Busy, Productive Week For ADAPT In DC
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 25, 2004
WASHINGTON, DC--It took some doing -- and dozens of arrests -- but activists from the disability rights group ADAPT garnered support for two bills that would help people to live in their own homes rather than be forced into nursing homes and other institutions.
Five hundred ADAPT members from 30 states gathered in the nation's capital to pressure lawmakers to hold hearings on S. 971, otherwise known as MiCASSA, the Medicaid Community-Based Attendant Services and Supports Act, and S.1394, the Money Follows the Person Act. MiCASSA would change the current bias within Medicaid that spends nearly 75 percent of long-term care funds on nursing homes and other institutions rather than in-home supports. The Money Follows the Person Act would give money to states to help transition people from institutions to community-based services.
Both bills have been stalled in congressional committees for several months. MiCASSA has languished in Congress for more than six years. Advocates were further frustrated that the Senate Finance Committee had scheduled an April 7 hearing on the President's New Freedom Initiative, but had not planned to discuss either measure.
On Sunday, demonstrators gathered for a sundown vigil at the White House to honor all of the people who have died in nursing homes and institutions, and for those who are still housed in such facilities.
Hundreds of ADAPT members staged a six-hour "lie-in" at the Health and Human Services building on Monday, to demonstrate that the agency is "lying" about its commitment to people with disabilities. As a result, the group secured a promise from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to issue a letter to state Medicaid directors, encouraging them to use their own authority to move money to community-based services. Officials at CMS also agreed to resume regular meetings with ADAPT organizers.
Democratic Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry gave the advocates a personal message of support for the initiatives.
"As with racial segregation, we must put an end to the institutional bias in Medicaid that prevents millions of Americans of all ages from experiencing freedom, independence and choice," Kerry said.
On Tuesday, more than 400 ADAPT members occupied the Senate Finance Committee Hearing Room for 8 hours after the staff of Finance Chair Senator Chuck Grassley refused to commit to holding hearings on MiCASSA and MFPA. Capital Police arrested 129 of the demonstrators when they refused to clear the chamber or hallways.
Advocates were more successful on Wednesday, when representatives of ADAPT, the National Council on Independent Living, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Advancing Independence Modernizing Medicare and Medicaid met with Senate Finance Committee ranking Democrat Senator Max Baucus, who committed to adding MiCASSA and MFPA to the April 7 hearing.
ADAPT members also secured meetings with the Democratic leadership in the Senate and House of Representatives to help move the measures forward.