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Motivational Speaker, Performer, Music Teacher

by Gail Hamilton

 Title of your position:

 Motivational Speaker, Performer, and Music teacher

Is this a current position or a position you held in the past?

 Current

Brief description of your duties:

 

I write and edit materials, emails and social media, phone calls, manage one-person staff, prepare and polish presentations, support all types of people with various mental, emotional, age, and physical disabilities.

 

Required experience/ education/ skills needed  for your position:

 

 

  • Expert in my field-MA in Psychology and counseling and MM in vocal performance
  • Published my memoir “Soaring into Greatness, a Blind Woman’s Vision to Live her Dreams and Fly”
  • Member National Speakers Association; and National Speakers Association of Colorado-NSA Colorado
  • Graduate of Colorado Speakers Academy
  • Previous engagements in Colorado, Florida, Indiana, North Dakota, and California.
  • Fourth Runner up in the National Ms Senior America Pageant
  • Almost forty years teaching individual and group piano lessons to children, adults, and seniors

 

 

Accommodations/modifications which allow you to perform your job/position

 

Computer with screen reader/JAWS

AIRA; sighted assistance on demand – assist on and off stage, traveling, office work and more.

Professional assistant

iPhone

Braille computer

Seeing Eye dog and/or white cane

 

How many hours a week do you work?

 

Outside the office, minimum 2/two; maximum 10/ten; however, this does not count the forty hours plus at home working.

 

What is a challenging aspect of your position and how do you work around it?

 

Obtaining sighted assistance for computer, websites, research, filling out contracts and promotional materials.

I’m getting around this by recently hiring an assistant and begun to use AIRA; however, I still need to acquire more visual help at a lower cost.

 

What is an enjoyable aspect of your position?

 

 Enjoyable aspect is touching and changing lives. Giving people the motivation to overcome and change any situation they find themselves facing. Giving others hope and knowledge they aren’t alone. And, inspiring them through my singing voice.

 

Anything else you want people to know about your position.

 

People who are blind face 90% unemployment rates still in 2019. Because of this, we sometimes are not seen as capable or valuable in the workplace. Most times, we are loyal, committed, and hard working. Accommodations allow us work and participate. We want to be seen as capable and work to be viable.

Medicaid, the Good and the Bad

by Kristy Arellano

My name is Kristy and I am a volunteer advocate for Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.  I am also a mother to daughter with a severe brain injury who requires 24/7 care for all her needs.

When I was little we did not have healthcare insurance.  I remember going only once to the doctor when I had a bad case of strep throat.  We rarely went to the dentist and for the most part we all were healthy and able to avoid needing health care.  Looking back now I realize we were poverty level and very well could have qualified for government services.  We never wanted for anything as my mom was a careful shopper who frequented thrift stores for most of our clothes and worldly goods.

Fast forward to May 2013.  I was a working mother of three when my daughter was permanently injured during a suicide attempt.  She lost oxygen for an undetermined period of time causing a severe brain injury.  She spent a total of about 8 months in the hospital during the first couple of years after her injury. At the time we had Kaiser insurance through my employer.  

I had no idea how we were going to make it through such a tragedy, emotionally or financially but I knew we wouldn’t give up!  I remember receiving a letter from Kaiser during the first hospital stay, which lasted 4 months, stating we had exhausted our rehabilitation services.  I remember the terror I felt at that moment knowing we could not possible care for our daughter on our own.  I was scared the hospital would refuse to continue to treat out daughter and that we might be discharged with a 14 year old that needed round the clock care just to survive.  Insert a hospital case worker.  She explained that our daughter would qualify for Medicaid based on her disability.  After jumping through the required hoops and getting misinformation about a variety of waivers we eventually navigated our way through the process to get her set up in the system.  

She is now days away from turning 21.  Her health has improved, but she still requires 24/7 care to ensure she doesn’t end up back in the hospital. I am so thankful for everyone who went before us to fight for these benefits and for those who continue to fight for them.  I still struggle with resources to navigate the changing landscape as she moved from children’s services into adult services.  Currently we have 22 hours daily approved nursing that decreases to 16 hours once she turns 21 because magically as an adult she will no longer need the level of care that she once did, right?It is a constant challenge to find and keep qualified nurses to care for her and never have we had staffing for all the hours she has been approved for.  Low wages and minimal employment benefits through the agencies make home health nursing jobs less desirable then what hospitals and other institutions can provide.  We are consistently scrambling to find ways to supplement what she needs by what’s provided.  

