The State of America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis 2022

The longstanding direct support workforce crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to closures of critically needed services and a denial of access to community-based supports.
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Capitol Correspondence - 03.31.20

32 Members of Congress Ask HHS for Disability Protections Against Discrimination in COVID-19 Response

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Twenty-seven members of the House of Representatives and five Senators sent a letter the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue guidance to states that, as they review and issue their “crisis standards of care,” they cannot authorize or promote any form of disability discrimination that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The letter, led by U.S. Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), reads:

“The National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency specializing in policy matters affecting the lives of people with disabilities, recently released a series of reports demonstrating that, even in the absence of a crisis, examples abound of disability bias and discrimination within medical decision making.[3] Several of these reports call on the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to issue guidance clarifying the applicability of existing disability nondiscrimination laws to instances of such bias and discrimination.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge your Department to act quickly to notify states that as they review and create their “crisis standards of care,”[4] they must not authorize or promote any form of disability discrimination that would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This would include incorporating denials of care, lower prioritization of care, or denial of or limitation of healthcare resources on the basis of one’s disability, severity of disability, need for resource-intensive services and supports, or the perception of a lower quality of life on the basis of disability.”

Readers interested in this topic may wish to follow a complaint advocates in the state of Washington filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) about their grave concerns that the plans being put in place discriminate against people with disabilities in violation of federal disability rights laws.