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April, '02

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  • Institution Faces Closure After Resident's Strangulation Death
  • Doctor To Pay $1.65 Million For 'Wrongful Birth'
  • Walgreen's Sued for Lack of Access
  • Employee Ignored Dying Son's Condition
  • Claire's To Offer More Access
  • FL Gives $26.8 Million For Nursing Home Industry
  • ADAPT Blocks Traffic to Get Meeting
  • No ramps for Naperville after all
  • ADAPT pushes for MiCASSA in DC May 15
  • HI activists defeat assisted suicide bill
  • VA Governor apologizes for eugenics

    Institution Faces Closure After Resident's Strangulation Death
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    Decater, AL, May 30, 2002 -- The Alabama Medicaid Agency announced last week that the Lurleen B. Wallace Developmental Center will lose its Medicaid funding on June 20. The institution, which houses 117 people with mental retardation and employs nearly 400 workers, relies on Medicaid for $12 million of its $18 million annual budget.

    The decision came after an investigation into the death of 50-year-old resident Carol Diane Saint. A preliminary autopsy report concluded that Saint was strangled to death in her bed before dawn April 15.

    A review by the Alabama Department of Public Health's Bureau of Health Provider Standards reviewed that an employee admitted falling asleep on the job about 1:15 a.m. on April 15. It also found that alarm systems had been disabled throughout the building, and that at least two residents had tried to choke residents and staff members in the past.

    Wallace Developmental Center has been threatened with closure in recent years because of poor care and abuse of residents.

    Kathy Sawyer, head of the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, told five legislators Wednesday that the institution would likely close unless Medicaid officials reverse themselves.

    The following link should redirect you to a story from the Huntsville Times on Wallace Center and Sawyer's meeting with lawmakers: http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/red/02/0530a.htm

    Doctor To Pay $1.65 Million For "Wrongful Birth"
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    Teaneck, NJ, May 29, 2002 -- Jade Fields is 7 years old. Her mother, Cynthia, says Jade "has a heart of gold." Jade has a number of disabilities, including mental retardation and blindness. Because of frequent lung infections she goes to the hospital five or six times a year, each time for a week or more.

    When Cynthia was pregnant with Jade, she did not know that the girl might have been born with a disability. She says that had her doctor let her know this was likely, she would have had an abortion.

    "The doctor took away my rights,'' said Cynthia, referring to her legal right to an abortion. "If I had known she had a birth defect like this, in the blink of an eye I would never have had her.''

    Last week, obstetrician Dr. Richard Lieblich admitted no wrongdoing in the case, but agreed to pay Fields $1.65 million, reported the Bergen Record.

    For other stories related to "wrongful birth" lawsuits, check out this Inclusion Daily Express Web page: http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/advocacy/wrongfulbirths.htm

    Walgreen's Sued for Lack of Access

    Berkeley, May 22, 2002 -- When writer Anne Finger goes into her Walgreen's, she finds she can't even locate the items she wants, much less reach them. Aisles are blocked with boxes, cluttered with blue re-stocking bins and other barriers. Today the Disabiity Rights Education and Defense Fund sued Walgreen's pharmacy under California's disability rights law, "challenging Walgreens' longstanding and systemic practice of blocking access to its store aisles and retail goods."

    DREDF decided to sue when Finger's repeated complaints to Walgreens employees and managers failed to correct the situation. "It's so frustrating to repeatedly point out a problem, and it never gets fixed," said Finger. "Disability rights laws have been enormously important in opening up access. But it's upsetting to see barriers like this and realize that the laws are being ignored."

    "Customers with disabilities are guaranteed full and equal access to retail stores under California laws that have been in place for decades," says DREDF attorney Linda D. Kilb. The problem, she says, comes from "thoughtless inventory management practices that fail to take into account the needs of customers with disabilities. Failing to maintain accessible features such as clear aisle space is a significant impediment to access, and just as illegal as outright exclusion and failing to comply with architectural access requirements."

    Last summer former U.S. Asst. Sec. of Education Judith Heumann sued CVS Pharmacy in Washington, DC over the same thing. Read story.

    Employee Ignored Dying Son's Condition, Parents Claim
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    Waukesha, WI, May 22, 2002 -- David W. Collins lived at the Oconomowoc Developmental Training Center from August 1989 until he died October 25, 2000 at the age of 19.

    Collins, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, mild mental retardation and obsessive compulsive disorder, died in a local hospital two days after he apparently drank methanol, a poisonous chemical commonly found in solvents and antifreeze.

    This Tuesday, Collins' parents filed a lawsuit against the nursing facility that houses children with developmental disabilities claiming it failed to protect him and adequately care for him. The suit also names employee Kathie Geboy as a defendant. They are seeking unspecified damages.