Medicaid has been a huge blessing to our family.  With Medicaid we have been able to bring our daughter home and for the most part have the supplies, medication and services that we so desperately needed to continue to care for our daughter.  We have learned about state Medicaid and strived to educate ourselves about the variety of waivers she has been eligible for throughout the years.  It has been a huge struggle to educate ourselves to make the best decisions about what she needs and then to advocate so that we can get the right medical equipment, in home assistance for care, medications and daily supplies.  I had to quit my full time job just to manage her care and ongoing needs.  I fight weekly with providers, insurance and/or Medicaid to ensure she has her basic needs met.  While it’s not a perfect system, I don’t know how we’d manage without Medicaid to give our daughter a comfortable meaningful life at home, where she belongs, with her family.

**All Blogs reflect the opinions/experiences of people with disabilities or family members of people with disabilities. They do not reflect CCDC’s official position on any portion of Medicaid services.

My Perspective – Living in the Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities System

By Jeanie Benfield assisted by Jo Booms

I value my Medicaid and realize I’d be in an institution without it. But it’s not enough to create a system to serve people with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities (IDD) and then let it run amok because society doesn’t value the people the system was set up to serve.  I am now lucky enough to have services through excellent agencies – but for most of my life, I didn’t.  Most people don’t have any idea how bad it is in the IDD system. The problems are due to massive problems in oversight plus the system’s refusal to pay direct care workers a skilled-job wage. The wage problem makes it so that people with IDD often have no choice but to receive services from the very people they should most be protected from. When we do come across outstanding direct care workers, we value them – but the system as a whole does not. I have an assistant, Jo. Jo has worked with me for 21 years in various capacities (paid and unpaid). I have a severe speech impairment due to my disability.  Jo is one of only a few people who can interpret for me on the level I need. The system pays her $12/hour to do this. I can trust her with my life, and the system pays her $12/hour.

It is difficult to find great direct care workers who will stay in this field; they’re not paid a living wage and the system makes the job hellishly stressful. The lack of quality direct care workers has a horrible effect on quality of life for people with IDD. You’d think that overseeing agencies would know about these problems – but they don’t, because what the agencies oversee is largely paperwork. If the paperwork’s ok, the overseeing agencies think that means the clients have great lives. What the system doesn’t understand is that what doesn’t make it onto paper doesn’t get reflected in the statistics. Abusive direct care workers aren’t going to write on an Incident Report (IR) that the reason Client A hit Client B is because the direct care worker was rude and insulting to Client A. This is a true story; I’m Client B. Client A is a sweet person whom I love dearly. She asked the worker if she could go trick-or-treating. The worker could have politely and respectfully explained that Client A is too old to go trick-or treating and then said something like, “You’re always so good at helping give out candy when trick-or-treaters come to the door. I was really hoping you could help me out with that”, or the staff could have reminded Client A that she always has a great time at the ARC Halloween party and that she receives many compliments on her costumes. There are any number of ways the worker could have redirected Client A appropriately. But instead, the worker chose to speak to her scathingly. Disabilities don’t prevent people from having feelings. When Client A gets upset, she flails her hands like a toddler. I happened to be in the way. It wasn’t intended as a hit, and didn’t hurt or leave a mark. But the staff counted it as a hit, wrote an IR, and tried to pressure me into calling the police and pressing charges because “Client A needs to know there are consequences when she hits”. I was like, ‘What the hell???’ I refused. The staff got mad, but oh well. I’m not about to press charges against another client because of something a worker did wrong. I told the residential director what really happened, so Client A ended up not being in trouble over it. But when there’s no one to witness or report or when there’s no one who cares enough to take witnesses seriously, clients get in trouble, daily, for crap that staff pull. Many clients are on behavioral programs to address, repress, and extinguish their understandable reactions to being treated like crap by the direct care workers who are supposed to be providing them with quality care. Many of these same clients are on psychotropic meds to make them acquiesce to workers treating them inappropriately on a daily basis.

