ADAPT Arrives in Chicago.ADAPT Action Report: Saturday, September 8, 2007.
By Tim Wheat
ADAPT, the nations leading direct action disability rights organization, gathers in Chicago to put the brakes on people flooding into institutions and nursing homes. Illinois ranks 41st in providing options to expensive facilities and has a history of being one of ADAPT's ten worst states at providing home and community alternatives. Rather than progress toward integration and choice, Illinois Governor Blagojevich has failed to reasonably support Money Follows the Person legislation and is planning to reopen an institution for people with developmental disabilities.
The 1999 Supreme Court ruling in Olmstead found that unnecessary institutionalization was discrimination. However, states like Illinois have done little to end the monopolopy that institutions have on Medicaid long-term care dollars, which translates into people having no real choice but to live in an expensive and undesirable institution.
"I'm ashamed of Illinois' record of institutionalizing people with disabilities," said Chicago native Larry Biondi, an organizer with Chicago ADAPT. "Right now there are almost 20,000 people who have said they want to get out of Illinois' nursing homes- nursing homes they never wanted to go into in the first place. But they were forced to go there by the institutional bias in Medicaid funding, and the state's failure to act in accordance with federal law..."
This ADAPT Action is unique because although housing has always been a goal of ADAPT, it is now a main focus. With the success of the "Money Follows the Person" legislation, ADAPT will educate the public on the essential need for affordable, accessible housing options. Without homes, many Americans with a disability will only receive services in expensive and undesirable nursing facilities.
Contrary to the idea that ADAPT is searching for a new mission, activists see the focus on housing as part of the group's natural progression. Most people know ADAPT because of activism in the area of transportation, but that goal grew out of the direct need to be part of the community. People in the 1970s moving out of institutional settings found themselves isolated by the communities lack of access and accessible public transit. Similarly, ADAPT now points to the lack of reasonable housing choices for people with disabilities as a significant barrier that isolates people in costly facilities.
While in Chicago, ADAPT will hold a national housing forum that will be attended by HUD Fair Housing Assistant Secretary Kim Kendrick, and state and local officials. At the forum, ADAPT will reveal its national housing agenda; take testimony from people across the country who have had difficulty finding affordable, accessible, integrated housing; and distribute information on pending visitability legislation, and the redirection of HUD's 811 Supportive Housing program funds to projects that are integrated. Currently, the 811 program primarily funds segregated housing situations for people with disabilities.
"As we have begun to make progress in getting people out of institutions, and preventing people from being forced into institutions, the lack of affordable, accessible, integrated housing in typical neighborhoods has become glaringly apparent," said Beto Berrera, a member of Chicago ADAPT and a Chicago housing expert. "We are hosting this national housing forum so that federal officials can hear just how bad the situation is, and to gain their support in working with us to right this wrong."
Although the focus on housing is new, ADAPT is still dedicated to leading the long-term Medicaid reform that the country needs to end the institutional bias. The logical next step to the "Money Follows the Person" legislation that passed last term is the Community Choice Act. "Money Follows the Person" allows states to redirect long-term care funding from institutions to alternatives in the community. This will allow many Americans to choose to live at home rather than an expensive institution. The Community Choice Act is necessary to continue the trend away from institutions and get people with disabilities the services and supports to live at home. Choice is what every American expects, but far too often people with disabilities do not have the option of living at home, and can only get the long-term Medicaid services they need in a costly and intolerable facility.
Follow what ADAPT is doing in Chicago at the ADAPT Action Report.
The ADAPT Action Report is organized to let you follow the ADAPT Action in Chicago. This year the direct-action group will use video phones to upload video on YouTube.com. The idea is to show the hard-work and exciting in-your-face advocacy of ADAPT. There is nothing like the experience of an ADAPT Action, but if you cannot be in Washington, the ADAPT Action Report will try to capture some of the feel of being there.
The Action Reports are news of the day with photos of the ADAPT activists in action. The ADAPT Action Blog is so you may have first-hand accounts from people involved in the ADAPT Action. News releases are collected in the news section and there is a direct link to the photos by Tom Olin of the Action and a link to activists uploading video from the action on YouTube.