Letter to Gov. Polis Urging Protection of Rights and Access to Care of People with Disabilities During COVID-19 Pandemic

CREEC and 19 other organizations sent this letter to Colorado Governor Jared Polis. You’ll find the complete list of participating organizations in the signature section of this letter. All footnotes and links to signatory organizations are at the end of the letter. March 25, 2020 Re: Survival of People with Disabilities during COVID-19 Pandemic Dear Governor Polis, We want to start this letter by thanking you for your extraordinary leadership during this crisis. Unlike our peers in other states, we are being included in policy decisions and working closely with members of your team (like Elisabeth Arenales) and your cabinet (Kim Bimestefer, Michelle Barnes, Jill Hunsaker-Ryan, and others). We appreciate being involved and allowed to help your administration make the best possible decisions in a horrible situation. People with disabilities and chronic health conditions are doubly vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis: they are vulnerable to acquiring the virus and to suffering more severe effects, and they are vulnerable to healthcare discrimination that may deny them necessary care. As a result, Coloradans with disabilities and chronic health conditions are experiencing escalating fear and anxiety, on top of any physical effects of viral illness. We need your continued leadership to communicate and ensure that Colorado will protect the rights and access to care of disabled people of all ages. Colorado has a strong and united disability community that includes ADAPT, Centers for Independent Living, Arc Chapters, Disability Law Colorado, numerous organizations representing specific disability groups such as the Colorado Metal Wellness Network, the National Federation of the Blind Colorado chapter, and the Colorado Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and...

TDOC Needs to Stop Denying Effective Communication

Today, CREEC and Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) filed a Complaint seeking access to effective communication for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) custody as required by law.   Kevin Trivette is deaf and his primary language is American Sign Language (ASL); like many people who are deaf, he understands English only as a second language. While in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Mr. Trivette was repeatedly denied crucial – and legally mandated – sign language communication for medical appointments, required classes, and religious services. TDOC also denied him a videophone, which he needed to communicate with his loved ones. Unfortunately, Mr. Trivette is not alone. TDOC routinely denies deaf and hard of hearing inmates qualified sign language interpreters and videophones. These unlawful and potentially harmful denials of effective communication to deaf and hard of hearing individuals who are incarcerated is a pattern of behavior at TDOC. Today, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) and Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) filed a Complaint in the federal district court for the Middle District of Tennessee on behalf of Mr. Trivette and DRT. The suit is based on violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). The ADA and Section 504 require that state prisons provide inmates in their custody with equal access to programs and services, including providing sign language interpreters and videophones when needed for effective communication, and equal access to phone privileges. “I want people to know deaf people have rights. We need access to communication for things like doctor’s appointments...

Disability Discrimination Complaint Filed Over COVID-19 Treatment Rationing Plan in Tennessee

CREEC and other disability rights advocacy organizations joined Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) and The Arc Tennessee (The Arc TN) to file a Complaint with Tennessee’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) on Friday, March 27, 2020 about Tennessee’s Guidance for the Ethical Use of Scarce Resources during a Health Emergency. As COVID-19 cases increase, the experience in other countries and predictions of United States health officials is that there will not be enough acute care services or equipment, such as ventilators, to meet the demand of patients with the virus who require intensive treatment. Health care professionals in the U.S. are already developing protocols for responding to COVID-19, including treatment rationing that will determine who will and will not have access to life-saving treatment. The complaint voices grave concern that Tennessee’s guidelines for rationing discriminate against people with disabilities in violation of federal disability rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and place their lives at serious risk. This complaint about Tennessee’s guidelines along with similar complaints about guidelines in other states call upon the OCR to take immediate action to address this discrimination and assist states and health care providers to develop non-discriminatory approaches before there are lethal consequences to application of these illegal policies.   2020-03-27 TN OCR Complaint re Healthcare Rationing Guidelines with...

CREEC and Co-Counsel File Preliminary Injunction in Fraihat v ICE Case

CREEC and Co-counsel Seek Emergency Court Ruling for Immediate COVID-19 Protections for People in Immigration Jails Early this morning, CREEC and others filed an emergency application for a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California seeking a court order requiring that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) take immediate steps to protect people in immigration detention facilities from COVID-19, particularly those at heightened risk. The motion immediately follows ICE’s own admission of the first confirmed positive case of COVID-19 of a person in ICE detention. The motion argues that if ICE cannot or will not immediately take steps to ensure that medically vulnerable people are protected from COVID-19 – including providing timely access to qualified and necessary healthcare – then the Court should order ICE to release those individuals in the interest of public health. Dr. Jaimie Meyer, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Assistant Clinical Professor of Nursing at Yale notes, “The risk posed by infectious diseases in jails and prisons is significantly higher than in the community, both in terms of risk of transmission, exposure, and harm to individuals who become infected.“ The preliminary injunction is being requested as part of an existing class action lawsuit, Fraihat v. ICE, on behalf of the nearly 40,000 people held in ICE immigration jails throughout ICE’s detention system. Based on first-hand observations from attorneys serving clients inside detention centers and direct reports from people who are detained, the current conditions are medically dangerous and fail to meet standard public health recommendations for addressing the pandemic. Jimmy Sudney, Plaintiff in Fraihat v. ICE states, “I have several...

CREEC and 13 Others Send COVID-19 Letter in Support of Immigrants in Detention in Adelanto, CA

Today CREEC and 13 other organizations sent this letter to DHS, ICE and Geo Group officials at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California (where some Fraihat plaintiffs are located). You’ll find the complete list of participating organizations in the signature section of this letter.  All footnotes and links to signatory organizations are at the end of the letter. March 13, 2020  Re: Requesting Parole for COVID-19 Vulnerable Adelanto Detainees Dear Field Officers David Marin, Gabriel Valdez, Art Cortez, and Warden James Janecka: We write on behalf of immigrant legal service providers in Southern California to voice our concern about the urgent humanitarian crisis that COVID-19 presents for our clients and the overall detainee population Adelanto Detention Facility (“ADF”). For the foregoing reasons, we request, among other things, that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) immediately grant humanitarian parole to all vulnerable persons in detention, eventually evaluate all ADF detainees for humanitarian parole, and inform detainees of their right to seek humanitarian release. To that end, we request a meeting with you no later than Thursday, March 19, 2020, to discuss our concerns. The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, yet ICE has neither announced nor published concrete plans or protocols for screening, mitigating, and treating the virus at ADF. This silence is especially troublesome considering the heightened risk of uncontrolled transmission among persons living in close quarters, DHS’ own Inspector General and the State of California repeatedly condemning the substandard medical conditions at ADF, and DHS’ March 10, 2020, confirmation to the LA Times that four detainees were under observation for infection.1 As you know, ADF has struggled...