Tennessee Disability Rights Activists Take Over Governor's Office,
Demand Changes In Health Care Budget
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 20-24, 2005
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE--On Monday morning, June 20, a group of about 30 activists swarmed the office of Governor Phil Bredesen, demanding he rethink his cuts to the state's health care program for seniors and citizens with low incomes and disabilities -- cuts that would lead many more Tennesseans to be institutionalized or go without health care all together.
Some of the protesters are still in the governor's office.
The demonstrators are a diverse mix, representing civil, senior and disability rights advocates. They want the governor to halt his plans to cut up to 323,000 people from TennCare, part of which is the state's Medicaid health care program.
Disability rights advocates from ADAPT and the Memphis Center for Independent Living are particularly angered over the proposal which would cause about 100 ventilator users to be moved from their homes in the community into nursing homes -- probably outside the state -- along with Bredesen's comments that the moves amount to compassion on his part.
When Randy Alexander of Tennessee ADAPT asked Bredesen before the protest if he planned to institutionalize people because of their disabilities, the governor responded: "Yes, I care about them."
"I'm not cutting their services. I'm going to provide their services in a nursing home."
Alexander replied: "We are talking about basic human rights here . . . You have admitted today this state is willing to imprison people simply because they have a disability."
The disability groups point out that in 1999 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its famous Olmstead decision that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires states to provide services "in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities."
By the end of the week, several of the protesters were still occupying the governor's office and the hallway outside it. They still did not have a commitment from the governor to alter his plans, or to meet publicly with the group.
"We will stay as long as necessary," said protester Louis Patrick. "Absolutely, no doubt, we are staying."
"Governor Bredesen Issues Life Sentences to Vent Users" (MCIL)
"The concern over the governors statement" (MCIL)
"DAY ONE: Activists Takeover Gov. Bredesen's Office" (MCIL)
"DAY TWO: Activists Takeover Gov. Bredesen's Office" (MCIL)
"DAY THREE: Bredesen refuses to meet publicly" (MCIL)
"Bredesen, TennCare enrollees meet" (Tennessean)
"DAY FOUR: Activists remain determined for a public accounting by Governor Bredesen" (MCIL)
"DAY FIVE: The Occupation Grows" (MCIL)
"AARP to join battle over TennCare" (Tennessean)
"Opinion: Desperate TennCare Protests" (Tennessean)