1999 – Columbus – Shona Eakin

One by one the ADAPT warriors begin to arrive. My mind is whirling with excitement and curiosity because I knew the power of my ADAPT brothers and sisters.

It all began with a visit from the ghost of President Taft. I am certain he was restless because of the shame brought upon him by his Great – Great Grandson Bob Taft. Ohio was one of the 10 worst states in the country for their commitment to keeping people out of nursing homes. Activists, like myself, had worked for years to destroy the institutional bias, while being given many empty promises for change. I am convinced the Ghost of President Taft’s burdens were made heavier by the sins of his offspring.

Was redemption on the horizon? Governor Taft had promised to meet. Could it be that easy?

Monday morning came. I felt like David going off to fight Goliath with my army of 400 behind me. As we entered the Riffe building, the strategy was to deliver a message to Governor Taft that we were available for the meeting he had promised. As time went on and it became apparent that maybe the Governor was too afraid to make good on his promise, ADAPT settled in to wait for the governor to muster his courage. All I could think was that if he had ever lived in a nursing home or worried that he or someone he loved would ever have to he would know what real fear is and the courage to change the system would be easier to find.

The Police came in mass. I had heard stories about Ohio being a police state but never really understood that until that day. By this time, the building was locked down by ADAPT. I was on the Governors floor, with about 200 people; still more were down one floor at the Speaker of the House office. Ohio ADAPT has been working on HB 215 for years. OPASA was Ohio’s version of MiCASSA and the Speaker had the power to move it forward. There was a third contingency of ADAPT in the lobby. The police were everywhere and stalemating negotiations.

As the hours went by the police were negotiating for our “health and safety”. They knew that ADAPT wasn’t leaving without fulfilled promises or arrests. I was approached by the Sergeant who said they would open the bathrooms for our people and two minutes after that the scuffles began and police started to dump people who were waiting in line out of their chairs. Chanting started. “The whole world is watching you” echoed in the hall. Arrests began. Police once again came from everywhere, but this time with masks and goggles on their faces. One of them told me it was because they were afraid we were going to take our leg bags off and fling them at them! About 200 people were arrested that night.

The next morning, ADAPT was ready to take on The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. As we marched up the street toward the Rhoades Building we were met with sideways snow and ice that pelted our faces. It was bone-chilling cold but ADAPT pressed on. When we reached the corner of the building we could immediately see that the Police had locked themselves in safe and sound. Those cowards! ADAPT was negotiating a meeting with the state Medicaid Director, Barb Edwards and her chief staff person Jackie Romer- Sensky.

After several hours of braving the cold and awesome chanting that could be heard for blocks, Edwards agreed to meet. However, apparently Ohio is a police state because the police took control, prevented continued negotiations and arrests began. Arrested ADAPT folks were taken to the fair grounds in sheltered workshop buses, processed and brought back to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning.

Barbra Edwards had actually kept her word and agreed to meet with five ADAPT folks. As we walked into the Rhoades Building State Troopers surrounded us. We were meeting with Barb Edwards, Jackie Romer- Sensky, and staff. The meeting re-opened the door to negotiations on OPASA.

I no longer live in Ohio, but as far as I know the court injunction is still in affect, which prevent more the five people in wheelchairs from entering a state office building.