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Activists begin 144-mile march Sept. 4 to "Free Our People"; rally Sept. 17 in DC
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Sept. 2, 2003 -- Nearly 200 disability activists are slated to begin a 14-day march from Philadelphia to Washington DC this Thursday to "demand an end to Medicaid's institutional bias that locks away Americans with disabilities." A press conference at Philadelphia's Liberty Bell at 10 a.m. Sept. 4 will kick off the 144-mile trek to the nation's capital. Marchers will head first to Glenolden, PA, where they will spend the night at the First Presbyterian Church, then to Wilmington, DE, sleeping at Goodwill; then to Bear, DE and on to the Nazarene Camp in Maryland. The next days will see them traveling through Maryland, stopping each night in a park or church, ending up the night before the rally in Washington, DC's Israel Baptist Church. At a Sept. 17 rally at 1 p.m. in Upper Senate Park in Washington, DC, activists from across the nation will gather to welcome marchers arriving in DC. Follow the marchers online -- with photos and daily updates -- at

The goal of the rally and march is to promote passage of The Medicaid Community-Based Attendant Services and Supports Act, known as MiCASSA (S971 and HR2032) and the "Money Follows the Person Act of 2003" (S1394). Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) are S971's chief sponsors; there are 11 co-sponsors (Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Joe Biden (D-DE), Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Corzine (D-NJ), Mark Dayton (D-MN), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), John Kerry (D-MA), Mark Landrieu (D-LA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Christopher Dodd (D-CT)). Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) are HR 2032's chief sponsors; there are 72 co-sponsors.

First introduced in 1997 by then-Speaker of the House, Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA), MiCASSA followed a 1999 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Olmstead vs. L.C. and E.W that said keeping people in institutional settings when they could be served in the community constituted discrimination, and was therefore illegal, and set the stage for the Bush administration's 2001 "New Freedom Initiative."

Read about MiCASSA.

Read about the Money Follows the Person Act.

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