Today, you may be full to overflowing. But imagine your life upending, leaving you to wonder whether you’ll spend another holiday at home.  

Imagine you’ve lived in the same home for your entire adult life, when suddenly, the government threatens your very existence, solely because state legislators cannot agree on a budget. Imagine you are suddenly told you will lose the services that have allowed you to live independently, to learn, and to have friends.

Thousands of Oklahomans with disabilities have faced this exact situation and could face it again at any time. After receiving letters from DHS announcing termination of critical waiver services that provide for community-based living instead of institutional living, over 20,000 Oklahomans were left with uncertainty about where they would live, or if they would live, after December 1st, 2017. Let that sink in: our clients, with little notice, were told that their lives would be forever altered due to incompetent governance.

Even with the legislature’s passage of stop gap HB 1019, which provided a temporary reprieve for those whose lives and homes are directly threatened, our clients still face uncertainty.

The ACLU of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, with support from Progressive Independence, filed our federal class action lawsuit, Anderson, et. al. v. Lake, et. al., one week ago.

Despite the State’s temporary solution that allows our clients to continue to receive benefits for now, we will continue to prosecute our case. We believe that individuals and their families should not be continuously subjected to such traumatic threats in our state. We refuse to allow the state to arbitrarily force institutionalization for thousands of our fellow Oklahomans at an unconscionable fiscal and human cost.

Federal law is clear: States cannot favor segregated, institutional living settings over integrated, community living settings for people with disabilities. The law, and our own moral imperative, require that people with disabilities have the choice to live in integrated communities. That right is not subject to dismissal each time the legislature is unable to agree on a budget.

According to Jeff Hughes, Executive Director of Progressive Independence:

Termination of the ADvantage Waiver program would immediately place a large number of seniors and people with disabilities at risk of institutionalization. Oklahoma already spends a significant portion of all Long-Term Services and Support funding on institutional services. Termination of waivers for community living is discrimination under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Even after the passage of the ADA over 27 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision in 1999, and Oklahoma’s adoption of its own Olmstead Plan in 2006, this blatant disregard for federal and state regulations continues to perpetuate archaic discriminatory policies and prejudices towards people with disabilities. Now is the time for this to end.

Today, we stand in solidarity with the Oklahoma Disability Law Center and Progressive Independence, and Oklahomans with disabilities. We are seeking a permanent solution that considers and honors the liberty and lives of our clients and thousands of other impacted Oklahomans. This is far too important to settle for anything less.

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