Stuff to DO . . .
Setting up the Region VIII meeting
by Joe Ehman
Denver, January 27, 2000 -- The very first thing I did when I got my Jumpstart Kit back in November was glance through it.
I saw the home office for Region VIII of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights was located right here in my hometown, Denver, Colorado.
I used that information and put in calls to the HHS OCR Regional Director, Vada Kyle Holmes, and the OCR assistant regional council (translation: civil rights lawyer), Velveta Howell, for a get-acquainted meeting.
I got Holmes's voicemail. Her message said she'd be out of town for two more weeks. Gasp!
Here's the message I left: "Hi. Joe Ehman here of Atlantis/ADAPT. Let's get together quick-like to get this Olmstead ruling on a roll in our region. Call me." And I left my number.
That same day her assistant called back, assuring me we'd have that meeting. But Holmes would call and schedule it when she returned, said the assistant.
I'm an ADAPTer, and I've experienced the meeting blow-off game way too many times. Was this another blow-off?
Nope. Two weeks later Holmes called. She'd actually heard my message and wanted to meet. "When can we meet?" she asked. We set a time, date, and place.
Mike Auberger, Babs Johnson, and I met with Holmes and Howell at the Atlantis office. It's way better to bring these government types to you. Let them see an independent living center at work. Besides, letting them see the folks in your organization puts a real face on the problem for them -- here are real live folks who have survived handicaptivity.
Here's how the meeting went down:
I showed them the Jumpstart Kit. Holmes wanted to make sure ALL the OCR information was accurate. It was.
To know where you're going, you need to know where you've been. Mike Auberger spoke eloquently about freedom for all of us who are are locked up, and those of us in danger of being locked up.
"How can we get the states in our region to implement Olmstead?" Auberger asked.
"We'll probably have to sue them. You know how slow states move," Howell said. "I know there's a suit against Colorado. I'll get you a copy of it."
Holmes and Howell wanted to know how Atlantis/ADAPT will would with their office. They know Olmstead is big. We told them we could find folks in institutions, on waiting lists who want to get out and live free.
"Put a face on it for us, and we'll sue." Howell said.
Holmes and Howell also wanted to know the other advocates who were involved in this from the other Region VIII states. We directed them to the freedomclearinghouse.org website's advocates' page, so they could get that contact information..
I asked them if they thought their staff -- the people who were going to get the freedom lawsuits rolling -- really understand Olmstead. In response, they said they'd send their staff to the Atlantis/ADAPT office for a crash course in Disability Rights 101.
Our first meeting with these Region VIII honchos took place in early December. Then I took off to spend Christmas in Topeka, Kansas.
I checked my messages just as I was about to leave for Topeka to hook up with Lucy and to get this Freedom Train rolling down the tracks.
There's a law of physics that says, "an object in motion stays in motion." For us that object is freedom. Freedom is on a roll, steaming down the tracks. Ain't nothing gonna stop it.
Holmes had left this message: "When can I send my staff to Atlantis for the training on Olmstead?"
That training will happen in the next few weeks. Her staff will hear real stories from institutional survivors. They'll read the walls of Atlantis, the walls that have our history pictured on them.
They'll see real crips, young and old, living in freedom, in their homes, in our community.