secured a commitment for nationwide guidance from HUD on compliance with Olmstead, and both unions agreed to meet with ADAPT about the proposed rules to modify the companionship exemption.

Jennifer Ho, a new senior advisor, is commissioned to write a HUD statement on Olmstead. Her letter to ADAPT outlines many things that still must be done before the guidance is released, but she committed to completing the Olmstead advisement by May 27 and to meeting with ADAPT ten days before that deadline.

ADAPT followed that success by bringing SEIU and ADSCME back to the negotiating table on the issue of the companionship exemption, which the Department of Labor found would increase institutionalization – an unacceptable human cost.

ADAPT confronted the unions, but both walked out and refused to talk any further with ADAPT – until today. “This agreement to meet again within two weeks and bring substantive proposals for movement toward compromise was a huge win for ADAPT and people who rely on home-based attendant care today,” said Mike Oxford of Kansas ADAPT.

“We don’t oppose our attendants receiving improved pay and benefits, in fact, we support it,” added David Wittie, an organizer for ADAPT of Texas. “And today’s new agreements will go a long way toward securing higher take-home pay for our workers while also protecting the right of folks with disabilities to control who comes in our homes and assists us with the most intimate activities of daily life, all while ensuring that we stay out of costly institutions.”

Wednesday, April 24

Activities are still underway. Check the ADAPT Action Report for further details and updates on yesterday’s actions!

ADAPT has once again brought the voice of people with disabilities to the table and proven that Nothing About Us Without Us is more than a recommendation. The National Council on Independent Living congratulates ADAPT on their victories and thanks ADAPT activists for their commitment to Free Our People!

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