Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Arnieville: Cutting CA home-care will cost us six times as much

If you walk or drive down Adeline Street in south Berkeley right now, you will see dozens of disabled people camping out on the median strip in the middle of the street. "We call this place Arnieville," I was told. That, however, is not breaking news. That story has already been covered on TV.

People on crutches and in wheelchairs are out in force, protesting a whole bunch of huge new state budget cuts to their home-care provider's salaries. These care providers allow disabled Californians to live on their own. The disabled protesters have been camping out in protest against these radical and life-endangering cuts since June 22, 2010. But that's not hot news either.

The disabled campers are holding a press conference over the Fourth of July weekend. Is that going to be big news too? Probably not. Nor is it breaking news that someone just dropped off a homemade blackberry pie for the disabled protesters to eat as they camped. But it was good news for me! My two-year-old granddaughter Mena got a slice of the pie -- and she also got a ride on one disabled camper's wheelchair. Mena thought that was totally cool. But then she didn't have to be confined to a wheelchair and totally dependent on her home care provider seven days a week for the rest of her life.

Disabled people are the most courageous people I know.

However, one disabled person disagreed with me regarding wheelchairs. "We are not 'confined' to our wheelchairs per se," she said. "Actually, our wheelchairs liberate us and give us freedom. Without them, we would be forced to spend our lives just lying in bed." I don't think that Mena would like that either. And using one's wheelchair to give oneself freedom is a truly appropriate way to celebrate Independence on the Fourth of July -- far more appropriate than Washington's many attempts in the last ten years to disable the United States Constitution.

Perhaps it is breaking news that people in wheelchairs and with other disabilities are building a life-sized paper mache statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger right here on Adeline Street today. Or perhaps not.

It might be sort of newsworthy that a few dozen disabled people are now out here struggling to keep their protest going, to take care of their camp and to take care of themselves when most of them are physically incapacitated -- up to 80 or 90%. Please! If there are any civic-minded young and strong volunteers out there who can come down and lend a hand at keeping the camp running, you will be totally welcome.

"Can I help do the dishes or something?" I asked one of the organizers, a woman with an obvious degenerative disease. "Oh, that's okay," she replied, perhaps worried that I didn't look much stronger or energetic than she did.

No, it's not news that I'm not as able to do the heavy lifting needed at Arnieville as the Governator himself would be. "Hey Arnie! Come down here and help us pitch some tents!"

What really was the breaking hot news at Arnieville today was when my neighbor Jana Ovebo drove up in her wheelchair and said, "If the state eliminates our home care workers as planned, then I will have to be institutionalized -- just in order to survive." Jana has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was nine years old and can barely even move by herself. And yet she still manages to run her own business, Disability, Resources, Exchange & Mobility Supports (DREAMS). And she still manages to come down to Arnieville and protest.

"The cost of my care if I was institutionalized," stated Jana, "would be SIX TIMES more than what the state is now paying for home care providers." Without her home-care workers, Jana would either have to be immediately institutionalized or be allowed to die on the street. Either choice sucks eggs.

And one home-care provider involved in the protest just informed me that, "
It's not only our salaries that are at stake: The Terminator is also trying to eliminate 40% of state funding for the entire disabilities program. This would knock thousands of people off the program all together. Then there's the cuts to Medi-Cal, Adult Day Health and other services that keep seniors and people with disabilities in their communities." And these people would also have to be institutionalized at six times the cost of what we are paying now? Yikes!

Hurray for Arnieville! That's the GOOD news.


Photos by Bob Patterson