Stephanie Thomas

Part II
The White House Blues
Day three of the action brought us back to the Administration. Eight years of promises were coming to a close with a lot of promises unkept and a lot of dreams broken. Lip service is not attendant services. Glad handing does not complete a bowel program. It doesn't get you up and dressed and it doesn't get you into bed at the end of the day.

In its twilight hours, this administration could still throw its support behind MiCASSA, still support funding Olmstead/MiCASSA implementation grants to the states in the budget and still support full funding for the Office of Civil Rights enforcement of Olmstead. Yet the President and Vice President had made no move to do any of these things.

We also were interested to note that Governor and Presidential candidate George Bush, a staunch states' rights supporter, had felt it necessary to avow his support of the Americans with Disabilities Act and community-based services and implementation of Olmstead. Vice President and Presidential candidate Al Gore did not seem to feel the need.

So Tuesday ADAPT made our way to the White House, specifically the Old Executive Office Building next door, where the Vice President has his office and much of the Administration's business is conducted. The King of Morocco was visiting the White House that day. His fleet of stretch limos was lined up on Pennsylvania Ave. But even this affair of state was not going to stop ADAPT from taking up our national business with the administration.

We gathered in Lafayette Park and headed across the street. Marching past the front of the building we went around the corner and down the side of the building to the entrances to get some answers. Though the gates were locked as the front of the group passed and took up position at the farthest gate, the accessible entrance opened as the second part of troops reached them. So we headed in to deliver the message but the welcome, apparently, only went so far, as the inside doors were barred.

The entranceway however, provided an excellent sound studio for some budding musicians among us. Rhythms and rhymes, songs and chants were punctuated with drumming and testimonies as hour after broiling hour wore on while we waited for answer.

But perhaps the most dramatic theater of the day was out front at the official steps of the building. There, through a tiny gate, 30 or so ADAPT warriors descended from their chairs and crutches, etc. and climbed down a flight of steps, across a vast plaza to another set of 30 or so steps which they ascended at the other side. This was no easy feat. Lou Wick's heart felt the toll and at the end of the day he was taken to a local hospital where he was able to recover. Myra Murillo snaked the whole way like some graceful mermaid out of the water. Many others sported bloodied elbows and knees from the job, but none regretted their efforts.

It took awhile for the crack to show. At first no one knew how to reach the Vice President who was out of town. We were, however, able to share with them some of the campaign stops the media has reported Gore would be making and suggest he might have brought his cell phone... Luckily that saved the day because after hours of fooling around, staff finally were able to locate someone who could locate Gore's calendar and commit that he would meet with ADAPT to address our issues before the Convention. Nancy Ann Min De Parle, Head of the Health Care Finance Administration, promised that the Vice President would keep his word, and so as the afternoon was drawing to a close, ADAPT was able to claim another victory and head home to prepare for our final day of action in the Capitol.

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Last but not least would well describe Wednesday's actions by ADAPT. We again had two main items of business, but this time we took them up sequentially. First was some local business that had long been a source of serious concern and, frankly, pain to ADAPT. Here in the nation's Capitol, we were in the midst of one of the most institutionally biased long-term care systems in the entire country. Right under the seemingly up-turned noses of Congress and the Administration thousand upon thousands of DC residents were being sentenced to life terms in nursing homes and other institutions without hope of reprieve. (DC's institutionalization rate of younger people with disabilities was almost two and a half that of the national average, and their spending was going against the tide as they decreased the amount they were allocating to community services to spend more on nursing homes and other institutions.)

Having said we were heading up to the hill to visit our Senators regarding MiCASSA we made an unscheduled stop at the offices of the Mayor of DC. Our negotiation team having made it successfully inside, the rest of the group spread out across the front of building. Mayor Anthony Williams was in Baltimore, but agreed to meet that afternoon at 2:00. Leaving a hundred or so to make sure that meeting really took place, the rest of the troops went on up to the hill to talk with their Senators regarding MiCASSA.

Two o'clock came and the meeting began but it was not until 4:00 that the negotiation team finally emerged glowing from the success of their efforts. Mayor Williams committed to ongoing meetings with Capitol Area ADAPT, he agreed to apply for federal dollars for more community based services and to address the critical shortage of affordable, accessible housing which drove or keeps so many in nursing homes.

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