It’s not right, but officials don’t want to hear about the problems. When clients, family members, and guardians try to tell state-level officials about problems in the IDD system, the state dismisses our testimony as “anecdotes”. We are not anecdotes. We are human beings who, through the blessing of Medicaid, are trying to experience the inalienable rights granted to us by our country’s constitution. Medicaid is a huge step forward in our quest for equality. But existence of the program alone isn’t enough; it must deliver services in ways that uphold the dignity of the human beings it serves.

 

**All Blogs reflect the opinions/experiences of people with disabilities or family members of people with disabilities. They do not reflect CCDC’s official position on any portion of Medicaid services.”

Experiences with Medicaid

by Jennifer Roberts

In 1985, when I was in Kindergarten, I was hospitalized for four days. After receiving a support poster from my classmates, a special teddy bear, and lots of finger pricks, I came home with a diagnosis of asthma. From that time forward I carried an inhaler, and I used it 8 times a day. Throughout childhood, my biggest challenge at school was timing attacks so that I could get to my inhaler in the office. If I was at recess, at specials, or in the field, taking these walks felt like an eternity. By the time I got there I was dizzy from lack of oxygen, barely able to move my legs, and struggling to tell the teacher that I needed help. These attacks also happened at home, and forgetting an inhaler, or bringing an empty inhaler, constituted an emergency. 

 

At sixteen I was prescribed Azmacourt. It used an inhaled steroid to reduce the inflammation in my lungs, and it changed the game. For the first time in P.E., I could run-walk a quarter mile without getting out of breath. During most of my day I forgot that I used an inhaler.

 

In my 20’s a drug came out called Advair. It combines the inhaled steroid of Azmacourt, with a new medicine that relaxes my airways. It completely replaced my rescue inhaler except for emergencies. Advair is not cheap. The retail price for my current version is around $650, and I use one per month. Two years ago my doctors added a medication called Spiriva, with a similar price tag. I use two per month.  

 

Asthma was the first of many health challenges, but I can’t step away from it. Planning for health insurance has been a necessity and a constant struggle. My father developed Leukemia my senior year of college. My mother’s plan covered him, but not me. I was punished at my first job review for taking more than two sick days a year. When I left I spent seven years of my life without any insurance, relying on the Colorado Indigent Care program. I returned to work full time in 2009, but even with my employer’s health plan it was cheaper to buy generic Advair from Canada. 

 

The Affordable Care Act granted me medical care for the first time in 13 years. I am a member of the Cherokee Nation, and as a result I had low premiums, and $0 deductibles. The ACA was implemented right after I was seriously injured and it covered the full cost of several bone surgeries, in addition to covering the full cost of my prescriptions. This helped me keep my home and modest assets.

                                                          

I lost ACA coverage when I was awarded SSDI. Everyone on SSDI is automatically placed on Medicare, and I was not allowed to have both. Medicare required me to pay back my ACA premium on my taxes, and I retroactively lost cost sharing. With Medicare I was also going to have to pay more than $6,000 for my inhalers. That is about a third of my income. I did not want to go on Medicaid because before my accident I went through the Dave Ramsey financial plan. I did not want to give up my emergency fund because it makes me feel safe and gives me stability. 

 

CCDC helped me apply for the Medicaid Buy-in program. The Medicaid Buy-in was created through the Affordable Care Act for working people with disabilities. It allows participants to have Medicaid, but keep assets like a retirement plan and savings account. One key is that participants have to be paid to work, but there is no hourly minimum. It is similar in cost to my American Indian Health Plan, and is calculated based on my disability income and my employment income. So far I pay $90 a month for my premium, $0 co-pays for visits and $1.25-$3.75 for prescriptions. 

 

Getting onto the Buy-in program was challenging. Coloradans applying for ACA coverage have to apply for Medicaid and be denied to qualify. Even though my case at Connect for Health was closed, it was messing up my Medicaid eligibility because I had been denied recently. CCDC helped me get past this. Once I was approved it was easy to use.  I was already on Kaiser with Medicare so I just let them know I had Medicaid too. As soon as my next appointment I did not have to pay a co-pay and I was able to get my prescriptions. Medicaid is supposed to pay for my Medicare Part B premium but they aren’t, and I need to file an appeal. CCDC helps with these. The plan also covers dental at limited locations but I have not tried it.

