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Disability rights advocates stage sit-in at county Republican headquarters

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About 25 members of ADAPT were arrested and charged with trespassing after a sit-in at the Monroe County Republican Committee's headquarters on State Street. The disability rights organization asked county Republicans to go on record opposing any healthcare legislation that caps or cuts federal Medicaid funding.

The sit-in started around 1 p.m. and had roughly 40 participants, said ADAPT organizer Stephanie Woodward. A representative of the county Republican Party asked the demonstrators to leave, and they said they wouldn't until the party responded to them, Woodward said.

The arrests came at the request of a county GOP representative, according to Woodward. They started around 5:15 p.m. and the process was negotiated between ADAPT leaders and police officers, according to Rochester Police Chief Michael Ciminelli. Police escorted the protesters to the Center for Disability Rights' offices adjacent to GOP headquarters, and were booked.

The recently-released healthcare bill from Senate Republicans would severely limit future Medicaid spending, which means it's basically a cut compared to the funding laid out under the Affordable Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Senate plan would amount to $770 billion less in Medicaid funding from 2018 to 2026.
Medicaid is already underfunded, said Nate Baldo, an ADAPT member. And billions of dollars worth of cuts mean some people with disabilities may lose their coverage for assisted living services. Everyone should have the right to live where they want and shouldn't be forced out of their homes into institutions, he says.

"These cuts would be devastating," Baldo says.

Kenyatta DeCosta, a Center for Disability Rights volunteer who was part of the sit-in, uses  a motorized wheelchair and receives at-home and community-based services.  Medicaid isn't required to cover those services, but it is required to cover nursing home costs for people with disabilities who can't care for themselves.

He's concerned that if Medicaid funding is cut, the services that he and others in his position need will also be cut, forcing them into nursing homes. And that would mean a loss of personal independence and freedom, he says. 

"It just seems a bit rushed, to put it lightly," he said after coming out of the sit-in to talk with the press. "I'm sure health care could be improved, costs could be brought down. It's just a bit more complicated than that."