Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ADAPT activists win meeting with HHS Secretary

ADAPT activists who surrounded the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) building on April 28 have been told they will be able to meet with HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt to work on Medicaid reform. ADAPT members from around the USA have been in Washington, D.C. for events this week to celebrate the disability rights group's 25th anniversary.

ADAPT's goal is for people with disabilities to live in their communities, rather than nursing homes and other institutions, according to its press information.

"People need to be able to choose to live in their own homes, near their families and friends," said Dawn Russell of Texas ADAPT. "Families shouldn't be torn apart by mean-spirited Medicaid policies and regulations that force some people into nursing homes or even to leave their home state in order to get the community-based services and supports they need."

Philo Hall, counselor to Secretary Leavitt, committed to Leavitt meeting with ADAPT within 30 days as he addressed the ADAPT activists, according to press information. Hall began his discussion with the activists by acknowledging that access to the community is definitely a civil right for people with disabilities.

According to ADAPT, Hall admitted that HHS has fallen behind in its former regular communication with ADAPT, and acknowledged that the lack of communication has contributed to HHS making some not-well-thought-out decisions that have hurt the disability community. Renewed communication will begin immediately with another meeting between ADAPT and HHS staff on April 30.

"You know, President Bush's first Executive Order was the New Freedom Initiative, which ordered all federal departments to remove barriers to full community participation for people with disabilities," said Bob Kafka, national ADAPT organizer. "We've been making slow but steady progress until the past couple of years when it seemed like the Medicaid folks forgot the President's order and started re-instituting policies that will push people back into institutions. We're hoping that after today HHS will work with us to reverse the current trend, and assure older and disabled Americans can live full lives in their community."