 

The Medicaid Buy-in has some limitations. It does not cover seniors over 65. It does not cover people if they cannot work at all. It only covers people with a disability, and doesn’t cover things like the high cost of insulin if Diabetes is your only condition. People who don’t qualify can still lose their assets if they are injured like I was, or get really sick like my father. I am not sure what happens if you have periods where you have to miss a whole month of not working, like when you need surgery. But so far it is a good step. In the meantime I am also working with the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care to expand this kind of care for everyone. 

 

**All Blogs reflect the opinions/experiences of people with disabilities or family members of people with disabilities. They do not reflect CCDC’s official position on any portion of Medicaid services.”

Goodnight, Colorado

 by Brigitta Hebdron

My son has Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic cause of autism. One of the first challenges we faced was disrupted sleep patterns. He was up crying loudly many nights long after the family was asleep. By the time he was eighteen months old, he shared a room with his older sister. When he awoke, I ran to their second-floor bedroom, swept him up in my arms, and carried him quickly down to my bedroom on the first floor, attempting to keep him from waking his sisters who required a good night’s sleep for school. Once, I dropped him in my sluggish attempt to hurry down the dark stairs in the middle of the night. To this day, that’s the only concussion he has ever had. 

When he finally slept through the night, at seven, and after being on meds for months, I was ready throw a party! A “sleepover” with one guest… me! We didn’t live in Colorado during most of those early years. When we moved here, I was shocked to find out that, after years of dealing with the exhaustion of disrupted sleep, his acquired ability to sleep through the night could have prevented him from qualifying for the CES Waiver. 

The Code of Colorado Regulations, found on the Colorado Secretary of State website states the following about CES Waiver Eligibility: 

“The individual demonstrates a behavior or has a medical condition that requires direct human intervention, more intense than a verbal reminder, redirection or brief observation of status, at least once every two hours during the day and on a weekly average of once every three hours during the night.” https://www.sos.state.co.us/CCR/GenerateRulePdf.do?ruleVersionId=6591&fileName=10%20CCR%202 505-10%208.500 

So, if you have a child with disabilities, regardless of diagnosis, severity of needs, physical or behavioral challenges, if he does not require you to be up with him every three hours during the night he doesn’t qualify for a much-needed waiver, according to the State of Colorado? Yep, that’s right. Regardless of the child’s cognitive or adaptive IQ, regardless of his daytime behaviors, regardless of incontinence, vomiting, or seizures. 

I am not an expert in all disabilities, but I am an expert in being a mom of kids with special needs. I think I can easily speak for all of us when I say, at the very least, it’s an exhausting life, even on the best days. Often, our only respite comes when our children finally go to sleep. My son is eighteen now, and l still threaten the life of anyone who wakes him up after I finally get him to sleep. I have spoken to many moms of children with disabilities, sometimes truly debilitating disabilities, who say their kids sleep through the night. Isn’t that the mark of good mommying, when children are comfortable and sleeping soundly in their own beds at night? 

To add salt to this wound, I have been advised that wakefulness due to incontinence “isn’t enough to fulfill the state’s requirement.” What? You’re joking. It wasn’t enough that he was up, and I had to repeat the bedtime routine as I cleaned him up, made up a clean place for him to sleep (admittedly, not always his bed, sometimes just a palette on the floor,) and get him to calm down and go back to sleep at 3AM? Bed-wetting wasn’t a good enough reason? 

This narrow, archaic, and frankly, uneducated policy that is strictly enforced in Colorado must be revised. Disabilities are as diverse as all the people on earth. What affects one, does not affect all, even among those who have the same diagnosis. Not all kids with autism have disrupted sleep patterns. Many, like my son, experience that symptom when they are young, but eventually manage it through meds. 

I tried to research the history of the CES Waiver to figure out how this policy originated. I found nothing on the internet. So, who decided it? And why? Why sleep? Why not seizures, perseverating, incontinence, immobility, IQ, etc? I could go on and on… What determines which “symptom” should outweigh the others? My dear friend, whose son is nonverbal probably wouldn’t trade places with me on the day my son put his fist through my windshield. Whose need is greater? If both boys sleep through the night are both families undeserving of the interventions the CES Waiver enables? 

Dear Colorado Medicaid, it’s 2019, we expect you to contemporize your views on raising children with disabilities. The one thing families like mine deserve is a good night’s sleep!

**All Blogs reflect the opinions/experiences of people with disabilities or family members of people with disabilities. They do not reflect CCDC’s official position on any portion of Medicaid services.

