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PLACE: The Second Annual "Systems Change Conference: Fulfilling the Promise 
 of Community Living" , Presented on Videotape, Baltimore, Maryland
DATE: March 25, 2002

"Moving Toward a New Freedom"

Hello, I'm Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services. I wish I could be with you in person, but please know that you have my strong support as you work to remove barriers to equality for the 54 million Americans living with disabilities and their caregivers.

In his remarks announcing the New Freedom initiative last year, the President called on us to increase access to user-friendly technologies to expand educational opportunities and home ownership to bring disabled Americans fully into the workforce to expand transportation options and to promote full access to community living.

We've moved forward to achieve these goals. One of our primary efforts has been listening to the concerns and ideas of people all over the country. We have listened, and we have acted.

So I am pleased to announce at this conference an important new document, one I am submitting to the President. It's called "Delivering on the Promise," and it is the compilation of nine federal agency reports that deals with eliminating barriers and promoting community integration.

The report includes more than 400 specific solutions that agencies can implement to support community living. The cooperation across the federal government on this effort is tremendous. Federal agencies have been working together, and working with state and local governments across the nation.

The department of Health and Human Services is providing $55 million in grants to states to improve community integration. This money will address issues of affordable housing, respite services for caregivers and family members, available and accessible transportation options, and a number of other key initiatives.

When we compiled this report, we remembered Colleen Frazer, who spoke during the National Listening Session. Colleen ran her own community-based program for people with disabilities.

Tragically, Colleen died on the Pennsylvania flight on September 11, but her spirit, her fight and her actions have not been in vain. We deliver this report in tribute to Colleen's work and her dedication to guaranteeing freedom for community living to all Americans.

As I said at the National Listening Session, this isn't about producing another government report that's issued with fanfare and then sits on a forgotten shelf, collecting dust. It's about helping people lead better lives. That's a goal that deserves our best efforts and effective action.

By working together, we will "Fulfill the Promise of Community Living" and create an America where people of all ages who have a disability or long-term illness can live and participate in their communities with dignity and value.

Tank you again, and may God bless each of you.