An Open Letter to the Biden Administration and Congress about Ensuring the Freedom of Individuals with Disabilities

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An Open Letter to the Biden Administration and Congress about Ensuring the Freedom of Individuals with Disabilities

American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today – ADAPT – was founded by the Reverend Wade Blank, Michael Smith and other young people who escaped a Denver nursing facility with his assistance.  From its inception, our group has fought for the freedom and integration of people with disabilities.  The last three decades of our work were devoted to ending unwanted institutionalization.  During that time, we have learned that the institutional bias is not based in a single line of the Medicaid statute.  Instead, it is a myriad of seemingly innocuous, but ableist policies that – together – have forced countless Disabled individuals into unwanted institutionalization.

For the last two Congresses, we have worked to pass the Disability Integration Act (DIA).  DIA is a civil rights bill, modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act, that would ensure individuals with disabilities who could be institutionalized are afforded the opportunity to receive Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) in the community.  The bill was crafted by Disabled individuals working with Senator Schumer.  When the 116th Congress ended, the bill had 238 cosponsors in the House and 38 cosponsors in the Senate.  The bill had clear bipartisan support with 20 Republicans cosponsoring the bill.

Earlier this year, several members of Congress released language for the HCBS Access Act (HCBSAA).  HCBSAA would establish HCBS as a mandatory Medicaid service and fund these services entirely by the federal government.  It addresses the long-standing bias in the Medicaid program where nursing facilities and institutionalization are considered a mandatory service and community-based services are optional.

The first purpose listed in the bill is “to fulfill the purposes of Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure people with disabilities and older adults live in the most integrated setting”.  We applaud Congress and the Biden Administration for taking steps to address this critical issue.  We believe that a more robust version of the bill language can be incorporated into the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill and lay the groundwork for us to secure passage of the Disability Integration Act. 

The Disability Community has been asked to comment on the proposed language of the HCBSAA.  To effectively comment on the HCBSAA language and identify how the HCBSAA can be strengthened, ADAPT is analyzing how both bills address the various ways Disabled individuals are forced into unwanted institutionalization.

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