Medicaid Blog

Introduction

 

My name is Nicole Bishop and I am a volunteer disability advocate and social worker currently employed at AllHealth network working with at risk teens and young adults experiencing first time psychotic episodes. I live independently with my family including my two-year-old son, and partner. I also am diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2 which is a neuromuscular condition under the larger umbrella of Muscular Dystrophy disorders. 

I would consider myself a success story in many ways. I have successfully lived independently, having my own apartment, caregiving for my child, and completing a master’s program with a 3.95 average. However, being disabled means that I must fight and advocate to provide myself with the needed resources and supports to maintain a comfortable independent quality of life. This includes accessing Medicaid services for basic daily living.  The current services I access through Medicaid include the Consumer Directed Support System (CDASS), durable medical supply coverage, and primary care doctors. I am also considered a “pickle” which means I qualify for Medicare services as a primary insurance and Medicaid as a secondary. This was not a requirement but I decided on adding in Medicare when asked by a case manager, at that moment of decision the faces of countless receptionists, and doctors flashed across my mind “oh you’re on Medicaid….I see”. The passive aggressive judgment of being on the “poverty insurance”.  

 

The love-hate relationship of Medicaid

Despite some struggles with Medicaid, I am eternally grateful for the program that I am currently qualifying for, Elderly, Blind, and Disabled (EBD) waiver. Through EBD I access CDASS and self-directed care which allows immense independence. I am free from the chains of home health companies, free from the dangers of the chaos of unknown caregivers, free from rigorous agency schedules, free to choose who comes into my own home, free to compensate family members for caregiving they are already providing, free to work, and free to become a mother, a longtime dream of mine. What does Medicaid mean for me? Freedom. However, having the supports in place that I do now does not mean that this comes easily. Adding in supports was an uphill advocacy battle involving education, learning self-worth, and connecting to the community. Initially through CDASS I was given a low budget that did not meet my caregiving needs. I can remember a filthy apartment, bed sores, depression, and illness. Thankfully I had friends within the disabled community who helped make the connection to first ADAPT and then Colorado Cross Disability. At ADAPT I learned of the disability rights movement and it ignited inside me the spark of worth. I am worth being care for, I am worthy of happiness and to have my needs met. After taking the advocacy class through CCDC I learned how to advocate within the Medicaid system and knew I could make drastic changes. I was assigned an advocate Donna Sablan who advocated on my behalf. Through a four-year struggle, totaling 225 prescriptions of proof of what I was already entitled for, I was given appropriate caregiving services. From then on, I have become passionate about advocacy, advocacy for myself and advocacy for others. I hope to continue into the future the gift of advocacy that was given to me. There is so many more boundaries that advocates must break through within Medicaid. As a community we can be and are successful in this. “nothing about us, without us!

 

**All Blogs reflect the opinions/experiences of people with disabilities or family members of people with disabilities. They do not reflect CCDC’s official position on any portion of Medicaid services.”

Join Us to Celebrate The Passage of HB 19-1269, The Mental Health Parity Insurance Bill

Colorado Coalition for Parity

Join us to celebrate the recent passage of HB 19-1269 The Mental Health Parity Insurance Bill

 

September 20th 2019
10:30 AM– 12:00PM

 

Addiction Professionals Day
Tivoli Film Center
University of Colorado – Denver – College of Arts and Media
Auraria Campus
901 Larimer St. Denver, CO 80202

Special recognition of the legislative bill sponsors
Meet Colorado’s new Ombudsman for Behavioral Health Care Access

 

Refreshments

 

The Denver Reel Recovery Film Festival Presented 9/20/19 Tivoli Film Center Immediately following the Parity reception

The Denver Reel Recovery Film Festival
Presented
9/20/19
Tivoli Film Center
Immediately following the
Parity reception

 

SAVE THE DATE! 9/21/19 AFR Colorado Hosts: RALLY FOR RECOVERY Denver Civic Center Park

SAVE THE DATE!
9/21/19
AFR Colorado Hosts:
RALLY FOR RECOVERY
Denver Civic Center Park

 

Guidelines for Creating Accessible Meetings and Events

4 different signs, the first one is for Access for Hearing Loss, the second sign is for Sign Language Interpretation, the third sign is the International Sign for Accessibility and the fouth sign is a Map Pin Point.

