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Activists from across the country will kick off several days of rallies and actions Sunday afternoon at the Capitol, protesting what they say is Utah's lack of services for disabled people.
A group organized by Americans Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) will march from their base at the downtown Red Lion Hotel to the Capitol for the rally, which begins at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
ADAPT, which expects about 200 participants, plans to stage other events around the city through Thursday, including possible acts of civil disobedience, according to the group's Facebook page.
"The crux of our meeting in Salt Lake City is to protest the lack of home and community-based services for people with disabilities," ADAPT spokeswoman Fran Fulton said. "Without these services, individuals are forced to move into nursing homes and other institutions. … Utah has failed to make it possible for people to remain in their own homes, in their own neighborhoods, near their families and friends."
ADAPT calls the services that currently are available to the disabled "severely inadequate."
ADAPT's stated aims during its time in Salt Lake City include pressuring the state to adopt the Affordable Care Act's Community First Choice (CFC) option, which would let people with disabilities stay in their homes instead of being "forced" into nursing facilities.
In response, Utah Department of Health spokeswoman Kolbi Young said "electing the CFC state plan option would have significant budgetary implications to the State."
ADAPT also is calling for Utah to adopt medicaid expansion, improve nursing conditions for people with intellectual disabilities and adhere to its own moratorium on constructing new nursing facilities.
"Utah Medicaid administers and offers a number of home and community-based waiver programs and state plan benefits to meet the needs of Medicaid recipients," Young said. "Although there are many options in providing services, Utah Medicaid has thoroughly analyzed and considered the delivery system that best meets the needs of enrollees while respecting the state budget and taxpayer."
ADAPT wants the state of Utah to improve care for people with disabilities, including expansion of the state Medicaid program. ADAPT is focusing on:
More in-home care • Five state Medicaid programs offer the new Community First Choice Option, which allows people with disabilities who qualify for institutional care to receive such care at home. The federal government matches what states spend on this care, which is more expensive, at a slightly higher-than-usual rate. Utah Medicaid officials, who note federal law wouldn't allow them to cap enrollment, point to the "significant budgetary implications."
More flexibility • Disabled Utahns living in nursing facilities and covered by Medicaid can seek a transfer to community care after 90 days. ADAPT wants Utah's program, called the New Choices Waiver, expanded to cover transfers from facilities for people with intellectual disabilities. Enrollment in Utah's existing program is capped and there is a waiting list; state health officials say expanding the waiver could consume the funding for other community-based assistance.
Enforced limits on nursing home growth • ADAPT wants home and community-based services to expand, not the number of nursing home beds. It objects that Utah officials have granted exemptions to a state moratorium; state officials say they work to balance exemptions with added home and community-based care.
Better coordination • People who want to move out of nursing facilities should be put in touch with state Centers of Independent Living, ADAPT says. In a Medicaid pilot program, a center representative is meeting with interested nursing facility residents, and the department hopes to expand the program statewide.
Expanded Medicaid eligibility • Utah lawmakers have so far been unable to agree on whether or how to expand Utah's coverage.