HHS Hubert H. Humphrey Building
As Prepared for Delivery
On Tuesday, April 26, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra spoke at the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the creation of the Administration for Community Living.
Thank you, Alison, for that warm introduction. And to our ACL colleagues, congratulations on 10 years of vital work!
A decade ago, Kathy Greenlee, Sharon Lewis, and Henry Claypool used a napkin to sketch out a plan for a new organization, one that would accelerate HHS’ work to make it possible for all people, regardless of age or disability, to live independently and fully participate in their communities.
This sketch would become the Administration for Community Living.
I’m not sure where that napkin is now, but I hope it’s framed somewhere. Because over the past 10 years, ACL has been critical in helping millions of Americans live independently in their communities.
And this issue is near to my heart, because I began my career as a civil rights attorney for those with disabilities.
To know why today’s 10-year anniversary is so important, you first have to know the meaning of “home.”
Home is what we long for when we are away.
Home is where our loved ones reside, a place of peace and comfort and a lifetime of memories.
The famous Irish poet George A. Moore wrote, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”
So why then, should we allow for some of us to be separated from our homes and from our communities?
Community living should be the expectation for all people.
The numbers are clear: People overwhelmingly want to live in their own home and own community, and not in an institution.
People are happier and healthier when they live in the community.
And living in one’s own home and community usually costs less than care in an institution like nursing homes.
For the last ten years, ACL and the aging and disability networks have worked together to make it possible for older Americans and Americans with disabilities to have the option to live in their own homes and communities.
ACL has funded programs that provide direct services, research, education, and innovation to build the capacity to support older adults, people with disabilities, and caregivers.
And over the past decade, ACL has supported and expanded the aging and disability networks that provide critical services.
- Supported and advocated for millions of people with disabilities and older adults in every state and in communities across the country.
- Built partnerships and collaborated with other federal agencies to expand home and community-based services, increase access to affordable and accessible housing, make transportation systems more accessible, increase employment opportunities, and build the research base to support community living.
- And played a critical role across HHS and the federal government in advancing aging and disability policies, including those to expand access to health care, address social determinants of health like housing and nutrition, support caregivers, prevent abuse and neglect, advance self-determination and prevent discrimination based on disability or age.
During this pandemic, ACL and the aging and disability networks worked together to address the issues that disproportionately affected these communities — addressing barriers people have faced in accessing vaccinations, PPE and lifesaving care and treatment, and by adapting programs and forming new partnerships to continue to meet the needs of the people ACL serves.
Today, as we celebrate 10 years of extraordinary work, we recognize how much worse the pandemic could have been without ACL and the standing army of over 20,000 community-based organizations that form the aging and disability networks.
Alison (Barkoff) often reminds us that community living is a civil right and that the promise of community living enshrined in the American with Disabilities Act can only be achieved if proper supports and services are in place.
Today, we recommit ourselves to that work. We renew our mission to ensure that the right to community living is a right afforded to all.
Thank you, ACL, and thank you to everyone in the aging and disability community.
Together, let’s continue to build on the work of the past 10 years, and let’s carry on the vision that began on the back of a paper napkin 10 years ago.
Happy 10th anniversary!