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Rainbow Honor Walk

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— Independent Living Centers Call on Congress to Preserve Hard Fought Gains for Disabled Americans –

News Conference at 11am, Wednesday March 22 at ILRCSF

21 March 2017 – San Francisco, CA: The Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco (ILRCSF), the Marin Center for Independent Living, the Silicon Valley Center for Independent Living and disability advocates throughout the Bay Area joined advocates nationwide today in calling on Congress to reverse its draconian cuts to community based Medicaid services as part of its repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Tomorrow / Wednesday March 22 at 11am, the three groups will hold a news conference at the ILRCSF offices (825 Howard Street, SF) to raise awareness and announce advocacy plans.

“The proposed cuts will turn back the clock on hard fought access to community based living and the significant community and societal contributions made everyday by the disabled community in America,” said ILRCSF Executive Director Jessie Lorenz.

Congressional Republicans are moving legislation that will eliminate vital healthcare services and force thousands of Bay Area residents with disabilities out of the community and behind closed doors to institutional facilities. The proposed legislation eliminates the Community First Choice Option (CFCO) by 2020 as part of a strategy to cut Medicaid funding for disabled individuals. CFCO, which was introduced as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is the only current Medicaid program aimed at ensuring disabled people’s right to live in the community. By providing enhanced Federal funds to states that have adopted the program, CFCO gives Medicaid beneficiaries greater access to home- and community-based services, enabling them to live in their communities rather than in expensive nursing facilities or institutional settings that rob them of their civil rights and fundamental liberties. CFCO saves states millions of taxpayer dollars and grant disabled citizens the freedom to decide where they want to live.

In the states that have implemented it, CFCO has become a vital tool in moving disabled people out of nursing facilities and other institutions and into their own homes. Members of the Disability Community have expressed concerns that GOP is using CFCO and block grants to play partisan politics without consideration for the many people with disabilities whose lives are hanging in the balance.

“This community contributes so much and has come too far in the past 25 years, to be set aside without regard by the Republicans in Congress,” said Sheri Burns, Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Center for Independent Living. “Quite simply, the proposed bill (the AHCA) is a death sentence for millions of Americans and is unacceptable.”

"Our country is aging and as a consequence, aging into disability.  Removing healthcare for older adults and people with disabilities will result in higher costs and greater incidence of hospitalization,” said Eli Gelardin, Executive Director of the Marin Center for Independent Living. “There are opportunities to improve our nations healthcare system and ensure that individuals maintain coverage while lowering costs but the American Healthcare Act is not one of them. Republicans and Democrats in Congress have spoken out against it and the CBO has determined that millions of will lose coverage.  We must do better."

The concern is that in capping or block granting Medicaid congressional Republicans are setting limits on how many disabled people can transition from institutions into the community, and eliminating CFCO restores the Medicaid bias toward institutionalization that the Disability Community has long fought to reverse.

The right to live in the community was first recognized in Federal law in the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead v. LC case. The years since have seen the growth of centers for independent living as Disability Rights organizations have made community integration one of their primary concerns.

ILRCSF, staffed almost entirely by people with disabilities, offers support, advocacy, and information regarding the rights of people with disabilities to individuals, educational institutions, and the small business community. Programs at ILRCSF include everything from peer counseling and help with assistive technologies, to economic empowerment workshops and accessible housing advocacy. In recent years, the agency has expanded outreach to include a program geared towards youth empowerment and has now become home to a number of peer support groups including a Veterans’ Art Guild, in which military veterans living with service-related disabilities work on creative projects ranging from photography and sculpture to creative writing.

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