During the COVID-19 pandemic, Disability Rights Nebraska realizes that some of our clients are the most at risk. We recognize that people with disabilities, especially those living in congregate settings, are more vulnerable to contagion as well as at higher risk of harm due to staffing problems and mandatory isolation.
Alarmingly, there have been proposals put forward by other states to ration who gets health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Alabama has proposed people with certain intellectual or cognitive disabilities wouldn’t be eligible to be put on a ventilator. Washington proposed giving priority to younger, healthier individuals over older ones and those with disabilities. In response to these proposals, disability rights activists across the country are coming together to file federal civil rights complaints to ensure that everyone is treated fairly during this crisis.
In response to this advocacy, the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Service’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has issued guidance that affirms the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 and other civil rights laws are still in effect and should prevent putting people with disabilities at the end of the line to receive care. OCR’s guidance should be taken seriously by every state—but we’re still waiting for a definitive answer about how Nebraska will apply this guidance.
- We’ve requested the Governor to create statewide standards of healthcare to ensure there is no discrimination or rationing of care.
- We’ve created a survey to allow anyone in a facility or their loved one to report concerns about how the facility is responding to COVID19.
- We’re working with a broad coalition of state officials and private nonprofits to track developments and advocate for the best policies in this rapidly evolving situation.
- We've signed onto a joint call for the Nebraska Supreme Court to halt residential evictions during this time of community need, and Governor Ricketts took steps to do so.
- We've signed onto two letters, one addressed to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and another to Chief Justice Heavican and Court Administrator Corey Steele, that call for steps to protect youth who are currently residing in juvenile and correctional facilities - including commitments to the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney. (Update 4/6/2020: Read the Judicial Branch's response.)
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you know of any suspected rights violations stemming from this crisis. If you or a loved one have already faced healthcare rationing due to disability, you can file your own civil rights complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights. If you need help completing the form, please contact us directly.
Even during a health crisis like COVID19, there are still laws in place that protect everyone. If you are interested in supporting this work, your tax deductible donation can be made online. We are committed to continuing our vigorous efforts to advance Disability Rights Nebraska’s critical mission and our important work advocating with and for people with disabilities, and we will continue to diligently work on behalf of all Nebraskans during this outbreak.