Hundreds of activists stormed the Utah state capitol during the last week of September, calling on elected officials and other influential figures to end the institutional bias in its distribution of public services.
“We are here to pressure the Governor to implement the Community First Choice (CFC) Option,” said Barb Toomer, an ADAPT organizer from Salt Lake City, in a news release. “Disabled Utahns are languishing in institutions because the State does not have adequate home and community based services that will allow individuals with disabilities to live in their own communities near their family and friends.”
The CFC, created under the Affordable Care Act, authorizes the federal Department of Health and Human Services to provide up to six percent of additional federal funding to state Medicaid programs that take certain steps to reduce their institutional bias. Thus far, just five states have adopted the program.
On Sunday, September 27, ADAPT activists rallied outside the state capitol building, followed by another action the next day at the facility for the Utah Department of Human Services.
On Tuesday, a group of about 150 activists blocked the entrance to the office of Gov. Gary Herbert’s office.
“If the governor were to take the option, it would bring $20 million into Utah for disabled programs,” ADAPT spokesperson Michael Ervin told the Salt Lake City Tribune. “He’s expressed a lukewarm endorsement of it, but hasn’t been very proactive. We need him to be more aggressive and make sure that happens.”
ADAPT later announced it has a meeting scheduled with the governor for October 9.
Along with adoption of the CFC, ADAPT activists called for a moratorium on new nursing facilities, while the state builds new home and community-based options, and for the state to adopt the Money Follows the Person program, which provides funds to support people with intellectual disabilities transferring from institutional to inclusive settings.
They also called for the state to adopt the ACA’s Medicaid Expansion. Prior to the ACA, Medicaid covered certain individuals up to 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. The ACA provides additional funding for states to cover all individuals up to 133 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, but just 31 states have adopted the expansion.
Finally, they called on elected leaders to endorse the Disability Integration Act, which would amend the Americans with Disabilities Act to create by statute a civil right for people with disabilities to live in their communities.
In April 2015, ADAPT activists also held rallies outside the White House, leading to more than 50 arrests.
A video from Tuesday’s rally, from FOX 13 Salt Lake City, can be seen here.
photo credit: Joe Stone, from ADAPT Action Report Salt Lake City, Utah