 

It is the policy of the State of Colorado that all public meetings and events hosted by or permitted through a State agency are physically and programmatically accessible for all. These guidelines provide organizers with a brief overview of how to plan and stage accessible, inclusive events.

People with disabilities include those with physical, sensory, intellectual, perceptual, and mental health conditions and may require special accommodations to fully participate in public events. People who are older, pregnant, ill, or fatigued may also have accessibility needs. As accommodations may include items not described in these guidelines, organizers may need to do additional research.

 

 

 

STEP 1: PLAN FOR ACCESSIBILITY

  • Designate one person as Disability Coordinator for the event.
  • Strive to include people with disabilities in logistical and program planning.
  • Budget for accommodations, such as certified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, stage lifts or ramps, and signage and materials in alternative formats.

 

STEP 2: CHOOSE AN ACCESSIBLE LOCATION

    • Assess potential facilities in person and check all areas for accessibility—parking, pathways, entrances, elevators, registration areas, stages, seating, and restrooms.
    • Lifting and carrying any individual does not constitute accessibility!
    • Features of an accessible location include:
      • Stage or speaker’s platform at grade or accessible by elevator, ramp, or lift;
      • Public transportation to site within 200 yards;
      • One accessible parking space and one van accessible parking space per 25 participants;
      • sidewalks to facility at least 36” wide;
      • No routes or pathways with grass, gravel, or a rise more than ½”;
      • Passenger drop off and pick up at entrance;
      • Accessible building entrance, preferably main entrance used by everyone; and
      • Doors at least 32” wide and open to 90° angle.

       

     

    STEP 3: CREATE ACCESSIBLE ANNOUNCEMENTS

      • All notices and announcements for the event or meeting must include a contact person (name, phone number, and email) to request disability accommodations.
      • Include a paragraph detailing accessible meeting information as part of each notice, including meeting agendas, emails, and website postings.
      • Always include the physical address, as it is required by transportation providers.
      • If a map is included, indicate bus or transit stops (if applicable) and accessible parking, seating, toilets, etc.
      • If posted on a website or via email, notices must be screen reader compatible. When posting as an attachment, use a word document or “smart pdf” or include all pertinent information in the body of the email message.

     

     

    STEP 4: CREATE AN ACCESSIBLE EVENT SPACE

      • The stage or speaker’s platform must be at grade or accessible by elevator, ramp, or lift.
      • Use directional and reserved seating signage with international disability symbols.
      • Find temporary signage online by searching for “temporary accessibility signs.”
      • Cover any wires and cords that run along the floor with tape or ramps.
      • For large crowds, provide a quiet space for those who need it.
      • Provide printed programs and other materials in alternative formats, upon request.
      • Accommodations for people with mobility limitations include:
        • Accessible microphones for speakers or presenters;
        • Pathways of at least 36”;
        • Reserved/marked wheelchair and companion seating near front or interspersed in audience;
        • One empty wheelchair space plus one companion chair per 25 participants; and
        • reserved extra chairs for those who may require seating (e.g., those who cannot stand for long periods of time).
      • Accommodations for people who are deaf or hard of hearing include:
        • One or more ASL interpreters for every 100 participants or upon request;
        • Reserved seating or standing area with a direct sight line to interpreter;
        • Interpreter positioned near speaker with adequate lighting and in full view of camera; and
      • For large events, a dedicated camera may be needed to project the interpreter on screen.

       

       

      STEP 5 : ASK FOR HELP

      • If you have questions, you can reach out to your agency’s ADA Coordinator, the Rocky Mountain ADA Center, or the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.

       

       

      CREATED IN PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE COLORADO CROSS-DISABILITY COALITION AND THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

Press Release: President Trump’s Statement Blaming Gun Violence on People with Mental Health Conditions Is Outrageous, Says National Organization of Mental Health Advocates with “Lived Experience”

For Immediate Release

President Trump’s Statement Blaming Gun Violence on People with Mental Health Conditions Is Outrageous, Says National Organization of Mental Health Advocates with “Lived Experience”

WASHINGTON (August 7, 2019)—The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR), which advocates to improve policies affecting individuals with mental health conditions nationwide, offers its sincere condolences to all those affected by the tragedies in El Paso and Dayton.

