1990 – Atlanta – Cassie James

It was October 1, 1990 and the first National Action on our new issue: FREE OUR PEOPLE. No longer would activists with disabilities hold back the anger felt about our brothers and sisters being locked up in institutions, used as cash cows and forgotten. We were determined to change all that and I was there in Atlanta Georgia where we let the federal government know that there was a battle going on to redirect 1/4th of the Medicaid funding to assist people to live in there own homes. And us ADAPT Activists were the foot soldiers.

The Target was Dr. Louis Sullivan, Secretary of HHS, we were forced to take extreme measures since he ignored our phone calls and letters. Two Hundred activists, many in wheelchairs, headed to Morehouse College historically known to support civil rights of all people. Also it was where Dr. Louis Sullivan had founded a medical school when he was the College President.

ADAPT wanted President Leroy Keith to support ADAPT’s redirection demand. We explained that we need Attendants’ in the community not incarceration in Nursing homes. Oddly enough, he didn’t seem to take us seriously and all he offered was a referral to meet with the regional Director of Medicaid. This did nothing to support our position. So with 60 ADAPT members inside and about 140 surrounding the outside of the administration building, we decided not to leave. The ADAPT members on the outside sent food, battery chargers and other stuff that was needed to the people inside the building and we remained strong for 42 hours. The college staff left while we were there and were quite shocked to find us there in the morning. Now the problem really was how we get out of here!

What we decided was to try and get the students to support our position and many of us took off to the cafeteria where we could freely talk to the students. Meanwhile the ADAPT people on the outside had left early Tuesday morning to hit the Georgia Health Care Association (GHCA), which was the local nursing home lobby; pretty much making the same demands and not getting very far. In fact, they were locked out of the building, but took control by surrounding it and shouting: “Just like a nursing home, you can’t get out.” At Morehouse College some of us were working hard to convince the students to support us so we could come together again with all our folks.

Finally, after a lot of us working to convince those students that we didn’t want to destroy their college or damage its reputation. That we just want to be free to live in the community, just like most of them already did and that this could only happen if we got attendant care services into the community. A decent number of Students decided to support our position and we joined a press conference together. And off we went to join the other action.

Well, The GHCA Director Mr. Watsen refused to discuss are demands, he tried to escape with the police. As the police accompanied him to his van he found we already had it surrounded. He was forced to take a ride home with the police and ADAPT decided to withdraw.

Luckily Dr. Louis Sullivan was on a talk show. Some of our members called in with our position on what needed to happen so disabled people could get attendant services. Sullivan made it quite clear he supported states rights. I guess it was okay for us to continue as cash cows.

The last day we marched in Unity down Martin Luther King Drive to the B Russell Federal building. People Honked in support of ADAPT. Once again we found locked doors so we blocked off entrances. We were warned to get off or face arrest. It took three hours to arrest 60 of us. They brought in MARTA buses and filled them with us. The Judge did arraignments right on the bus and dropped us off at the hotel. I partied all night with my new friends.

It is amazing when you look back because we have already won a quarter of the Medicaid funding. Now all we have to do to get more then we dreamed of in the beginning: to get the Community Choice Act passed. Many people are already free because of our push. The people United cannot be defeated.

Will you be there when we win this one?