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Paraquad Hosts Disability Activists in Virtual Community Medicaid Forum

Paraquad Hosts Disability Activists in Virtual Community Medicaid Forum

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Paraquad Hosts Disability Activists in Virtual Community Medicaid Forum

More than 80 disability activists, civic leaders, and community members attended a virtual forum exploring the importance of Medicaid to independent living for people with disabilities.

St. Louis, MO, July 1, 2020:  Yesterday, Paraquad hosted a community forum with law students and disability activists Ellie Stitzer and Gabriella Garbero where they shared their experiences growing up with a disability, the crucial role that Medicaid plays in allowing them to live independently in their communities, and the challenges of transitioning from youth to adult Medicaid services.  This forum was part of Paraquad’s ongoing Community Voices for Medicaid initiative aimed at educating Missourians about the importance of Medicaid to the health and wellbeing of people with disabilities.   

More than 80 people from across the state attended the virtual forum moderated by Paraquad’s public policy and advocacy specialist, Sarah Schwegel.  Sarah began by asking Ellie and Gabriella to share a bit about growing up with a disability, their experiences in school, and their relationships with family, friends, and mentors.  From there, the discussion moved into the Medicaid application and renewal process and the program’s central role in keeping the panelists out of nursing homes and in their communities.     

Forum participants included college administrators, nonprofit leaders, high school teachers and guidance counselors, community organizers, disability advocates, and elected officials who listened as Gabriella and Ellie candidly discussed the complications and frustrations people with disabilities often face as they navigate Medicaid.  These frustrations include oppressive income and asset limits, system errors resulting in lost coverage, and low wages that make it hard to find and retain quality personal care attendants (PCAs).  After the event, Missouri State Representative Sarah Unsicker said, “I’m glad I went because I learned more about the lives of people with spinal muscular atrophy and hearing personal stories is important to making good policy.”      

The common theme of the forum was self-advocacy.  Both panelists talked about how growing up surrounded by able-bodied classmates helped them learn early how to explain their needs and direct peers towards inclusive activities.  When Ellie and Gabriella left home for college, they had to learn to hire, fire, and manage the PCAs they relied on to live on campus and attend classes.  Now, they are both law students dedicated to lifelong careers advocating for people with disabilities to live as independently as possible.    

On July 9th, Paraquad is partnering with Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) to host a Facebook Live Ask Me Anything: Medicaid and Disability.  Medicaid Ambassador Tyra Williams will tell her story and answer public questions about how the program makes it possible for her be an active member of her community.  More information can be found on Paraquad’s website. 

About Paraquad:  For 50 years, Paraquad has been empowering people with disabilities to increase their independence through choice and opportunity.  As one of the oldest and largest Centers for Independent Living in the United States, Paraquad is a leader in advancing the independent living philosophy and the expert in disability policy.


If you would like more information about Paraquad’s Community Voices for Medicaid initiative, please call Briana Conley at 314.289.4304, or email

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