A new bill making its way through Congress is aiming to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities living across the country.
Senator Michael Bennet introduced the Latonya Reeves Freedom Act (S.3417) in December of last year. If made into law, it will help people with disabilities have equal access to independent living no matter their state.
Currently, each state is required to have Home-and Community-Based Services (HCBS) but there is little to no oversight on how these services are offered. Colorado is one of the states where community-based care is readily available for those who would prefer it. However, this isn’t the case across the country.
If passed, this bill will create more state oversight. It will require states to allow community-based options before institutions and nursing homes. For those who are institutionalized, it will require they be notified of their alternatives on a regular basis.
The bill makes HCBS a right under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It allows the state’s attorney generals to enforce and regulate these services. To make sure that everyone has access to these essential programs, the bill will prohibit government entities and insurance providers from denying that care.
This legislation will also prevent government entities and insurance providers from imposing cost caps, waiting lists, and more.
A History of Independent Living
Legislators named the bill after Latonya Reeves. In 1991, she fled to Colorado from a Tennessee nursing home to experience freedoms unavailable to her in her state. She has since dedicated her life to making sure others have the same freedoms and opportunities she has had here.
PASCO and its founder, Barry Rosenberg, have been at the forefront of fighting for rights for those with disabilities. Rosenberg helped individuals with stories just like Ms. Reeves to live freer and more independent lives.
In May 2022, PASCO’s own Damian Rosenberg spent a week in Washington D.C. fighting for the Latonya Reeves Freedom Act and sharing why this bill is crucial for the disability community with key individuals. In our next newsletter, we will share more about Damian’s time in D.C. and what PASCO is doing to help make this bill a reality.