Able News June 2002 issue
Advocates Spend 'Action'-Packed Week in Capital
see caption below
Nadina LaSpina, right, and Carr Massi, second from right, of New York ADAPT join demonstrators blocking a Washington street.
-A week of long ADAPT days, fueled daily by McDonald's hamburger lunches eaten on the streets while blocking traffic and doors gained attention in Washington, D.C.
-The week began on Mother's Day when ADAPT visited the White House with a five foot by eight foot card for First Lady Laura Bush, and in Houston, visited the home of former First Lady Barbara Bush, with an identical card, to point out that 75 percent of those in nursing homes are women. Both cards asked the two First Ladies to urge President George W. Bush to give American women the "Gift of Freedom" by supporting Medicaid reform in the form of the Medicaid Community-based Attendant Services and Supports Act (MiCASSA). 
-Monday's action, blocking doors and 2 major intersections around the New Executive Office Building, garnered a meeting with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mitchell Daniels, Jr., to challenge his routine quashing of MiCASSA on a fiscal basis. 
-On Tuesday, after years of tension between the disability rights community and the nation's unions, ADAPT scored an historic meeting with top union officials to begin working together to support people in the community while also assuring their attendants a living wage. And it all happened in the blink of an eye after ADAPT blocked access to the headquarters of three of the nation's largest unions, including the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). 
-In addition, Tuesday was the day MiCASSA received an endorsement from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in a statement issued by Chair Terry McAuliffe. 
-On Wednesday a combination press event/hearing for S 1298 and H.R. 3612, the Medicaid Community-based Services and Supports Act (MiCASSA), packed a cavernous hearing room in the Russell Senate Building with so many ADAPT members and friends that the overflow crowd spilled out into the halls and had to listen via a sound system. 
-Speakers at the event included co-sponsors of both bills, disability organizations and individuals from the grassroots disability community. The first speaker introduced by Master of Ceremonies, Courtland Townes III of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), was the patriarch and elder statesman of the disability rights movement, Justin Dart. Dart set the tone when he compared being warehoused in a nursing home to being held as a captive slave, and repeated the refrain, "MiCASSA NOW! Free Our People!" Each time, the enthusiastic crowd loudly chanted the refrain back to him.
-"We worked with legislative staff for months to get this event scheduled, and it had to be postponed in the wake of Sept. 11, so today was the culmination of a lot of work and waiting," said Stephanie Thomas, National ADAPT Organizer. "It was amazing to have thousands of people join us by phone, and to have all our partner organizations here to demand 'MiCASSA now' with us. And, this event turned out to be such a hot ticket that several co-sponsors unexpectedly left the House floor to be here, too." After the press event ADAPT kept the pressure on by lobbying their Senators and Representatives from 35 states. 
-"In case anyone is wondering why we didn't hit HUD while we were here, it's because passing MiCASSA is our biggest priority right now," said Erik von Schmetterling, Philadelphia ADAPT. "However, we did visit HUD at 5pm on Tuesday, and when HUD employees left the building they were greeted by 500 ADAPT members each sporting a mask of the face of their boss, HUD Secretary Mel Martinez. We may not have hit HUD this trip, but we weren't about to have Martinez think he was forgotten or off the hook for HUD's poor showing in its response to the President's calling for swift elimination of barriers to equality for persons with disabilities. It really was a great week!"