Hundreds of protesters converged in Little Rock, Arkansas from September 14 through 17 to demand improved community services for people with disabilities.
“The Supreme Court in its Olmstead Decision affirmed that people with disabilities have the right to live and receive services in the most integrated setting,” wrote ADAPT, which organized the rallies as part of its Fall National Action, in its opening statement. “Sadly across the country – and here in Arkansas – that isn’t the reality for many people with disabilities who either are forced into institutions or go without needed services and supports to lead an integrated life.
“ADAPT is here in Little Rock to fight for those who have not been given the opportunity to fight for themselves.”
On Sunday, September 14, hundreds of activists rallied in front of the state capital, urging the state to adopt the Community First Choice Option.
Under this program, launched in 2012 as part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government provides a six percent increase in federal matching funds to state Medicaid programs that meet certain guidelines, demonstrating that they are working to reduce the institutional bias in their services, in favor of less segregated, home and community based services.
On Monday, activists filled the reception room of Democratic Governor Mike Beebe, who met with the activists and publicly stated his support for the Community First Choice Option.
That afternoon, more than 200 activists marched to the office of Arkansas Health Care Association, which has opposed the program. The AHCA executive director refused to meet with the activists, who proceeded to block the office entrance. Thirty nine activists were arrested.
The next day, the activists presented their message to Gubernatorial candidates Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson. Twenty one more arrests ensued.
The final day’s protests took place in front of Goodwill Industries, which disability activists have long argued takes advantage of legal loopholes to exploit workers with disabilities.
“Currently there is a nine-year waiting list for people with disabilities to move out of an institution and into their own community and (the Community First Choice Option) can change that,” Brenda Stinebuck, an organizer with Arkansas ADAPT, said in a news release. “Even though it makes fiscal and moral sense, CFC has been under attack. Frankly, people are playing politics with our lives and our freedom; this has to stop!”
Photos from the National Fall Action, and daily action reports are posted on ADAPT’s website.