Cam­paign spurred more than 6,300 letters sent

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment spends $2 bil­lion on lo­cal el­der ser­vices around the coun­try, sup­port­ing se­nior cen­ter fa­cil­i­ties, trans­porta­tion as­sis­tance, meal de­liv­ery pro­grams and many other cru­cial ser­vices, de­ter­mined by the re­sults of the Na­tional Sur­vey of Older Amer­i­cans Act Par­tic­i­pants.

The an­nual sur­vey de­ter­mines the ef­fec­tive­ness of the pro­grams and sets fund­ing lev­els for the com­ing year. Since 2014, the sur­vey in­cluded ques­tions de­signed to push fa­cil­i­ties and pro­grams to be­come more wel­com­ing for LGBT elders and their fam­i­lies. This year, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion plans to re­move those ques­tions from the sur­vey, which could spell dis­as­ter for lo­cal and na­tional pro­grams and fa­cil­i­ties.

In re­sponse, Ser­vices and Ad­vo­cacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) launched a blis­ter­ing cam­paign against the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­cus­ing it of want­ing LGBT elders to “drop dead.”

“The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is try­ing to make gays in­vis­i­ble again. He is gov­ern­ing by tweet, ex­ec­u­tive or­der and a re­pug­nant cabi­net,” said Mar­i­lyn Har­ris, an ac­tive mem­ber of the At­lanta chap­ter of SAGE. “As an older les­bian, I was pretty much in­vis­i­ble al­ready, but he is build­ing a new closet around us.“

Michael Adams, SAGE CEO, was par­tic­u­larly frus­trated by the se­crecy with which the changes were made.

“There was no an­nounce­ment at all,” he said. “The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion es­sen­tially tried to do this in the dead of night, ap­par­ently hop­ing that no­body would no­tice.”

The changes were dis­cov­ered by SAGE’s Fed­eral Pol­icy Of­fice, which rou­tinely mon­i­tors pro­posed pol­icy changes.

“This stealth ef­fort to erad­i­cate an en­tire pop­u­la­tion of older peo­ple from this sur­vey strongly sug­gests that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion sim­ply doesn’t care about LGBT elders, which is out­ra­geous and un­ac­cept­able,” Adams said.

With­out data to show how LGBT elders are af­fected by fund­ing changes, they are ef­fec­tively erased. The At­lanta-based Health Ini­tia­tive works with Area Agen­cies on Ag­ing (AAAs) across the state to en­sure LGBT elders are be­ing cared for. Linda El­lis, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of The Health Ini­tia­tive, said many of th­ese fa­cil­i­ties are guided by the re­quire­ments set forth in the grants and fund­ing they re­ceive.

“Ninety-nine per­cent of the ser­vice providers The Health Ini­tia­tive works with across the state want to do the right thing, but if re­sources aren’t there, or if well-in­ten­tioned peo­ple aren’t forced to take th­ese com­mu­ni­ties into ac­count, we get lost,” she said. “Not be­cause they want to do us harm, but be­cause they won’t even know that we ex­ist.”

SAGE’s cam­paign has spurred more more than 6,300 letters in op­po­si­tion to the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan, but par­tic­i­pants aren’t just writ­ing.

“SAGE has been in­volved in pol­icy ad­vo­cacy for a long time, but his­tor­i­cally we have

By ROB­BIE MEDWED

most of­ten worked qui­etly be­hind the scenes to in­flu­ence pol­icy at the state and na­tional lev­els,” Adams said.

With Pres­i­dent Trump’s re­cent ac­tions, SAGE and its mem­bers aren’t will­ing to keep their fights quiet any­more. In­stead, many are re­turn­ing to their roots.

“A group of us older les­bians have be­come ac­tivists again. We marched in Wash­ing­ton and here. We marched for science. We have been demon­strat­ing at Sen. [David] Per­due’s of­fice on Tues­days. We have been call­ing our sen­a­tors and reps,” Har­ris said. “Congress mem­bers have ig­nored us, their con­stituents, and re­fused to hold town hall meet­ings. They don’t care about any­one ex­cept bil­lion­aires and are in­tent on de­stroy­ing safety nets for all of us.”

‘We’re be­ing re­moved from the con­ver­sa­tion’

In or­der to build lo­cal sup­port and bridge the age gap, the na­tional group is invit­ing com­mu­ni­ties to par­tic­i­pate in SAGE Ta­ble, an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional ini­tia­tive where peo­ple of all ages will break bread to­gether on May 18, run­ning par­al­lel to Na­tional Honor Our LGBT Elders Day on May 16.

Adams wants to en­sure peo­ple know that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­tions will hurt the com­mu­nity on a very real level.

“When you think about LGBT older peo­ple – those who have al­ready been pushed to the side­lines and who of­ten face dis­crim­i­na­tion in nurs­ing homes, hos­pi­tals and out in the com­mu­nity – not be­ing counted in this sur­vey amounts to deny­ing them the crit­i­cal ser­vices they de­serve,” he said. “In fact, data from the sur­vey con­sis­tently in­di­cated that LGBT elders were not ac­cess­ing fed­er­ally funded el­der ser­vices in any­thing close to their pro­por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion. That data has proved that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has a lot of work to do to make sure that our elders get their fair share of tax­payer-funded ser­vices.”

El­lis is most wor­ried about el­der fa­cil­i­ties in ru­ral Ge­or­gia.

“As much work as we still have to do in At­lanta, we are light years ahead of where the rest of the state is. That’s where th­ese losses will be hard­est hit. We’re be­ing re­moved from the con­ver­sa­tion.”

—SAGE CEO Michael Adams

April 28, 2017

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