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Chanting slogans such as "Community first! It's a civil right!" and blasting horns, a group of about 150 activists, many in wheelchairs, blocked the entrance to Gov. Gary Herbert's office Tuesday afternoon in an effort to call attention to disabled-rights issues.
The action was part of a week-long schedule of Salt Lake City demonstrations organized by Americans Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT), a national disabled-rights group.
ADAPT spokesperson Mike Ervin said the group was primarily calling for the governor to back the Community First Choice Option of the Affordable Care Act, which would make it easier for people with disabilities to stay in their homes and receive institutional-level care there instead of having to move into a nursing facility.
"If the governor were to take the option, it would bring $20 million into Utah for disabled programs," said Ervin. "He's expressed a lukewarm endorsement of it, but hasn't been very proactive. We need him to be more aggressive and make sure that happens."
Neither Herbert nor Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox were in Salt Lake City during the protest, said Michael Mower, Herbert's deputy chief of staff.
Just prior to 5 p.m., when the governor's office closed for the day, the national group announced that the Utah chapter of ADAPT had arranged a meeting with Herbert to talk about the Community First Choice Option. The meeting is set for Oct. 9, Mower said.
"We had some good discussions during their demonstration, and the governor looks forward to meeting with them," said Mower.
The federal government matches what states spend on Community First Choice Option care, which is more expensive, at a slightly higher-than-usual rate. But Utah Medicaid officials, who note federal law wouldn't allow them to cap enrollment, point to the "significant budgetary implications."
ADAPT says it plans another demonstration Wednesday.