Disability Rights Activists #Occupy PA Capitol to Preserve Medicaid

This post first appeared at Ability Maine blog as “Activist Alert & Breaking News: How YOU Can Support ADAPT Now!

Disability Rights Activists Take Action to Preserve Medicaid & Attendant Care

What You Can Do to Help!

Pennsylvania Cuts Reflect National Issues

Police Brutality, 83 Arrests in Struggle to Save Medicaid in the Keystone State

by Sharon Wachsler, October 16, 2012

As we posted yesterdaydisability rights activists from around the country have converged on Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to convince lawmakers to change course on the devastating cuts to Medicaid that are harming people with disabilities.

The protests and efforts to affect change started on Sunday and continue through Thursday (October 18). Today’s activism saw 83 arrests and police brutality that was captured on video (see below).

Yesterday, Governor Corbett refused to meet with ADAPT, though activists attempted to make headway with other key lawmakers, including Senator Jack Corman and Representative William Adolph, but nothing that led to concrete action or meaningful meetings.

According to Philadelphia independent living center, Liberty Resources, over 300 protesters are involved in the ongoing action.

ADAPT’s website describes what’s at stake as a national issue because

Pennsylvania was in the process of “rebalancing” its system to more effectively support seniors and people with disabilities living in the community rather than relying on institutional placement. The state had also become a national leader in allowing people with disabilities to manage their own assistance and utilizing Centers for Independent Living in the provision of home and community based services. The Corbett administration has destroyed much of this progress by cutting funding for Pennsylvania’s Medicaid home and community based services and implementing sweeping changes to the state’s infrastructure for providing home and community based long term services and supports. …

ADAPT believes the choice should be clear because the US Supreme Court has determined, in the Olmstead decision, that under the Americans with Disabilities Act people with disabilities have a fundamental civil right to receive community based services and supports from Medicaid as an alternative to being forced into a nursing facility or institution. Furthermore, there is federal funding to make these important changes.

At about 5:45 PM today, police became violent with protesters inside the Dept. of Public Welfare offices in the PA state capitol. ADAPT members posted this video on youtubeHarrisburg Police Assault ADAPT Protesters at DPW

Video description: Harrisburg Police Assault ADAPT Members at the Department of Public Welfare building on October 16, 2012. A four-minute video of many people, most in wheelchairs, at least one blind man standing up, and many male police officers in an enclosed indoor space. There are glass doors that the police seem to be trying to close or pull people through. You can see an unidentified woman get pulled by her pony-tail over a wheelchair and onto the floor, and there is screaming, and then police remove the hat of Joey Tate and also pull him in through the doors by his hair as ADAPT members shout over and over “Nonviolent!” and “No violence!”

The press has slowly been picking up the story, including written and video pieces last night by CBS affiliate WHPTV CBS21 News and today by PennLive.com.

When I see these actions coming across my Twitter feed, I wonder, “Where is Occupy in this?” People with disabilities on Medicaid, facing institutionalization are in the bottom of the 99 percent. I heard that Occupy Harrisburg was there with ADAPT today. I would love to learn that lots of the rest of the #OWS is heading to Harrisburg right now, or at the very least calling, tweeting, and making noise about cuts to Medicaid! Will YOU join in?

What You Can Do to Help

Options for Those In PA and Elsewhere to Make a Difference

For those out of state and CAN’T get there in person, here are the most useful actions you can take to make a difference:

  • Follow National ADAPT and PA ADAPT on their web pages, Facebook, and Twitter. Share their tweets, status updates, pictures, and videos! Ask others to get involved and spread the word, make phone calls (see below), and lend support in person, if possible. (PA ADAPT on FB and PA ADAPT on Twitter.)
  • If you can make telephone callscall Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and tell him to work with Pennsylvania ADAPT to implement Community First Choice. Call him at 717-787-2500 (voice). You can also call Dept. of Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander at 717-787-2600 and tell him to meet with ADAPT.
  • If you can’t call, email Secretary Alexander and Governor Corbett.
  • Pam Auer of Central Pennsylvania ADAPT urges, “Try to do the same thing in your state. Encourage people to support CFC [the Community First Choice option] — in Pennsylvania and every state across the nation. This will mean more funding and flexibility in every state.”
  • Savannah Nicole Logsdon-Breakstone, a member of Occupy Pittsburgh and a supporter of PA ADAPT who is not normally able to get transportation to ADAPT events suggests some creative ways of bringing attention to the issue: “Share the messages that National ADAPT have been tweeting/sharing. If you can call, call the numbers they list. Take photos holding signs of solidarity, and make videos about why Medicaid is important — why it matters in your life. When you share photos/videos, tag National ADAPT and PA ADAPT and write what state you are posting from.”

