Self-Advocate Gives Powerful Speech at State Capitol

On February 28, 2022, Michael Housel, a self- advocate from Tifton, Georgia, gave a powerful and passionate speech at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, in support of Senate Bill 208.

Mr. Housel is a founding member of Uniting for Change and is active in the Leadership Collective. His speech was part of a press conference organized by Sen. Sally Harrell where he stated:

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to be here at our State Capitol to speak to you today. Thank you, Sen. Harrell, for your hard work and dedication to all our friends and family to have the supports needed to live a life worth living… IN THE COMMUNITY.

My name is Michael Housel, and I represent the Leadership Collective of Uniting for Change, a statewide, grassroots movement of self-advocates living all over our beautiful state of Georgia. We have hundreds of members from Atlanta to Valdosta, Athens to Columbus, and many other small towns like Tifton where I live.

Senate Bill 208 is the lifeline that so many people I know need to live a life they love in the community with the people they choose in the places they want and with their wants and needs being the focus in their own homes.

Right now, there are over 7,000 people like me that live waiting… on a list… the Medicaid waiver planning list. Some are in family homes that struggle to meet their needs, some are in hospitals, some are in nursing homes, some are in jails, some are in institutions. THIS IS NOT LIVING, THIS IS WAITING!

SB 208 would end that waiting in five years. I would not be able to live in my apartment without supporters paid by the Medicaid waiver. I’m an independent person, but I need help, just like all of you need help.

There are other problems that need to be fixed in that same time. Supporters of people with disabilities live in poverty. The average worker that supports people, DSPs (Direct Support Professionals), make less than $11 per hour to make sure people have their needs met, make sure we have a safe home, take us where we want and need to go, help us with our finances, medical treatments, write everything down, meet all the state and federal requirements, and make sure we are living the life WE LOVE. Until the workers can earn a decent living, there will be constant turnover.

I’ve had more DSPs than I can remember. Some are the best, but they can’t survive on the low wages. We must address the way our state, not just our state, OUR NATION, pays for supports. Any person here could need supports at any time, having a disability label is one accident, one medical treatment, or one medical problem away from being a reality for all Americans.

Like my friend Sheila Jeffrey said about SB 208, “LET THE MONEY GO, FREE OUR PEOPLE!” Thank you, and God bless us all!

SB 208 would compel Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to fully fund the NOW/ COMP waiver waitlist within five years, but is subject to available funding.

Uniting for Change is a statewide, grassroots network of self-advocates, allies, and supporters in Georgia that was founded in 2019 through a grant from the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. This network is committed to advocating, organizing, showing up, and being heard. Uniting for Change members seek to share information, create opportunities, and influence change.