At the same time, the NCMHR is disgusted by President Trump’s recent statement in which he conflated perpetrators of violence and people with psychiatric diagnoses.

“As a national organization representing persons with mental health issues—many of whom are trauma survivors—the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery condemns President Trump’s statement blaming people with mental health conditions for gun violence,” said NCMHR co-founder and board president Daniel B. Fisher, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist with lived experience of a mental health condition.

“As the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and numerous studies have reported, people with mental health conditions are the wrong scapegoat after mass shootings,” Dr. Fisher continued. “Instead, frequently the shooter in these tragedies is an isolated, angry white male with an automatic weapon.

“But the President refuses to take responsibility for his central role in ginning up racism and anti-immigrant hatred in countless statements and at numerous rallies over a period of years.
“Economic and social oppression have alienated and disempowered people, putting the American Dream out of reach for many. We need a more economically and socially equitable society to address the roots of society’s anger. It is crucial that we hear, and respect, the voices of people angered by these economic factors, because so many feel unheard and unrespected.

“And we must immediately pass and implement effective gun control laws. When economist Richard Florida examined gun deaths and other social indicators, he found that higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness didn’t correlate with more gun deaths. But he did find one telling correlation: States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths.

“After a mass shooting in 1996, Australia adopted tougher gun control laws—and this resulted in a huge decrease in gun violence.

“Unfortunately, many of our legislators feel obligated to the National Rifle Association. Republicans received nearly $6 million in the 2016 election cycle; Democrats received $106,000. President Trump received at least $21 million from the gun lobby. At the same time, 90% of Americans support background checks for all gun sales.

“We can do this. At long last, we just need to summon the political will.”
The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR) works to ensure that people with psychiatric diagnoses have a major voice in the development and implementation of health care, mental health, and social policies at the state and national levels, empowering people to recover and lead full lives in the community.

CONTACT: Daniel Fisher, MD, PhD, NCMHR board president, info@ncmhr.org; 202-642-4480

No to Oppression Olympics

Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition Logo
1385 S. Colorado Blvd.  Bldg. A, Ste. 610
Denver, Colorado 80222
303.839.1775
www.ccdconline.org

Julie Reiskin
Executive Director
jreiskin@ccdconline.org
720.961.4261 (Direct)
303.648.6262 (Fax)

 

CCDC was made aware that yesterday an ADAPT leader Bruce Darling made an inappropriate comment saying that Democrats cared more about immigrants than people with disabilities.  Mr. Darling has apologized in writing for these comments and has acknowledged that this is inappropriate, divisive and that “oppression Olympics” serves no one.   We agree.

CCDC is proud of our long affiliation with ADAPT. Many of us at CCDC are ADAPT members and participate in ADAPT actions.   CCDC understands the frustration when politicians that use us to get elected ignore us.  This frustration is something communities of color have dealt with for decades and continue to deal with throughout the country.

The situation for immigrants in this country has reached a crisis point.  National “leaders” are bullying, threatening, belittling, and intimidating immigrants.  People who even have family members who are immigrants are being intimidated into not using services that they need.  This hostile climate is antithetical to what America is….after all, we are a nation of immigrants.  Only those who are Native American/Indigenous People are not from another country.  CCDC appreciates the lawmakers that are speaking out against the abhorrent conditions at the border, and fighting back against the mistreatment of immigrants around the country.    CCDC believes there is bandwidth for our elected officials to deal with more than one issue and that ignoring disability issues is due to ableism, nothing more and nothing less.

As a social justice organization, CCDC must speak out –otherwise we are complicit.  More than ever, we must be vigilant to not fall into the trap of frustration of blaming and othering. The current hostile and divisive political climate can and should be blamed, but it is because of this climate that we all must take extra care to be personally responsible and avoid these comparisons.   We must stand with our brothers and sisters (with and without disabilities) who are new arrivals as a matter of social justice and mutual commitment to a more equitable society.

We will not comment or opine on the intent of Mr. Darling.  It is never acceptable to pit oppressed groups against each other. We hope that the larger social justice community will not see these comments as reflective of the disability community. Our community is diverse and includes many people who have intersectional identities as immigrants, migrants, new arrivals and people with disabilities.   We are not immune to the racism and xenophobia that permeate our organizations and all American communities, but we are responsible to address it inside and outside of our organizations.


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