People with disabilities who need longterm services are often forced to leave their homes for assisted living facilities because Medicaid won't pay for at-home care. Disability rights activists say that legislators in Congress can change that by passing the Disability Integration Act
, set to be introduced in both the House and Senate on Jan. 15.
Disability rights supporters will be watching
across the country — including at the Independence Center, a local nonprofit for people with disabilities.
The bill, introduced last spring in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and in the House by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, would require states, local governments and insurance providers to provide community-based services for people with disabilities as an alternative to institutionalization.
States and local governments would be required to work with housing authorities to ensure sufficient quantities of affordable, accessible, integrated housing where people can receive services while remaining in the community.
The list of Senate cosponsors includes Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner. Gardner, the latest cosponsor to sign on, was the only Republican to do so as of Jan. 8.
It's possible that pressure from disability rights organization ADAPT, the legislation's main backer, led to his decision. ADAPT supporters were arrested multiple times in Gardner's offices where they were pressuring him to cosponsor the legislation, according to a statement from the organization
. And in November, the statement says, ADAPT had an airplane bearing the message “GARDNER SUPPORT S910 DIA FREE OUR PEOPLE!” fly around Gardner's Washington, D.C., office building. That evening, ADAPT projected the same message "shining like a bat-signal" on the front of the building. Gardner added his name a month later.
Last legislative session, all of Colorado's House representatives also signed on as cosponsors.
Neither the House nor Senate bill made it out of committee last session, but advocates are hopeful that this year, things will be different.
“The Disability Integration Act (DIA) is the next step in building a fulfilling and sustainable world for persons with disabilities," Becca Michael, advocacy manager at the Independence Center, said in an emailed statement. "...The Independence Center is excited about this legislation, as our mission is to work with people with disabilities, their families, and the community, to create independence so all may thrive."
The Independence Center, located at 729 S. Tejon St. will host a watch party Jan. 15 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to livestream the bill's introduction and discussion. The event is open to the public, and snacks will be provided.
"The Independence Center is hosting this watch party, not only because it is important for our consumers and employees, but because it is gaining momentum, and we want to make sure it makes it over the finish line," Michael said. "For now, we want to raise awareness of the legislation, and celebrate the effort!”