ADAPT Chapters Take Action Against FEMA

Throughout last week, 20 ADAPT Chapters across the nation demanded their FEMA regional administrators to send ADAPT’s open letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long in DC.

The letter to Administrator Brock Long called-out FEMA for implementing the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan without real disability stakeholder input.

FEMA’s strategic plan needs to include input from, and reflect the experiences of, people who have lived through natural disasters, who have perspective on service delivery gaps following disasters, and who have ideas and initiatives for addressing such gaps. And frankly, able-bodied people cannot speak to our needs.

Nor is the current plan’s oversight in failing to include people with disabilities in the strategic plan something that can be fixed by holding “after-the-fact” meetings. CMS blanket waivers to expedite nursing institution placement is not the appropriate disaster relief for people with disabilities. Therefore, ADAPT demands that FEMA go back to the drawing board and restart the planning process with people with disabilities at the table during the formulation of the plan.

ADAPT Demands FEMA Commit to the following:

  • CANCEL the FEMA meeting on November 8, 2018 for the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan that did not include input from people with disabilities in the creation of this plan that they are legally abided to.
  • TRASH the plan that was created without Real stakeholder input and develop a new plan that includes all stakeholders in the planning, creation, and implementation.
  • MEET with Us! ADAPT Demands a meeting with FEMA Administrator, and convenes DHS, HHS, DOJ Secretaries, and Red Cross Administrator.

Regional Reports:

Region I:
In Region I, Boston ADAPT traveled to their FEMA Regional Office in Boston, MA. to hand-deliver our open letter to Region I Administrator, Paul Ford. They were able to reach the 6th floor but were stopped by security immediately after exiting the elevator. Even though the four folks from Boston ADAPT were calm, cool, and collected the cops were on the scene the whole time. A staffer eventually came out and talked with them and took their printed letter for Brock Long inside the Region I office. Another staffer came out to talk to them, and assured Boston ADAPT that they will look into our demands and get back to them. Colleen Flanagan reports that no one from the office has gotten back to them on if Region I Administrator, Paul Ford received the letter or sent it to Brock Long as requested.

Region II:
Rochester ADAPT and NY Capitol Region ADAPT made phone calls and sent emails to their Region II Administrator, Thomas Von Essen. Neither Anita Cameron from Rochester ADAPT, nor Julie Farrar from NY Capitol Region ADAPT received any response from the Region II office.

Region III:
Philly ADAPT and Baltimore ADAPT, went to the Region III FEMA office in Philadelphia to demand the Region Administrator, MaryAnn Tierney send our open letter to Administrator Brock Long. Since MaryAnn was not in the office, Philly ADAPT met with the Region Director of External Affairs Dan Stonekind, the Region Branch Chief Steve Simpson, and the Region Disability Integration Specialist PJ Mattiacci – Mr. Stoneskin then sent our letter directly to Brock Long while we waited with DHS cops on the scene. Crosby King from Baltimore ADAPT said, “I was proud to take part in the very successful action directed by Philly ADAPT. The action was great! After a short march to the federal building, we stormed the lobby and demanded to see the FEMA regional administrator. If we don’t get our demands met, we’ll be back! And I’ll be there too.”

Philly ADAPT received a response within minutes from the Region III Administrator saying she would be glad to meet in the near future, and a response from Administrator Long’s Chief of Staff, Eric Heighberger confirming he received the letter. Lastly, our FEMA regional office agreed to schedule a meeting with us and the Region Administrator, including Region Directors from HHS, DHS, DOJ, HUD, and the American Red Cross.

DC Metro ADAPT went to the FEMA Headquarters in attempts to drop off the letter personally to Brock Long, but were stopped at the main entrance. They were able to get one of Brock Long’s staff to come down, so they could stress the importance of having real disability stakeholder input in the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. The staffer was able to confirm with Laura Halvorson and Ruti Reagan that the Administrator was receiving ADAPTs demands, and had just received the letter from the Region III office in Philadelphia before meeting with DC Metro ADAPT.

Region IV:
Georgia ADAPT went to their Regional office in Atlanta, GA to take our demands to Region IV Administrator, Gracia Szczech; however, they were stopped by security and not allowed entrance into the building. Zan Thorton and Butch Brosman from Georgia ADAPT continued to call, email, and fax the office, but did not receive any response.
Carol Jones and Tara Booska from Florida ADAPT attempted to call and email the Region IV office as well, but had no luck in reaching or getting a response from Administrator Gracia Szczech or any regional staffers.

