Free Our People March Starts At Liberty Bell
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 4, 2003
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA--An estimated 160 disability rights activists headed out Thursday from Philadelphia, known as the "birthplace of American democracy", in an effort to change Medicaid as we know it during this Congressional session.
The advocates, many in wheelchairs, left the site of the Liberty Bell to begin a 144-mile march toward the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC and a September 17 rally where they expect to join 20,000 supporters.
Their mission is to draw attention to the need for Congress to pass S971 and H.R. 2032, commonly known as the Medicaid Community-based Attendant Services and Supports Act (MiCASSA). The bipartisan legislation, which was first introduced in 1997, would allow Medicaid recipients to choose the supports they need to live in their own homes rather than being forced to move into nursing homes or other institutions. The measure has been passed over repeatedly in past sessions.
The grassroots advocacy group ADAPT is heading up the Free Our People March, but is supported by dozens of other groups in its efforts to get MiCASSA passed.
"We've been working for over ten years to get this legislation passed," said Eric von Schmetterling of Philadelphia ADAPT, "and Congress keeps refusing to act, despite the fact that there are 600 organizational supporters, and despite the fact that every additional day they keep their heads in the sand, they are wasting the lives of older and disabled Americans who remain warehoused in this nation's nursing homes and institutions."
"We want to be treated as people, not case numbers," Claude Holcomb, an ADAPT organizer from Hartford, Connecticut, told the Hartford Advocate. "Living at home. Independent. That's what we want."
ADAPT organizers are asking disability rights advocates to tell their local media and lawmakers about the Free Our People March and its significance for people with disabilities around the country. Passage of MiCASSA could mean an overdue shift in how people receive their Medicaid supports and how the government provides services for them.
Day 1: "We Are Marching on Congress!" (FreeOurPeople.org)
"Don't Fence Me In" (Hartford Advocate)
The Medicaid Community Attendant Services Act, MiCASSA (ADAPT)