Disability Rights Activists Converge On Governors Meeting
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 16, 2004
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON--More than 1,000 lobbyists and state officials, including governors from 30 states, are gathering in Seattle this weekend for the National Governors' Association annual summer meeting.
They are expected to develop policy positions for their 2005 congressional agenda, focusing specifically on issues related to the estimated 77 million baby boomers set to retire in the next ten years.
It's timely, then, that an estimated 600 disability rights advocates from around the country, organized by the grassroots group ADAPT, are also converging on Seattle.
"Over two million people of all ages with physical, mental, sensory and cognitive disabilities are warehoused in nursing homes and other institutions due only to the lack of home and community services in their state," said Bob Kafka, National ADAPT Organizer, in a press statement. "We want the NGA to vote on and pass a resolution calling for reform of the current institutionally biased Medicaid long term care system, and indicating their support for legislation promoting community based services."
The activists, many in wheelchairs, want the governors to commit to a resolution to support MiCASSA, the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act.
MiCASSA was first introduced into the U.S. Congress in 1997 by then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is scheduled to speak to this year's NGA gathering. The measure would change Medicaid to allow long-term care recipients to use their funds for community-based and in-home supports if they choose. Currently, 75 cents of every Medicaid long-term care dollar goes toward nursing homes and other institutions.
Although the NGA has supported many of the concepts behind MiCASSA, they have not yet endorsed the legislation.
ADAPT has had a history of organized, non-violent civil disobedience to get their message heard. They have been known to take over entire government buildings, chain themselves to fences and gates, and lock down their wheelchairs in the middle of intersections to close down busy streets. In March of this year, 129 ADAPT members were arrested in Washington, DC at a Senate Finance Committee meeting.
"We are not violent. We are non-destructive," Kafka told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "We have nothing against the police."
Seattle Police and ADAPT organizers both said they are prepared for arrests this weekend.
Police said they have been getting ready for the event for the last year. Accessible vehicles have been acquired to handle large numbers of wheelchairs.
"In jail, at least you know when you're going to get out," said Kafka.
"ADAPT Action Seattle July 17 - 21" (Free Our People)
Resolution of the National Governor's Association from the 2004 Meeting in Seattle Washington (ADAPT)
"Wheelchair users to protest as governors gather" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
The Medicaid Community Attendant Services Act, MiCASSA