1997 – Washington – Cassie James

ADAPT’s two week Action in Washington D.C, happened after working with Legislators for three years. Promises had been made and now we had to ensure that they were kept. Some leaders stayed the entire two weeks. They felt the extra pounce would get some things done! People reported to me that the first week was great because having two hundred and fifty people made the group more manageable, people could remember everyone’s name, but being ADAPT we like to be together and we missed the people we didn’t see.

I arrived the second week; Sunday was the usual meetings and workshops.

When Monday the 21st of June, 1997 came people wanted this to be the hard hit! ADAPT wanted action. They worked three years with Newt’s office and we where being told that they would introduce the bill but we had not yet seen a written bill. Tension and anger where growing, too much talk and not enough action! We expected a long and hard hit even an overnight Vigil. We marched to the Capital and staged a Newt watch right in the Rotunda, acting as if we might be moving in for good!

Our first deadline was 12 noon it went bye and Newt had nothing new to report “they are working with the legislative Council and needed time”, thus, ADAPT agreed to wait.

As we waited a few of us, went off to talk to legislator trying to gain support on our issues. Explaining that people needed choice, why couldn’t people live in their own homes? Some inmates shared stories about the abuse they faced in nursing homes. Minority Leader Dick Gephardt finally agreed to speak with a small group of us and committed his support for the principals of CASA, also New Mexico ADAPT worked with Senator Pete Domenici right outside the Senate floor and they presented him with an ADAPT T-shirt.

By five Pm, we where making progress with getting feelers out on what we wanted, gaining congressional support. At six the Police started to worry we would never leave, as we chanted our homes not nursing homes, the police were communicating with Gingrich’s office and came and reported that the legislative Council would sit down with a small group of us in the basement of the Rayburn building. Together we would write our legislation. This process took hours. The large group of ADAPT our power, supported us with a vigil outside at the horse shoe of the Rayburn.

Bob Kafka was so sick in those negotiations, he was tired, had a fever and chills, this did not affect his brain power, he was able to speak about the changes needed in Medicaid. Steve Gold was supporting us with his knowledge of Medicaid and especially of the money follows the person piece of CASA. Also, Mike O and me kept our focus on consumer control and co-pays so working crips could get services and Zan with her brains helped with language. Steve and Zan went to the horseshoe and kept the real power behind us, our soldiers informed about this process. A great team, ADAPT showed it power by staying.

At 12 AM, finally our small group came out to the horseshoe with legislation in hand. Yes, legislation ADAPT could be proud to have introduced and we were promised that this would happen before we left Washington. We said great, because we are not leaving Washington until it is introduced.

On Tuesday we went to the US Department of Transportation, because they were years behind in developing regulations for the over the road bus system like Greyhound. Even with a smaller group about 250 people we blocked all four entrances and many people got inside. As always we came prepared with our Chants “We will ride, Access is a civil right” and some of us chained ourselves to the doors. At first they could not reach Secretary Slater as we put the pressure on, with our bag of tricks, handcuffs and all, finally they reach Slater who agreed to meet with ADAPT in three weeks.

The People United will never be defeated and with that in mind it was back to the hotel.

Meanwhile, Mike Auberger gets a call that CASA now was introduced as MiCASA HR 2020 we could not have requested better house numbers. Boy that was a great day it seems our constant two-week push was paying off with real results.

Wednesdays we decided was best used to get legislators on board. ADAPT lobbies as only ADAPT could – breaking up in color groups of four and delivering our new legislation to at least 400 offices, in three different buildings. I think we shocked many legislators who had only seen us demonstrate. Now we were educating why we go to such lengths! Only ex-inmates can share stories of neglect, abuse and our desire to have everyone in America get a real choice. Most people would rather be in their own home. ADAPT’s passion on wanting everyone to have the community based services that wanted them shined through.

Another small group of representatives went to the White House the old Executive Office building. This meeting was given as a result of the first week of Actions. The Democrats were quite clear that the Republicans killed a bill last year and they would not support a bill that a Republicans were supporting. They wanted studies, pilots etc. They committed to pay someone to look at the barriers that Medicaid regulations created. The best comment came from one of us, Kathleen Kleinman who summed up the meeting with every three minutes someone in a Nursing home dies. While we have been talking 27 people have died! Let’s free our people.

Now it was time for ADAPT to party!