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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Defending Our Freedom in Rochester, NY: Call Maggie Brooks and Tell Her Don't Take Away Our Choice!

By The Roving Activist

For three days, I have been on the sidewalk with the folks from the Center for Disability Rights (CDR) as we fight for the freedom of our sisters and brothers who use the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Services (CDPAS) program through CDR.

On July 22, 2010, CDR, and each of its 300 CDPAS consumers received a letter from the Monroe County Department of Human Services stating that CDR's contract with the county had been terminated, and that consumers had until August 1, 2010 to find another agency. No reason was given for the termination of the contract.

A list of five agencies was provided for consumers to transfer to in order to receive services. All are for-profit, and two have central offices that are located out of state. In a separate letter to the media, the county made several allegations which were either patently false, or misrepresentations of CDR responsibilities. CDR responded to this letter with facts and documentation so that the truth would be known.

On Monday, July 26, 2010, the 20th anniversary of the signing of the ADA, over 300 people packed a forum originally organized to celebrate the ADA, but it quickly became a venue to express their outrage over what had happened, and how it would have a devastating impact on their lives.

After the forum, 100 activists and CDPAS consumers and attendants, along with CDR staff and ADAPT members marched to the Monroe County Building to demand the restoration of the CDPAS contract to CDR. Over 30 people, including myself, held vigil through the night in front of the building. Today, Wednesday, is day three of our vigil at the County Building. Maggie Brooks, the Monroe County Executive, has dug in her heels and is refusing to meet with CDR, or restore the CDPAS contract.

I am appalled at the actions of Ms. Brooks and Kelly Reed, Commissioner of the Monroe County Department of Human Services. They are well aware of the fact that their decision has done three things: It has taken away our people's ability to direct their own attendant services (something unheard of in traditional home care agencies), it has endangered their lives because traditional home health agencies will not accept or cover those with complex needs, and those who need 24-hour care, leading to health deterioration, and it has put people at risk of placement in nursing facilities, where neglect and substandard care is common. They simply don't care!

The county also doesn't seem to mind that due to it's actions, it is potentially in violation of Olmstead, and lawsuits from consumers and their families are a likely result, as well.

I am sure that the county knows the status of the agencies that it is referring CDPAS consumers to transition to. According to one worker who called each agency, one of the agencies is closed, another is not accepting new clients, and the others are saying that they don't have the human resources to deal with the influx of clients with complex needs.

These machinations by the county are in my opinion, nothing more than politics in action. It is a ploy to silence the advocacy, activism, and voice of CDR and it's consumers. I can't help but believe that when I hear stories of people dying of neglect in the county jail, yet that contractor still has a contract. It is my understanding that children have died in the care of the Monroe County Department of Human Services, yet, Kelly Reed, it's Commissioner, still has a job.

CDR has not neglected CDPAS consumers, and no one has died, yet CDR's contract has been terminated without due process. When the County tolerates long-standing abuse and neglect of clients in other programs that it oversees, but terminates the contract of an agency well-known in the community as outspoken disability rights activists and advocates, it is a clear sign that big government is attempting to silence the voices of downtrodden people.

Call Maggie Brooks, Monroe County Executive, at 585-753-1000, and tell her don't take away our choice. Restore the CDPAS contract to CDR!

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