as posted at National ADAPT on April 22
Photos by Kevin McBride and Dave Fulton
ADAPT strikes at Four Spots in Washington DC
ADAPT Activists at the Department of Justice, Health and Human Services, the Republican National Headquarters and the Democratic Party.By Mike Ervin,
Photos by Kevin McBride and Dave Fulton
It sure was ironic. The headquarters of the U.S Department of Justice was surrounded by barricades, those metal riot fences that hook together. DoJ apparently knew ADAPT was in town and they must’ve had a guilty conscious.
Sure enough, the ADAPT march line approached and instead of storming the fortress we swirled around and took over street. D.C police blocked traffic. We faced the cement block with windows that is DoJ and unfurled our orange banner.
ADAPT was fed up with DoJ’s inertia when it comes to enforcing the community integration mandate of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), the subsequent Supreme Court Olmstead decision and the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.
ADAPT demanded that the DOJ:
1) Pursue high-profile Olmstead/ADA or CRIPA enforcement actions in every state to address the institutionalization of thousands of people with disabilities of all ages.
2) Address the decades-long waiting lists that should be moving at a reasonable pace.
3) Accept and take immediate action on the ADAPT of Texas ADA complaint that Texas’ failure to establish adequate rates for home and community based services has significantly restricted the opportunity of people with disabilities to live safely in their own homes and community.
4) Initiate action in at least other four other states to address inadequate Medicaid rates which impact attendant wages, the attendant workforce and the opportunity for community living; and
5) Meet with ADAPT and other disability rights advocates in every state to develop a list of violations that exist in public nursing facilities and other institutions covered under CRIPA that need to be addressed.
So for about 30 minutes ADAPTers testified in the streets. We heard how attendants in Texas make $7.86 per hour. Beyond ridiculous, right? And we head how of course it makes it damn near impossible to find and keep good workers.
Finally, Bruce and others were escorted inside to talk to the suits. Down on the street—more chanting, more testifying until Bruce and team emerged with Eve Hill, Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at DoJ. Addressing us on the bullhorn she said DoJ was anxious to move forward on an Olmstead case involving someone in an institution but it needed to be a strong case with an excellent chance of winning. She agreed to work with ADAPT to try to locate the ideal plaintiff.
After our McDonald’s break we proceeded to HQ of the Department of Health and Human Services. The barricades were up at HHS, too, but that’s always the case when ADAPT comes to town. Guilty conscious again? Well anyway, again instead of charging we lined up and stared them down. We chanted for HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to come out.
ADAPT was at HHS because the Department of Labor recently promulgated new rules that mandate overtime for in-home attendant care. Without adequate Medicaid reimbursement critical service hours are being cut and persons with disabilities who live in the community are at risk of being forced into nursing homes. In addition, low wages for attendants are making it increasingly difficult for persons with disabilities to recruit and retain quality attendants. ADAPT demanded that Burwell:
1) Recognize that inadequate Medicaid rates have driven down attendant wages and consequently undercut the ability of Americans with disabilities to live in freedom. We therefore further demand that Secretary Burwell use HHS’s authority to ensure that state Medicaid rates are sufficient to secure the workforce needed for community integration.
2) Utilize HHS’s authority regarding Medicaid rates to ensure that states have adequate Medicaid rates to cover the increased costs associated with the Companionship rule changes made by the Department of Labor.
3) Instruct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to utilize their authority to ensure that states implement managed care in a manner that promotes community living. We believe that HHS can accomplish this by including and enforcing strict terms and conditions as part of the process for approving community living waivers (also known as1115 waivers).
4) Instruct the HHS Office for Civil Rights to take a stronger role in enforcement of the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision by implementing a plan to promote community living that complies. The Olmstead decision established that the Americans with Disabilities Act provided persons with disabilities the civil right to live in their own homes and communities. Recognizing that some states might rely on institutional settings in violation of the ADA, the decision also provides states with a defense from lawsuits. This defense involves developing effective plans for ensuring that persons with disabilities can transition from and avoid moving into nursing facilities.
5) Meet with ADAPT and Congressional representatives to support the development of civil rights legislation clarifying and strengthening the ADA’s integration mandate. This mandate will ensure that people with disabilities have a community-based alternative to institutional placement that allows them to lead an independent life.
A woman wearing a pink jacket came out. It wasn’t Burwell. It was Kathy Greenlee, Administrator for the Administration of Community Living at HHS. Off to the side, she negotiated with Bruce, Mike Oxford, Anita Cameron and Cathy Cranston. Then it was Greenlee’s turn to address us with the bullhorn. She agreed to take our demands to the Secretary and her chieftains and to arrange a meeting with ADAPT and them to discuss it all.
All this was accomplished and it was only 3 p.m. So the color teams split off. One batch of ADAPTers marched to HQ of the Democratic National Committee and the other batch marched to the Republica National Committee. The demand at both places was for the parties to endorse the Community integration Act (CIA). More on the CIA tomorrow.
At the DNC we were greeted by Reverend Regina Thomas, Director of Community Engagement. She was cordial but nervous. She agreed to meet in the near future with ADAPT.
The DNC ADAPTers then joined the RNC batch, who had been greeted by a locked door. But enough ruckus was made to persuade RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer to come out. Spicer agreed to take ADAPT’s CIA endorsement to the RNC platform committee.
It was a trifecta plus one. What do you call that? A quadrafecta? Whatever you call it, it was a productive day.