Last month many of us celebrated Independence Day with family and friends at backyard barbecues or at lakeside gatherings. However for many, independence is something systematically denied. People with disabilities have historically experienced discrimination, segregation, and institutionalization.
Much of the United States lacks adequate affordable housing and community-based services and supports. This often forces people with disabilities into institutions and places them at risk of losing what independence they have. States have spent billions of dollars to perpetuate unnecessary dependency and confinement in nursing facilities and institutions when people could be living independently in their communities. Currently the lack of community services and supports is viewed as a social welfare when, in reality, it is a threat to the civil rights of people with disabilities.
To address these growing concerns, Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced HR 555, the Disability Integration Act (DIA) of 2019. The DIA would strengthen the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act (A
DA) and the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead Decision affirming that people with disabilities have a right to live in the least restrictive and most integrated setting they choose. Additionally, the DIA would clarify that every individual who is qualified to receive long term services and supports would have a federally protected right to be meaningfully integrated into their community (including their own home) and to receive long term services and supports. The act would require each state to plan enforceable, measurable objectives designed to transition individuals from institutions to the most integrated and least restrictive setting.
Disability Network of Mid-Michigan believes the DIA provides states adequate funding and time to meet these objectives allowing 12 years of transition for full implementation and providing an increase of up to 5% of the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage.
For too long people with disabilities have been forced out of their homes and communities, due to systems and programs that view institutionalization as the first option instead of the last. We believe the Disability Integration Act is an important step toward correcting these historical injustices and moving to a new model of integration for all.
This summer, after you host a family cookout in the backyard, take the boat out on the lake, bike along the Rail-Trail, or take in a concert at the park, we hope you will take a moment to contact your elected officials to share with them how independent and/or community-based living and integration has affected you and your family.