S.C. advocacy organizations urge protections for people in long-term care facilities

Updated: Oct. 19, 2020 at 11:17 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Six organizations are joining forces to urge state officials to provide better protections for people living and working in long-term care facilities.

The groups, AARP South Carolina, Able South Carolina, the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc., Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, and the YWCA of Greater Charleston; sent a letter to Gov. Henry McMaster expressing their concerns on Monday.

Nearly 40% of people in South Carolina who died from COVID-19, lived or worked in long-term care facilities, according to recent data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Kimberly Tissot, the executive director of Able SC, believes some of those deaths could have been prevented. She says the letter includes several recommendations and solutions state officials could implement.

One of the goals is to create a plan based off the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision, which found that people with disabilities have a right to receive services in the community rather than institutions.

“South Carolina does not have an Olmstead plan, which follows the Olmstead decision. What that would do is it would give a plan on how South Carolina is going to provide services in the community to people with disabilities,” Tissot said. “People with disabilities have a right to live in the community, that’s the first option and our state has failed to have this plan in place.”

This effort follows the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Anna Maria Connor, an attorney and team Leader for P&A, says it is time to remind the governor and people of the state that there is something that can be done about the issue.

“Thirty years later we have people that can’t get out of institutions, who can’t stay out and get a job with the same type of pay that you and I can get,” Connor said. “The main goal is to get everybody to recognize that people with disabilities are like everybody else.”

The groups say they also want better protections for the caregivers and service workers who most of the time happen to be women in other minority groups.

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