For Immediate Release
October 31, 2005
For more information, contact Richard A. Cohen at 228-0432
Attorney Ronald Lospennato, Legal Director of the Disabilities Rights Center (DRC), will soon be leaving for Louisiana to volunteer with The Advocacy Center, DRC’s counterpart in Louisiana and part of the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN). He will provide legal assistance to individuals with disabilities.
Individuals with disabilities were especially hard hit after the Hurricane Katrina. People with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty and were stranded in New Orleans at a much higher rate than that of the general population. The death rate for people with disabilities and the elderly was also significantly higher.
According to Lois Simpson, Executive Director of The Advocacy Center, “FEMA has been a big disappointment. FEMA did not have disability on its radar screen.” The temporary housing provided after the hurricanes was not accessible. Many people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities, who lived in community settings, found themselves institutionalized after the storm. With the intervention of The Advocacy Center, some accessible housing has now been provided.
Attorney Lospennato was not able to go to Louisiana earlier due to his role as co-counsel in the Bryson v. Stephen trial, the brain injury wait list case against the Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner. He will leave in early November for three to four weeks. The Advocacy Center plans to have Lospennato provide short term legal assistance to people still living in shelters, and to follow up on the more complex Katrina-related cases.
Lospennato has been an attorney with the Disabilities Rights Center since 1979, and was appointed the Legal Director in 1987. In 2003, he received the Frank Rowe Kenison Award from the NH Bar Foundation. In 2002, he received the Bruce Friedman award from New Hampshire Partners in Service. He will put to good use in Louisiana his many years of experience as a litigator, supervisor, and advocate for people with disabilities.
The Advocacy Center’s New Orleans headquarters was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. At least eight staff members lost everything they owned in the hurricane. Since then the advocacy office has regrouped and is working out of Baton Rouge.