Stephanie ThomasAt present, there is a strong bias in in our federal and state laws that favors institutional old age and disabled services. Most disabled would prefer to get their services at home, but funding and governmental policies and practices forces people into nursing homes.
This is perpetuated because the nursing home industry (and related service-provider industries) are major contributors to political campaigns. In addition, there are unions which put their jobs before any sense of humanity.
ADAPT seeks to return control to those who are being helped. It is asking that people who are deemed eligible for long term care services to be able to receive assistance in their own homes. This will increase people's independence and improve quality of life for all. MiCASSA --- the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act --- is one way ADAPT is working toward this goal.
In order to achieve these goals, ADAPT calls on its members to participate in direct action. The medium is the message. As one critic said, "There is nothing that a member of congress dreads more than seeing 300 wheelchairs blocking the entrance to his office."Part I
ADAPT Makes House CallsA year had passed since Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo had promised to meet with ADAPT regarding our concerns about HUD's promoting institutional living facilities for people with disabilities, their lack of support for integrated community living options, and their failure to enforce civil rights and access laws like Section 504. Cuomo had failed to keep his promise and ADAPT was not amused.
So first thing Monday, a contingent of about 100 activists headed for the `burbs and Cuomo's home. We figured if his office was going to stonewall us, this might get his attention --- and it did.
The house is on a steep hill, but the group lined up in front of the house. We rang the bell and were told he was not at home. We pointed out to them that a there was certainly a telephone inside with which to call the guy. Outside, there was little room to move without risking crashing and burning down the driveway, but some artists among us decorated the asphalt with chalk pictures and messages. First the local cops and then the Secret Service came and tried to pretend we could be brushed out of the way, but found they were sadly mistaken. Finally HUD sent a priest and a woman from Cuomo's office and upon hearing the facts, they could do little but agree to our demand that Secretary Cuomo live up to his promise.
Meanwhile the other 400 ADAPTers were making another kind of house call --- to the American Medical Association, AMA. ADAPT had written the AMA asking them to support MiCASSA, but had not even received the courtesy of a response. We needed an answer and we needed to get these nursing home gatekeepers to recognize their role in the national problem of making people with disabilities the crop of the long term care industry, most especially the nursing home industry. We also wanted them to see their potential role in solving this national problem. So hundreds and hundred and hundreds of us went to the AMA offices to get some answers.
The negotiation team, coincidentally all ADAPT Amazon women, was first met with the brush off, then the head pat, but that just was not going to cut it. So as one unacceptable response after another came back and was rejected, these profoundly-
medical- model folks learned they would have to get serious. Business as usual was not going to happen till we got some cooperation.
By the end of the day we had hammered out an agreement that all could live with. The docs would meet with representatives of ADAPT to discuss MiCASSA and to discuss ways they could ensure community-
based services are made a real option for people who are currently being warehoused or at risk of being warehoused in nursing homes and other institutions.