May 21, 2002 --
A few days before ADAPT's scheduled arrival in the nation's capitol last week, Bush Administration officials issued statements about progress on the New Freedom Initiative. On May 9, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson joined Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, Education Secretary Rod Paige and Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James to release a progress report on accomplishments since the Initiative was launched in February 2001.
The NFI's stated goal is to reduce barriers to full community integration for people with disabilities. Sec. Thompson unveiled two new waiver "templates" he said were designed to help states better use the Medicaid program to enable people with disabilities to choose services in their own homes and communities The templates were developed by HHS' Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that administers the federal-state Medicaid program. Information about this program, called "Independence Plus," can be found online at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/independenceplus/
HHS also announced a new Web-based resource on available technical assistance related to community-integration issues -- it's online at http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/reports/Citarpt.htm
A few days later, though -- on May 14 -- Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe said the administration Initiative fell "far short of the 'Real Freedom' needed by Americans with disabilities."
"President Bush is failing not only to live up to the rhetoric in his New Freedom Initiative, but also the real bipartisan nature of disability policy, failing to sustain the strong Clinton Administration record, and, most of all, failing people with disabilities," he said in a prepared statement. He called on Congress to enact "Real Freedom" initiatives.
The NFI progress report is available online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/newfreedom