Handicap This! July-August 2017

From the July-August 2017 issue of News & Letters

by Suzanne Rose and Franklin Dmitryev

Handicap slugAfter the Senate “healthcare” bill was released June 22, dozens of protesters from ADAPT held a die-in outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. Chanting “No cuts to Medicaid,” many were dragged out of their wheelchairs by cops. One said, “The government wants to kill me.” About 200 people with disabilities—many of whom rely on Medicaid-funded home services—had taken actions in Washington on May 15-16, demanding that President Trump honor disability rights as constitutional rights, specifically the right to live integrated lives in the community, as against forced institutionalization. Another group sat in in front of Ivanka Trump’s house for the rights of women with disabilities, pointing out that the vast majority of people in nursing homes, paid attendants, and unpaid or informal caregivers are women.

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Penny Mordaunt, the UK Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, endorsed forced institutionalization—which is happening when local authorities refuse to fund services needed for people to continue to live at home. A disability rights activist pointed out that Mordaunt implied “that sole control of that decision-making process could or should be in the hands of medical professionals [which] appears to go against the principles of independent living and seems reminiscent of the decades-outdated ‘medical model’ of disability.”

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Most states in the U.S. still shuttle far too many people with disabilities into nursing homes rather than providing home or community services. The House and Senate bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act would worsen the situation by gutting Medicaid funding. At the same time many nursing homes are under fire for throwing out patients when they run out of Medicare coverage. Maryland is suing NMS Healthcare, alleging that NMS sent residents with complex medical needs to homeless shelters or to unlicensed board-and-care facilities. In one case a woman with severe dementia was dropped off in front of the home of her son, who “found her wandering around several hours later” on a 95-degree day.

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Disability rights activists were among the protesters chanting in the Illinois House gallery on May 30 demanding a budget that funds social services. The day marked the 700th without a state budget, with wide-ranging effects from cutbacks in education and healthcare to loss of pay for caregivers to people with disabilities. While some protesters were dragged out of the House, hundreds more demonstrated elsewhere in Springfield.

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All four prisoners whom Arkansas rushed to execute in April had disabilities. While no systematic data exist, mental health advocates and death penalty defense lawyers agree that the vast majority of prisoners on death row have severe mental illness, cognitive impairment and/or a history of extreme trauma, often in childhood.

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