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Old 01-19-2016, 11:31 AM
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Lightbulb Sen. Schumer bill would allow disabled adults to stay home

By Rachel Shapiro
on January 11, 2016 at 4:01 PM, updated January 11, 2016 at 7:33 PM

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Sen. Charles Schumer has sponsored a bill hoping to keep families together and make life accommodating and comfortable for disabled adults.

Schumer (D-NY) plans to introduce the bill, Disability Integration Act, in the Senate this week, requiring health insurance companies to pay for services for disabled adults in their homes.

While insurance covers care for disabled people in institutions, keeping them at home, should they and their family desire it, should be their right, Schumer said.

Schumer discussed the bill in the Elizabeth Connelly Resource Center at the Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Council Monday, along with members of the disabled adults community, and explained the importance of keeping people in their own homes.

Speaking in a phone interview later, the senator recalled growing up across the hall from a disabled boy.

Schumer took the wheelchair-bound neighbor, Joey, for walks on the street, but they were confined to that block because there were no curb cuts in the sidewalk, as the Americans with Disabilities Act would later require.

Schumer was a co-sponsor of that act and said the same spirit applies to home care for disabled adults.

"The disabled have to put up with things that we take for granted, like crossing the street," Schumer said.

Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Council Chairman Michael Weinberg said, "As New York State continues to move men and women out of the developmental centers and into the community, we applaud Sen. Schumer for developing the Disability Integration Act, which recognizes that people with disabilities have the basic right to live independent, fulfilling lives."

He called the need for residential options a "crisis."

"We cannot go back to the days of warehousing people in institutional care models, nor can we expect that everyone will live with their parents forever."

Schumer's bill has no sponsors in the House yet, and he acknowledged there will be detractors who are unconvinced that such a bill could pass in any reasonable amount of time.

"It's the beginning; it's going to take a while to get this done but it's very important because it's a system that's flawed," Schumer said.

Schumer served with Elizabeth Connelly in the state Assembly, he said, recalling her passion for the disabled and noted it was appropriate to announce his new bill at a center named for her.

Disabled adults should be allowed to be as independent as they can, the senator argued, and caring for someone in their own home would cost less than in an institution.

"Why do you want to break up families?" Schumer asked. "Or even break up friendships in communities?"

He's optimistic that a law, requiring insurance companies to change their policies, can get passed, when the ADA became law within a few years of being introduced in Congress.

"It shows you we can get something like this done," he said.

This story has been updated to remove a statement that asserted that Assemblyman Michael Cusick attended the press event. He did not.
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