As the 20th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act draws near, the disability community is not busy celebrating because we are literally in a fight for our lives and our most basic freedoms.
Eleven years ago, in the Olmstead decision, the Supreme Court said that Americans with disabilities have the right to live in the most integrated setting. Yet today, states are responding to budget shortfalls by drastically cutting home and community-based services. These draconian cuts are forcing seniors and people with disabilities into nursing facilities and other institutional settings because they don’t have the services they need to remain independent.
As states cut vital services, the federal government, which is charged with protecting our civil rights and enforcing the law, is simply standing by – silent – while Americans with disabilities have their most basic freedoms taken away by the states.
The disability community cannot sit by as our freedom is negotiated away in back room budget deals. We must take action!
Defending Our Freedom is a three-prong national campaign initiated by ADAPT to organize the disability community to:
· Demand that the Obama administration fulfill its duty to aggressively protect the civil rights of disabled Americans and enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act/Olmstead decision;
· File complaints with the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice that document the violation of rights of individuals who have been forced into institutional settings, denied community services, or have had their community services reduced as well as complaints that document the state policies and budget cuts that violate our rights; and
· Document the disability community’s efforts to fight back against state cuts so that we can learn from each other’s efforts, rally others to join our fight, and hold public officials accountable when they do not support our freedom.
I. Defending Our Freedom: Demanding action by the Obama administration
The federal government is responsible for enforcing federal law and assuring that states comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act/Olmstead decision. ADAPT is demanding that the federal government affirmatively and aggressively enforce the Olmstead decision. To do this, the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, must:
1. Accept, investigate and resolve individual and systemic complaints which document state policies and budget cuts that threaten the freedom of Americans with disabilities;
2. Develop specific benchmarks/criteria for assessing state compliance with the Olmstead decision, assess the states and publicly release this assessment on an annual basis;
3. Conduct regular, on-going compliance reviews of states for compliance with the Olmstead decision, and provide technical assistance to states to help them understand how they can voluntarily comply with the law;
4. Work with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop “most integrated setting” criteria for determining when DOJ will step in and affirmatively enforce the Olmstead decision;
5. With the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), develop guidance with CMS for the states on the Olmstead decision that requires state Medicaid programs to comply with the “most integrated setting” requirement of the ADA, including a model Olmstead Plan that assures the freedom of Americans with disabilities who want to live in the most integrated setting;
6. With CMS, review state submissions for modifying their Medicaid State Plan and HCBS waiver services for the impact that these changes will have on the state’s ability to comply with the Olmstead decision so that those changes which limit the freedom of Americans with disabilities are not approved by CMS;
7. With CMS, modify Section Q of the Minimum Data Set so that people who indicate they want to return to community living are actively assisted to do so;
8. Publicly report on the progress that has been made so that these results can be discussed in a potential meeting between Georgina Verdugo, the HHS/OCR Director, and ADAPT representatives.
Take action: ADAPT is urging organizations across the country to sign on in support of these demands. If your organization would like to support this campaign, email DOF.firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go to the ADAPT page for the campaign (www.adapt.org/adapt-campaign.html), you can see the list of organizations that that have signed on in support of this campaign.
II. Defending Our Freedom: Filing complaints to protect our freedom
The Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights and Department of Justice are charged with protecting the civil rights of Americans with disabilities who want to live in the most integrated setting. Although they are able to affirmatively enforce the law without specific complaints, these agencies typically take action only when complaints are filed. We need to file complaints that document the violation of rights of individuals who have been forced into institutional settings, denied community services, or have had their community services reduced. We must also file complaints that document the state policies and budget cuts that steal the freedom to we are entitled under the Olmstead decision.
Take Action: ADAPT has prepared a form you can download and fax to us toll free at 1-888-324-0787. We will forward your complaint to the Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights, the appropriate HHS/OCR Regional office, and the Department of Justice. If you choose to file your complaint yourself, please notify us at DOF.email@example.com that you have filed a complaint and, if possible, send us a copy.
III. Defending Our Freedom: Fighting back and sharing our stories
Even though there are different battles in individual states, we are fighting the same fight. To strengthen these efforts across the country, our campaign will collect personal and state stories about the effects of budget cuts and the efforts to fight back against them. ADAPT has created a website (http://www.defendingourfreedom2010.blogspot.com/) where we can post information and pictures of your advocacy. This will create a public record of the disability community’s efforts to stop cuts and hopefully inspire others across the country to speak up and speak out, too. State advocates can also submit individual calls to action so that we can support each other’s efforts.
Take Action: Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember to keep up on what groups are doing by reading the blog: http://www.defendingourfreedom2010.blogspot.com/.
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