Within one week’s time DRW together with national Protection and Advocacy (P&A) partners across the country mobilized. Only last Monday David Carlson, DRW’s Legal Director, worked with an amazing group of disability rights lawyers to file the first complaint with HHS OCR over discriminatory rationing of COVID-19 care (I shared this in an earlier email). We continued advocacy throughout last week, and our partners at the P&As in Alabama, Oregon, Kansas, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Illinois, and New York used our complaint as the model for their complaints to HHS OCR or demand letters to their governors, and several additional P&As have complaints in the works. HHS OCR responded to these complaints clearly protecting the rights of people in protected classes:
“HHS is committed to leaving no one behind during an emergency, and this guidance is designed to help health care providers meet that goal,” said Roger Severino, OCR Director. “Persons with disabilities, with limited English skills, or needing religious accommodations should not be put at the end of the line for health services during emergencies. Our civil rights laws protect the equal dignity of every human life from ruthless utilitarianism,” Severino added.
Our work is not over. We will continue to advocate with Governor Inslee and Washington State to make sure that our state’s plans and practices here modified to protect the right of people with disabilities to access acute treatment of COVID-19 in Washington. HHS OCR’s guidance provides a critical tool in this advocacy, but we need to make sure that it is actually implanted here in Washington.
We appreciate your support of our efforts and hope that this brings at least some good news at these very chaotic times.