What does community mean to you? For some people, this question doesn’t mean much but for the hundreds of thousands of Americans receiving Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), the meaning of community has huge implications. Last year, the State of Missouri attempted to use Medicaid dollars allocated to serving individuals with disabilities in the community for the construction of group homes on the grounds of an institution. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) quite rightly refused to allow Missouri to use Medicaid HCBS funding for this plan, as the purpose of the HCBS program is to help people avoid institutionalization, not to support settings that further segregate people from their communities.
Now our friends at CMS are trying to put in place strong minimum standards for HCBS settings, to prevent what almost happened in Missouri from occurring in the future. CMS has proposed regulations which would prevent HCBS dollars going to institutional facilities, settings which are on the grounds of an institution, settings which are segregated on the basis of disability and settings which have the characteristics of an institution, such as lack of privacy or rules about when people can eat and sleep. This is an unprecedented opportunity for the disability community to support a real minimum standard for community living.
We need your help to make these standards a reality. CMS’ proposed rulemaking (available here) is only open for comments for four more days (it closes this Tuesday, June 14th at 5 PM) and we know that the usual suspects in the institution and nursing home industry have already written in opposing any standards for how HCBS dollars are used. We need people to write in to tell CMS that community living does not occur on the grounds of an institution and doesn’t include arbitrary restrictions on the rights of people with disabilities.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Write in to CMS and tell them that you SUPPORT the proposed rulemaking by going to: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=CMS-2009-0071-0302
2. Don’t hesitate to add in your thoughts about what Community should mean and make suggestions about things that CMS could add to their proposed rulemaking. If you’re looking for ideas, don’t hesitate to use ASAN’s comments as an example. You can feel free to use our language if it makes it easier. Our comments are available here on our website.
3. Send a copy of this advocacy alert to your friends and colleagues encouraging them to write in too – the more people who write in – be they people with disabilities, parents, professionals or just supportive allies – the stronger our position will be. Help us get the word out!
Remember to write in by THIS TUESDAY June 14th at 5 PM. This is a critical opportunity to have our voices heard and we shouldn’t let it pass us by. Remember, Nothing About Us, Without Us!
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network