MiCASSA On The Streets And At Home

I had just returned to Atlanta after a 9 hour ride through the mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky, where we witnessed firsthand the destruction of continuous rain, flooding, and tornadoes had done to several towns and cities along the low-lying valley regions that the interstates crossed. Many were completely submerged and declared official disaster areas. My friends and I were in Louisville, Kentucky with the American Wheelchair Fencing Team and coaches for training camp. This would be the chance for fighters representing this country in Athens, Greece in 2004, to come together for lesson, bouting, and sharing of techniques with one another. There's nothing like sport or cause to unify individuals of vast background and difference into shared occasion. In fencing we come together in a dialogue of swords recognizing the kindred situation that unites us in moment.

It was 9:00 p.m. when Reannon and I pulled into the driveway of my house. I received a phone call from my friend Michelle Stieger from St. Louis, who told me that they were in that exact moment handcuffed to the front of the White House fence with hundreds of ADAPT members from all parts of the country trying to solicit a response from George Bush about the bias in our nation's long term care industry. 500 members listened to dozens of first hand accounts of people, who had once lived nightmare experiences in some part of our countries nursing home system; which has become more or less, a dumping ground for those who have disabilities or nowhere else to go. Horrible accounts were given of people that were denied rights and even their children simply because of disabilities. She had to go because 100 were being arrested.

Anger and frustration are dramatic forces for change when channeled into positive and creative direction. ADAPT was in Washington, D.C. from May 10-15 trying to drum up more support for MiCASSA which now has 50 co-sponsors in the House and 10 sponsors in the Senate. According to close sources they "stopped traffic on busy Constitution Avenue, and surrounding streets including an entrance to I395, for seven hours to gain a meeting with U.S. Department of Justice officials. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Ralph C. Boyd, filled in for his absent boss, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, meeting with 500 ADAPT activists from 30 states for over an hour in the middle of the closed street in front of DOJ headquarters." When asked if DOJ would agree to review the state plans for compliance with the ADA, especially in regard to long-term care services, Boyd answered, "Yes." Calling the ADAPT protest "Democracy inaction," he added that he and his staff would be willing to personally visit and investigate institutions when they receive specific complaints from community advocates.

I know I touch on this issue a lot, but it is important to me. I feel there is no greater cause for appeal than alternatives to institutionalization. It is an issue we will all have to address one day or another, some sooner than others, as in my case. If not for the Independent Care Waiver Program, I probably would not be here today with opportunity to share the words I'm typing now. I owe a debt to those who came before me that somehow established it to this. I want to help others as they did and somehow ease burdens, bring light lives. To say nothing of this issue would be to deny a part of who I am.

I know like they back then, that we are poised headlong on the crest of change and that something has to give soon and not just with long term care. Our world cannot handle the materialistic profit oriented focus of systems that disregards the well-being of the Earth, rivers, lakes, and its people. Nature has been this whole time working in synchronized harmony. Humans come along and somehow deduce that we are the only intelligent thinking creature in the whole of the universe. We single ourselves out and pushed everything back to a safe viewing distance where we can't notice the ugly consequences of some of the stupid choices we as a race do; making things up as we go, neglecting in total disregard essential parts of the ecosystem. The attitude of do it now, consequence later can no longer rule our efforts at collective living.

Long term care like our lifestyles will have to change systems set up to control them are long overdue for maintenance. Things simply can no longer continue the way they are without affecting the health of all in a detrimental way. If you look around you will see, people are upset about the way things are, children are in despair because they don't think things can change and it hopeless to try. But it's not. The universe is in a constant flux of change. Everything is changing all the time.

Now it is your chance to be part of history. Your chance to look back and say I did this, this, and this in those days before things changed. I was proud to be a part of that movement, joining with brothers and sisters in strength for like cause. We changed this when everybody said we couldn't. I understand for many people the idea of getting arrested for civil rights does not sound wholly appealing, and that's okay. We need those who will go out and try to create change through the proper channels. We need those, who are tired of the word games, who want something to happen now, and are willing to sacrifice themselves in the line of action. We also need those who are too busy for either, who are too pained, too tired, or have too much to do. If for whatever reason you can't be an advocate for community at least please use the power of your vote to make a decision on what you think would be best for yourself and others in current situation of world dynamics.

Even if you have never written a letter to or met your congressman or senator, you can get involved right now and make a difference on long-term care and our world. Your vote is your power, statement to say I think like this and I want it to be known. I will even make it easy for you by giving you the fax numbers of both Georgia senators and 13 house representatives including the names of those who are in charge of healthcare issues for those aforementioned. I would include Florida, but I may not have enough room. You can find information at www.house.gov or www.senate.gov.

Fax, email, or snail-mail those who have power to change things at the bill level. The more MiCASSA and other bill numbers important to you stay fresh in their minds, the faster it will reach the critical mass to become bill. When we get this done, we can move on to other arenas of interest. We are trying to right centuries probably millennia of abuse, neglect, and separation that people and especially people with disabilities have experienced as life on this plane of existence. They say the squeaky wheel gets the oil; well squeak, squeak, squeak away; there is no better time to get involved, in what will be history for us all.

Senators: Saxby Chambliss, Contact-Monty Philpot, Fax 202-224-3521, Zell Miller, C-Lane Church, F-202-225 2890

Representative s: Charlie Norwood, C-Rodney Whitlock, F202-226-0776, Max Burns, C-Michael Donohue, F 202-225-3378, Jack Kingston C-Heather Mcnatt F202-226-2269, Sanford D. Bishop Jr, C- Femeia Adamson F 202-225-2203, Jim Marshall, C-Brandy Edgell F 202-225-3013, Denise L. Majette, Michaleen Crowell F 202-226-0091, John Lewis, C-Tami Voyd, F 202-225 0351, Johnny Isakson, C-Brittany Espy, F 202-225-4656, John Linder, C-Dawn Green, F 202-225-4696, Mac Collins, C-Shawn Friesen, F 202-225-2515, Nathan Deal, C-Thomas Field, F 202-225-8272, Phil Gingrey, C-Todd Coons, F 202-225-2944, David Scott, C-Sara Jarrett, F 202-225-4628