    Court documents allege that Collins ingested methanol on October 23. Geboy started her shift at 11 p.m. and checked Collins every 30 minutes as required. At one point, Geboy noticed Collins found blood on his bedding and on the floor and noticed that his nose had been bleeding. She was not able to wake him. But when Geboy's shift ended at 7 a.m. on October 24, she left without reporting the matter to her supervisors.

    Two hours later Collins was taken to a local hospital. He died the next day.

    Geboy still works at the nursing home the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday. She refused to comment on the suit.

    Connor's death occurred ten months after 17-year-old Joshua Sharpe died from being restrained by a Oconomowoc Developmental Training Center supervisor. Sharpe's death was later ruled an accident.

    Claire's To Offer More Access
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    Stuart, FL, May 21, 2002 -- Sheri Koors likes to shop . . . especially if she doesn't have to maneuver her wheelchair through obstacle courses of display racks, shelving units and tight aisles.

    Koors, who was the 1999 Junior Miss Wheelchair Florida, grew increasingly frustrated at trying to get around the local Claire's store. So in January 2000 Koors and the disability advocacy group Access Now filed a class-action suit alleging Claire's stores systematically blocked access to merchandise and cash registers.

    The suit was settle last week. In the agreement, Claire's will work to make its 2,200 stores more accessible for shoppers with disabilities.

    More from the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

    FL Gives $26.8 Million For Nursing Home Industry
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    Tallahassee, May 14, 2002 -- Nursing home liability insurance costs have skyrocketed over the past few years because of the high number of lawsuits filed against facilities related to poor care and abuse of residents.

    Last Friday, Florida lawmakers responded to the problem, not by calling on nursing home operators to provide better care, but by including in the budget $26.8 million in state and federal money to "address the increased cost for general and professional liability insurance" for the state's nursing home industry.

    It's not exactly what the industry wanted. Representatives of the nursing home industry had lobbied the legislature to put a limit on the amount facilities could be forced to pay residents and their families who sue.

    Consumer advocates called the proposal a bailout to nursing homes with no guarantees that care would need to improve. They were also angered that the proposal was tucked into the budget deal at the last minute with no committee review or approval.

    "It gives them another opportunity to cheat us out of taxpayer money," said Barbara Hengstebeck, director of the Coalition to Protect America's Elders. "It's one more gift to the industry that they don't have to answer questions about."

    Tuesday's Palm Beach Post pointed out that early in this legislative session, House Speaker Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, convened a select committee to study nursing home liability insurance costs. The paper noted that in January the industry contributed $49,000 to Feeney's congressional campaign and that the Alliance for Quality Nursing Homes, a consortium of for-profit nursing home chains, gave the Republican Party $175,000 between January and March.

    ADAPT Blocks Traffic for 5 Hours to Get Meeting
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    Washington, DC, May 13, 2002 -- It took several hours, some of it in the rain, but 500 disability rights activists got what they came for Monday.

    The group of ADAPT members was finally promised a meeting with Mitchell Daniels, Jr., the Director of the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to take place some time before July 15. They want the OMB to fully fund the disability-related initiatives promised by the Bush administration.

    By midday, the activists had occupied the New Executive Office Building, which houses OMB administration, by blocking the only door to the building. In addition, the demonstrators, many of whom were in motorized wheelchairs, blocked surrounding intersections and stopped traffic for five hours.

    "I think the police really began to realize how important our freedom is to us," said Steve Verriden, ADAPT Wisconsin State Organizer in a media release. "When it started to rain, they were surprised that no one made any move to leave.we all just pulled on rain ponchos, shared umbrellas, taped plastic over the electric controls on our wheelchairs, and settled in for however long it was going take to get the meeting. We would have slept there if need be."

    ADAPT is in the nation's capital this week to bring about changes in the Medicaid program's bias toward institutional and nursing homes services. The activists want the Bush administration to support passage of MiCASSA (Medicaid Community-based Attendant Services and Supports Act), a bill that would shift priorities so people could receive the services they need in their own homes -- at a cost savings to taxpayers.

    The Memphis Center for Independent Living has updates of the action at http://www.mcil.org/mcil/adapt/wdc511/511-rpt1a.htm

    No ramps for Naperville homes after all
    Naperville, Illinois's Fair Housing Advisory Commission won't implement no-step visitability plans after all because it's "too difficult," according to a story in the May 9 Chicago Tribune. In "a typical new house in the southern part of Naperville, the distance between the curb and the finished floor of the house is 5 feet. The rise helps accommodate basements with high ceilings and other design features," said the story. So it's too difficult to implement, said Bill Malleris, who had been pushing for the change. The Commission had approved visitability plans initially in February.

