National ADAPT Advocates for Disability Justice during Pandemic

National ADAPT, the world’s largest grassroots disability rights activist organization, has been fighting for disability justice throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. ADAPT engaged in media, policy, and advocacy campaigns to bring awareness to the dangers of nursing facilities during the pandemic, and the need to adequately fund community supports and services so that people with disabilities can live and receive care on their own terms.

ADAPT members created the Lives Worth Life social media campaign in early 2020 to bring attention to the fact that disabled and aging people in nursing homes, institutions and other congregate settings were dying at alarming rates.  These settings were COVID-19 cluster sites, resulting in the deaths of 70,000 people, 40% of the total COVID-19 deaths. (As of July 15, 2021, more than 184,000 nursing home residents and staff had died as a result of COVID-19). ADAPT produced videos highlighting the need for people with disabilities and the elderly to be moved out of congregate settings and into the least restrictive sites possible in their own communities.

Members took further action to advocate for disability justice during COVID-19 by holding a hearing in October of 2020 on the U.S. Capitol’s East Lawn. Advocates urged members of Congress to include resources for Medicaid-funded home and community-based services (HCBS), housing, PPE, and livable wages for caretakers in any COVID-19 relief packages. Speakers included Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), former Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) and people with disabilities from across the U.S.

The push for Congress to include funding for housing and community-based services was successful. In the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the Medicaid-funded program, Money Follows the Person, was extended for three years. This program helps states provides funding for services to help transition individuals who wish to leave a nursing home or other institution into the community. ADAPT was thrilled with the victory and are now pushing for the program to be permanently expanded in the American Jobs Plan Act.

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