Midway through our federal court trial challenging the segregation of people with disabilities in Texas, we received a video from the statewide Arc. One by one, individuals with disabilities expressed their gratitude for our advocacy enforcing their right to live and work in the community.
The Center for Public Representation shares that gratitude with you.
With your help, we led a five-week trial in Texas this fall on behalf of 3,600 people with disabilities who want and are able to live in the community, but instead are confined in nursing facilities. We presented 15 experts who testified about the state’s ongoing violation of federal laws governing services to people with disabilities. Their testimony underscored the data: Not one of the 54 class members reviewed by disability experts had a comprehensive assessment; not one was receiving all recommended specialized services; not one was receiving active treatment; and only one of the 54 had an appropriate Individualized Service Plan.
Zack knows that living in the community can transform – and even save – lives. His health and quality of life deteriorated during the years he was in a Texas nursing facility. He gained weight, got diabetes, and had to take insulin. As he got weaker, he lost the ability to walk using crutches, to get in and out of bed on his own, and to transfer from a wheelchair to a car. Moreover, his wheelchair did not fit through the bathroom door, forcing him to wear diapers. When his foot became infected, the nursing facility recommended amputation.
Zack’s life radically changed when he joined this litigation. He now lives in a group home in a residential neighborhood, and goes to a day program where he’s learning new work skills. He has friends his own age. He has lost weight and no longer needs insulin. He has regained skills he lost, and is getting better walking with crutches. Zack still has his foot – and his dignity.
We need your support for our work in Texas and other states. CPR is preparing for trial on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Ohio, which has one of the largest institutional footprints in the nation, and New Mexico, where class members are denied appropriate health services and vocational services to enable them to be productive, contributing members of society. We also are advancing cases in Georgia and Massachusetts where children with behavioral needs are segregated in separate classrooms and school buildings with inferior educational programs.
This past year we have monitored the implementation of court orders and settlement agreements that enforce the civil rights of people with disabilities and expand their opportunities for living, working and participating in the community. As a direct result of a court order in Oregon, more than 500 individuals with I/DD are working in competitive integrated employment while the sheltered workshops census has been reduced by almost 70%. As a result of court orders in two Massachusetts cases, about 20,000 youth receive home-based services annually, and nearly 1,000 people with brain injuries have moved out of nursing facilities into the community. In Alabama, a settlement that avoided protracted litigation means thousands of children with autism and emotional challenges will receive home-based services that allow them to remain in communities with their families.
Your support will help us achieve the promise of these court orders and settlements. We will work to ensure reforms are implemented, services are provided, and people are afforded opportunities to live, work and engage in integrated community settings. With your help, we will continue to assist disability advocates in more than 30 states challenging unnecessary institutionalization, promoting choice, and developing system reform initiatives to expand services and supports for individuals with disabilities.
Your generosity has been crucial to our national advocacy for policies that ensure people with disabilities can access the critical healthcare services they need to live and participate in their communities. CPR continues to play a pivotal role in the fight against attacks on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. In addition, we are working with members of Congress to ensure that new healthcare bills, like Medicare For All, address the needs of people with disabilities.
CPR also is advancing policies around community integration. We are advocating with Congress to re-authorize the Money Follows the Person Program to help people move from institutions to the community. CPR leads a coalition to ensure the Home and Community Based Services Settings Rule is implemented with integrity so that people with disabilities are integrated in the community, can make choices about their own lives, and have opportunities to work in real jobs at fair pay. We need your help to make this happen.
CPR continues to fight against disability discrimination. This past year we worked to defeat attempts to weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act. We now are opposing a “public charge” rule that would limit the ability of people with disabilities to enter the United States or become legal residents if they have used, or one day might need to use, publicly-funded benefits such as Medicaid – the only source of critical home and community-based services that people with disabilities need and cannot get through private insurance.
With your backing, CPR will continue to stand up to these and other challenges. CPR will continue to coordinate meetings with members of Congress so self-advocates and families can tell their own stories about the importance of community integration and Medicaid in their lives. We will fortify our relationships with organizations outside the disability community, such as Families USA, ACLU, MoveOn, MomsRising, and Protect Our Care, to ensure the voices of people with disabilities are heard.
Self-determination is one of CPR’s core values. Over the past few years, CPR has developed a nationally recognized Supported Decision-Making initiative to enable people with disabilities to express choices and make their own decisions about their own lives. With your support, CPR will advance Supported Decision-Making and help it secure a foothold across the country as a viable alternative to guardianship.
There is reason to be hopeful about the year ahead. This is the time to seize the moment. With your support, we can establish a true definition of inclusion, of belonging, and of community for all citizens with disabilities.
With deepest gratitude,