    Concrete Change's Eleanor Smith told the Tribune she was disappointed that Naperville had abandoned the idea. "It's a change that people are not accustomed to, and there's a lot of false information and false ideas," she said.

    National Association of Home Builders members had fought the proposal from the start, saying it would cost a lot and "benefit only a few."

    Read more about visitability
    ADAPT pushes for MiCASSA in DC May 15
    ADAPT (American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today) will take to the streets in the nation's capitol May 12-16 to demand that President Bush and his administration follow through on the string of promises they have issued throughout the past year. ADAPT specifically wants a sign of strong administration support for passage of the Medicaid Community-based Services and Supports Act (MiCassa, S.1298 and HR 3612).

    On May 15 at noon, ADAPT will join Senators Tom Harkin (D, IA) and Arlen Specter (R, PA), and Representatives Danny Davis (D, IL) and John Shimkus (R, IL) at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in a public discussion of MiCASSA. Thousands of MiCASSA supporters from all over the country will join the Washington event by phone.

    "Getting MiCASSA passed as part of the President's New Freedom Initiative is the best way we know to begin to remove barriers to equality for persons with disabilities," said Bruce Darling, ADAPT Organizer from Rochester, New York. "Once we are in our own homes in the community, free of institutional warehousing, we are committed to partnering with the Bush Administration to remove the remaining barriers. Anyone can talk, but honorable people back that talk with action, and that's what we're demanding from the President."

    To find out more about joining the call-in, contact ADAPT at 512/442-0252 (voice/TDD) or e-mail adapt@adapt.org
    HI activists defeat assisted suicide bill
    The Hawaii state legislature last week rejected a bill to allow physician-assisted suicide., voting 11-14 on Thursday to kill the measure. Members of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet were satisfied after an 11th-hour effort on the part of disability advocates got key supporters to change their votes.

    "I'm relieved," says Susan Golden, who uses a motorized scooter to get around. "I think it's bad public policy to put killing in the hands of those who are supposed to be healers." Golden is a longtime member of Not Dead Yet, the leading disability group opposing assisted suicide and euthanasia in the U.S.

    Ron Amundson, a philosophy professor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, thinks that people need to start looking beyond the soundbites and looking at the broader social factors related to the issue.

    "Terminally ill or disabled people sometimes do have suicidal feelings when they feel ashamed of their own condition, or when they feel that they are a burden on their families," he says. "The desire for death under those conditions is not free, but forced." Amundson, a wheelchair user, is another long term member of Not Dead Yet.

    Eleven national disability organizations have taken a position against legalization of assisted suicide. Many of them have chapters in Hawaii.

    Oregon is the only state with a law allowing the practice, which is legal also in The Netherlands.

    Virginia Governor Apologizes For Eugenics
    by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
    This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

    Charlottesville VA, May 2, 2002 -- Virginia has become the first state to officially apologize for sterilizing thousands of people with disabilities during the last century.

    This may be particularly fitting, because the Commonwealth of Virginia designed the law that other states -- and other countries -- used as a model during the American Eugenics movement. Eugenics attempted to cure all of society's problems by reducing the number of people with disabilities and other differences through sterilization. The movement, which began in the early part of the century, was later discredited, but not before over 60,000 Americans had been forced to undergo surgery to make them sterile. Nearly 8,000 of those were housed in Virginia's institutions.

    Historians have suggested that Adolph Hitler used Virginia's law as a model for forcibly sterilizing thousands of people with disabilities during the Nazi era.

    Governor Mark R. Warner submitted the statement in which he apologized for the commonwealth's participation in the eugenics movement.

    Warner's statement was timed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Buck v. Bell decision, which made sterilizations legal across the nation.

    Here are excerpts from Warner's statement: "In 1924, Virginia, like many states, passed a law permitting involuntary sterilization. In 1927, Carrie Buck was the first person sterilized by the Commonwealth pursuant to that law. Virginia's actions were upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States, and the government ultimately sterilized approximately 8,000 people."

    "Last year, the General Assembly passed a resolution expressing profound regret for the Commonwealth's role in the eugenics movement. Today, I offer the Commonwealth's sincere apology for Virginia's participation in eugenics. As I have previously noted, the eugenics movement was a shameful effort in which state government never should have been involved."

    "We must remember the Commonwealth's past mistakes in order to prevent them from recurring."

    For background and other stories on Virginia's eugenics past, go to this Inclusion Daily Express Web page: http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/advocacy/vaeugenics.htm

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