News Coverage of ADAPT in Memphis

Thomas Cagle (nh-adapt@juno.com)
Mon, 18 May 1998 07:49:08 -0400


From: "Stephen N. Drake"

PROTESTERS SHUT SUNDQUIST'S LOCAL OFFICE
Demand Tennessee funds for home assistants



The Commercial Appeal (May 12, 1998)

Protesters, many in wheelchairs, crowded Gov. Don Sundquist's Memphis
office Monday demanding expanded state funding for community services to
provide alternatives to nursing home care.

Other members of the group later blocked the exit to the parking garage
under the Shelby County office building, 160 N. Main. The blockade kept
about 50 workers waiting up to 90 minutes. Protesters said they blocked
the
exit because they were not allowed to bring food and medicine to the
protesters in the governor's office.

The protests and blockade were organized by ADAPT (American Disabled
for Attendant Programs Today). The Denver-based disability rights group
is
holding a four-day meeting here.

Early this morning, nearly 100 remained in the governor's office and
about 75
were outside the building.

"ADAPT will be here at the state building all night in solidarity of
support
of
our people inside and people inside nursing homes across the state," said
Stephanie Thomas, national organizer for ADAPT.

Police were monitoring the situation in the building.

The parking garage exit opened about 6 p.m., following the promise of a
joint
press conference involving protest leaders, Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout
and Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.

State services and Sundquist were the targets Monday.

"We need to speak with the governor concerning the fact Tennessee is the
worst state in the nation as far as home- and community-based services
are
concerned," said Diane Coleman, 44, a former Tennessean living in
Chicago.

During an evening press conference, Herenton and Rout said they were
sympathetic to the group's issues. They committed to contact Sundquist
and
state lawmakers in an effort to persuade them to take another look at the
concerns.

Sundquist was willing to talk to protesters, said Beth Fortune, his press
secretary. But the two sides couldn't agree on the conditions.

Three hours after the protest began, state employees were sent home about
2 p.m. and the state office building at 170 N. Main was locked. The
building
houses most of state government's regional offices.

"At this point, unless something changes, we expect and anticipate that
everyone will be back at work (this) morning," said Anthony Kimbrough, a
Tennessee Department of Safety spokesman. He didn't know how many
employees were affected Monday.

Kimbrough and Fortune said the employees were dismissed for their own
safety. "All the elevators were not working at one time," Kimbrough said.

Monday's protest was similar to other demonstrations ADAPT has staged
nationwide.

ADAPT's Memphis meeting, which has attracted about 500 people, ends
Wednesday.

There were no arrests or injuries following Monday's protests, which
attracted an estimated 250.

"As long as individuals remain in the building, certainly there will be a
law
enforcement presence," said Kimbrough, whose department includes the
Tennessee Highway Patrol. Seven or eight state troopers were sent to the
building, in addition to dozens of Memphis police and Shelby County
Sheriff's
officers.

After shutting Sundquist's office Monday, ADAPT faxed its demands to
Sundquist's Nashville residence. The list called on Sundquist to expand
community services covered by Tennessee Medicaid, support federal
legislation to expand funding for personal aides, and get the group a
slot on
the National Governors Association summer meeting agenda.

"The governor was more than willing to speak with the leader of the group
-
certainly willing to meet with a couple of their leaders - but in terms
of
their
demands, I think we would just have to take a look at them," said
Fortune.

Sundquist offered to speak with Coleman by telephone, but declined her
request they talk via speaker phone.

Coleman said she was unaware Sundquist also offered to arrange a meeting
between protest leaders and state officials. She said she would have
declined. "This group isn't really interested in a meeting with one or
two
people. We've had plenty of meetings. There has to be real change that
frees
people who don't want to be in nursing homes."

Monday's protest comes weeks after state legislators failed to pass a
measure that would have earmarked additional funds for home and
community services for Medicaid-eligible individuals.

ADAPT is pushing for national legislation to expand government funding
for
personal aides to provide the practical support disabled people need to
live
independently.

"We hope those in power will see we are heartfelt in what we say. We need
more options," said Memphian Samuel Ware.

Childhood polio left Ware, 49, largely paralyzed with only limited use of
his
left hand. He relies on his mother for such tasks as dressing, bathing
and
getting out of bed. But his mother is in her 70s and, without her, Ware
fears
a nursing home would be his only option.

Medicaid pays the bill for about 30,000 Tennesseans, about 70 percent of
the
state's nursing home residents. About 95 percent of Tennessee's $672
million
Medicaid budget goes for nursing home care.

Fortune noted that Sundquist had a role in a compromise over a state
legislative proposal on long-term care for the elderly and disabled. The
compromise calls for an in-depth study of long-term care issues.



To reach reporter Mary Powers, call 529-2383 or E-mail
powers@gomemphis.com

Nashville Bureau Chief Richard Locker and reporter John Semien
contributed to this story.


--------- End forwarded message ----------

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