If you CAN make it to Harrisburg tomorrow (October 17) or Thursday (October 18), that is very helpful!

You do not have to have experience as an ADAPT protester! Everyone is welcome to help! Here are some ways to be useful:

  • Show up! Especially if you can come before or during the rally tomorrow. MY MEDICAID MATTERS Rally, scheduled for October 17th, 2012 , Capitol Building, Fountain Entrance, 1:00 pm, rain or shine. If there is inclement weather, we will be meeting inside at the Main Rotunda at 1:00 pm.
  • Auer says, “For the next two days, being there, being another voice, a body” matters.
  • If you’re near the train/bus station (Amtrak/Greyhound), directing people how to get to the Capitol is very helpful. Direct them to the Fountain side (the Commonwealth side) because there will be a rally at the fountain.” (See below.)
  • The weather has been cold and the days have been long. If you can bring warm gear (blankets, sleeping bags, etc.), hot food and drinks, that will also be helpful. As always, brings signs, bring your stories, your passion. Be ready to listen to instructions from ADAPT leaders. Bring your phone, camera, video cam to document what happens and to spread the word.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has already dropped tens of thousands of children from state Medicaid and cut attendant hours of adults on the PCA program, which will mean disabled citizens ending up in institutions instead of staying at home. Logsdon-Breakstone says, “I’ll be there tomorrow and bring the board of Self Advocates United as 1 (SAU1).”

“My Medicaid Matters” Rally Thursday, Oct. 17, Capitol Building, Fountain Entrance, 1:00 PM rain or shine. (If bad weather, meet inside Main Rotunda). For more info, see PA ADAPT Facebook page.

Please spread the word and get there if you can!

Why should you come to Harrisburg? This legislative session may fundamentally change “Medicaid As We Know It” in ways that we won’t like unless we tell them what we want in any reforms they propose. NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US! We are beginning to see people returning to institutions. We continue to watch the dismantling of one of the country’s best attendant care waivers and the destruction of small, effective community providers. Community Mental Health services are disappearing, and the future of these services are in jeopardy, becoming almost non-existent. When Medicaid is reformed, we better be at that table.

ADAPT spells out ten demands. Governor Corbett’s administration must develop an Olmstead plan which does the following (further details on each item are on the ADAPT website):

  1. Engages ADAPT, the state’s extensive network of Centers for Independent Living, other disability-led advocacy organizations and legal advocates in the development and monitoring of the plan and its individual components
  2. Shifts Medicaid funding for long term services and supports so that at least fifty percent of those funds support home and community-based services by 2015
  3. Selects and implements the Community First Choice Option
  4. Establishes specific benchmarks and regularly provides public reporting on the state’s progress in achieving these benchmarks
  5. Assures that people with the most significant disabilities receive the services and supports they need to lead an independent and integrated life in the community
  6. Changes state rules to allow attendants to perform health maintenance tasks for people who need them as a long term service or support so that individuals who need this assistance can live independently in the community
  7. Leverages the state’s network of Centers for Independent Living and other non-profit disability-led providers committed to the independence and integration of people with disabilities
  8. Establishes Medicaid rates that support a living wage for attendants and sustains the community-based organizations that assist people in living independently
  9. Restores the funding systems that local counties use to support mental health and developmental disability programs
  10. Establishes leadership within the state who truly supports home and community based services as an alternative to institutionalization.

What else can you do to help? Share this article! And comment here and on Twitter about why #MyMedicaidMatters to you!

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About Sharon Wachsler

Sharon Wachsler divides her time between writing, activism, and dog training — passions that overlap. Sharon has been a freelance writer and editor of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for two decades, focusing primarily on lesbian erotica, disability rights and culture, humor, and service dogs and their training.
This entry was posted in Ableism, Disability rights, Nonviolence, Occupy Movement, Support the Movement and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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