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Feds Get Real Institution Horror Stories At ADAPT Forum

by Dave Reynolds (subscribe)

NASHVILLE--Officials from federal agencies and representatives from disability groups heard stories Sunday from former and current residents of nursing homes and other institutions, during "an unprecedented day of testimony" about the institutional bias in the nation's long-term care system.

During a forum organized by the disability rights group ADAPT, dozens of people spoke directly to representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Social Security Administration, the National Council on Disability, ADA Watch, the National Council on Independent Living, and the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Many spoke of the abuse and neglect they faced while confined to institutions, while others spoke of the supports needed to keep them out of such facilities.

"It is hard to have dignity when you are continually bombarded with the stench of somebody else's body wastes, 24-7," said Floyd Stewart, from Tennessee, who spoke of trying to go to college while living in a nursing home.

"Anyone within the sound of my voice could be catapulted into a nursing home within just a few hours of this event," he said.

Former Tennessean LaTonya Reeves spoke about the 18 months of abuse she endured while in a nursing home.

"I had an accident and they made me wash my face in feces and urine," Reeves said. "The nurse put me in the tub and threw ice-cold water on my face. She told me if I didn't stop screaming she would drown me."

Commenting on what she heard, Dr. Margaret Giannini, Director of the HHS Office on Disability, told the audience she was moved by the stories of abuse and brutality.

"I just don't understand that. I mean, that's a human factor, whether you're disabled or non-disabled," she said.

"Why is that going on?" she asked. "And I can tell you, I'm not going to leave it there. I'm going to try to find out why."

An estimated 400 ADAPT members are in Nashville for the hearing and for a week of actions to draw attention to the need to shift federal and state funding from institutions and toward more community-based and in-home supports.

"People with Disabilities Speak Out Against Lack of Community Based Services" (Tennessee Independent Media Center)

"Federal Officials Join ADAPT in Nashville for National Hearing on Long-term Care Services" (Independent Living Research Utilization)

Archived Video & Audio Webcast: "Real People-Real Voices", with transcript (ILRU)

"Dem cause road block, dem cause traffic stop" (Nashville Scene - Pith in the Wind)

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