HHS Announces a Reorganization
Today the US Department of Health and Human Services announced the reorganization of the Administration on Aging, Office on Disability and Administration on Developmental Disabilities into the Administration for Community Living.
Henry Claypool, a former staff member of the Center for People with Disabilities, gave a brief history of how HHS came to create the ACL. He said the US Supreme Court 1999 Olmstead ruling, the Real Choice Systems Grants, Money Follows the Person legislation in 2005 and the Obama Administration’s Year of Community Living were all forerunners of this consolidated federal agency.
Putting people in institutions is the way that federal programs served people with disabilities when Medicaid began. Today the remains of this institutional bias are still a significant part of our system and are the most costly part of Medicaid. Claypool tells a history of federal initiatives beginning with Olmstead that are working to reverse the institutional bias and provide Americans with choice in how we get Medicaid Long-Term Care Services.
Claypool said he will still advise on disability issues but he will focus on ACL and move the current policy office into the new agency. Kathy Greenlee, the Assistant Secretary for Aging will head the ACL while keeping some of her current duties with Claypool as chief deputy.
Following the announcement Claypool, Greenlee and Sharon Lewis of the Developmental Disabilities Administration took questions. Unfortunately, the first question was from an agent of the Voices of the Retarded who mischaracterized institutional incarceration as an Olmstead “choice.” The HHS staff did not cut the caller off, but all suggested they would continue to advocate for people who were institionalized.
Olmstead simply does not make the choice of an institution a Constitutional Right. The Supreme Court upheld the ADA concept that “inappropriate institutionalization is discrimination.” Although all states have Medicaid institutional programs that people may choose, it is our right as American citizens to live in our own homes and in our communities. We do not have a right to be institutionalized.
It was frustrating to hear the VOR misinformation on the national announcement call; but the creation of the ACL seems like a good move to end the segregation of people with disabilities and to end the institutional bias.