Region V:
Although members from Southeast Wisconsin ADAPT and Clark (Weasel) Goodrich from Grand Rapids ADAPT Michigan did not receive a response when trying to contact Region V Administrator James Joseph, their attempts must have pushed the Region enough when Cal Montgomery from Chicago sent his email. A staffer from Region V conveyed to Cal that he understood our demands, agreed to convene a meeting with ADAPT Chapters in the region and regional administrators from HHS, HUD, DOJ, DHS, and Red Cross at the table, and is eager to work with the disability community throughout the Region V to better serve and prepare the disabled community before, during, and after disasters.

Weasel, “Administrator Long, simply acknowledge that these are complex issues, and that despite your best intentions, there is no way that you could anticipate the depth or variety of our individual needs, nor the effect or implications on our lives and livelihoods of even your very best plans. Recognize this, and accept that ours is a realm outside your most astute imagination. If you do not give space at your strategy planning table to those who live the lives you’re charged to protect, if you do not allow for the direct input of people with disabilities, then your audacity will be the cause of injured bodies and lives lost.
These issues persist ONLY because, and to the extent that, people with disabilities are not at the table where you’re devising your strategies! Be the man to put this foolishness to rest once and for all! Cancel the upcoming meeting and meet with ADAPT! Let’s start saving lives together!”

Region VI:
Activists from Texas ADAPT attempted to reach Region VI Administrator, Tony Robinson but was unable to receive a response from anyone in the office.

Region VII:
Ami Hyten from Kansas ADAPT not only sent an email to Region VII Administrator Paul Taylor, but also attempted to hand deliver the demands at the Region VII office in Kansas City, MO. She was not able to meet with the Administrator and there was barely anyone around, but was able to pass the letter along to a staffer. Ami has not received confirmation from the office on if the letter was received by Region VII Administrator Paul Taylor or sent to Brock Long, as requested.

Region VIII:
From Montana ADAPT, Marsha Katz and Shyla Patera called on their Region VIII Administrator, Lee dePalo to include the voices of rural Americans with disabilities in the FEMA 2018-2024 strategic plan. People with disabilities in Montana and throughout rural America need and demand Home and Community Based Services to thrive at all times but particularly in times of and throughout disasters. Marsha and Shyla requested the Region VIII office send our demands to cancel the November 8 Strategic Plan meeting, and neither have heard a response from anyone in the office. As Marsha Katz puts it, “ADAPT calls on FEMA to not only rewrite its strategic plan with attainable goals and action steps that will assist communities in maintaining accessibility during disaster planning, we also call on FEMA to work toward ending the institutional bias in disaster planning.”
Atlantis ADAPT followed up with the Region VIII office the next day to try and schedule a meeting with Administrator Lee dePalo. Dawn Russell from Atlantis ADAPT sent a specific request to meet with Region VIII by November 7th, and has yet to receive a response from anyone in the region. “This isn’t over and we won’t give up! Region VIII must respond to Atlantis ADAPT and work with us to Free Our People and Save Our People!” – Dawn Russell

Region IX:
Activists from Tucson ADAPT, and Larry Wanger from Fresno California reached out to Region IX Administrator, Bob Fenton. None of these ADAPTers received a response from anyone in Region IX and won’t stop trying until our demands are met.

Region X:
Janine Bertram and Kristina from Washington West ADAPT and Michael Bailey from Oregon ADAPT reached out to Region X Administrator, Mike O’Hare and to no avail did not receive any response. Janine and Michael won’t let Region X off the hook, and will continue to reach out until they receive a response and the demands are met.

By Friday, November 2, 2018 Administrator Long had one of his Senior Advisors get in touch with Regional ADAPT organizers requesting to meet with a “representative” from ADAPT. We let Administrator Long and his Senior Advisor know that ADAPT works as a group – and there will be Nothing About Us Without ALL of Us! We are now in negotiations for an initial conference call with Regional ADAPT organizers and Administrator Brock Long to further explain our demands and next steps forward.

To read ADAPT’s open letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long go here.