Today, the disability rights organization ADAPT – American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today – denounced Senator Susan Collins for refusing to cosponsor the Disability Integration Act (S.117/HR.555) despite repeated efforts by advocates to get her to support this important piece of civil rights legislation.
The Disability Integration Act (DIA) is bipartisan and bicameral legislation, introduced by Senators Charles Schumer, Minority Leader (D-NY) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) in the Senate and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) in the House, to address the fundamental issue that people who need Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) are forced into institutions and losing their basic civil and human rights. Today, the legislation is more important than ever as elderly and Disabled people – particularly Black and brown people with disabilities – unnecessarily die from COVID-19 because they have been warehoused in nursing facilities and other institutions.
Although Senator Collins has supported programs that fund efforts to transition people with disabilities from institutions into the community, including the Money Follows the Person Demonstration Program, these programs alone do not go far enough. Without an enforceable civil right, people with disabilities will continue to be driven into institutions by states and private managed care companies. This is particularly true for Black and brown people with disabilities who are less able to access home and community based alternatives to institutionalization because of racial disparities.
ADAPT worked with Senator Schumer to craft the Disability Integration Act to ensure that elderly and Disabled people could live in freedom. The bill is being championed by Cory Gardner, however, Senator Collins, in refusing to cosponsor and support this legislation, is sending a clear message that elderly and Disabled Americans should continue to be denied their freedom and most basic rights. Specifically, her refusal to support this legislation demonstrates that:
- Senator Collins believes that elderly and Disabled Americans who use Long Term Services and Supports should not have a statutory right to live in freedom and – after more than two decades – we should not expand the protections afforded under the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision so that the Disability Community has a more effective tool for getting – and keeping – people out of institutions.
- Senator Collins believes that people with disabilities should not be protected from Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) who prioritize their profits over the freedom of elderly and Disabled Americans.
- Senator Collins believes that freedom is not a fundamental right for elderly and Disabled Americans and “treating professionals” should have the last word about whether they can live in the community. She believes that community integration should only be given to Disabled people when it is determined to be “appropriate” by professionals.
- Senator Collins believes that pro-institutional mechanisms that are permissible and widespread under current law, including waiting lists, service limitations, cost caps, and inadequate rates, should be maintained.
- Senator Collins believes that states should continue to have the right to institutionalize people with disabilities using the “fundamental alteration” defense that allows them to deny Disabled people the right to live in freedom based on programmatic and budgetary criteria.
- Senator Collins believes that elderly and Disabled people should only be given “medically necessary” Long Term Services and Supports and shouldn’t have a right to lead an independent life – which includes getting the supports they need to have pets, children and jobs.
- Senator Collins believes that elderly and Disabled people should not have the right to sue to secure the affordable, accessible, integrated housing they need to live in freedom.
- Senator Collins believes that elderly and Disabled people should not be afforded the right to control their own lives because they don’t have an option other than assisted living and supportive housing where service providers control their home and life.
- Senator Collins believes that states should not be required to implement a vigorous process for public engagement in performing a self-evaluation and developing a transition plan for community integration, and instead we should maintain a system where states can limit public participation in the development of their Olmstead Plans, and without a required external review process, advocates can continue to be legally be excluded.
- Senator Collins supports maintaining the bottle-necked systems for enforcing the right of Disabled people to live in the community which have failed our community, particularly for those in nursing facilities where at least 75,000 people have died from COVID-19.
With the election is just weeks away, it is imperative that the people of Maine understand that Senator Collins has stood in the way of Disabled people who just want the right to live in freedom. We deserve better than Susan Collins.
ADAPT has worked for decades to secure the same rights and liberties for Disabled Americans as those enjoyed by their non-disabled neighbors. Learn more about ADAPT’s history and activities at www.adapt.org, on social media with the National ADAPT Facebook and Twitter pages. Also, keep up to date on their current endeavors by following the hashtags #DIAToday and #ADAPTandRESIST.