Why Were We Tri-County “Patriots”?

In 1990, when TRIPIL first opened to serve Washington, Greene, and Fayette Counties, the full name was Tri-County Partnership for Independent Living. This name was chosen to reflect the fact that consumers were to be real partners in taking control over their own lives and working together to create more integrated accessible communities.

This vision meant a vast array of changes were going to be needed and TRIPIL was sure to be involved with and advocating for everything from curb cuts to expanded in home supports. This was a time before Home and Community Based Services were widely available.

Pennsylvania did have Act 150, legislation that worked to provide in home care to people who needed help with activities of daily living. There was just one really big problem with that.

The legislation was given such a small budget that the waiting list was months or years long and kept growing. When a person did come to the top of the list, they were provided with minimal service. It wasn’t uncommon for recipients to be allowed less than 10 hours of care per week.

People across Pennsylvania knew that there was a better way. After advocates had met with state officials many times, in the summer of 1997, hundreds of people with disabilities and their allies gathered in Harrisburg to demand that the administration of Governor Tom Ridge do the right thing by providing funding to clear the waiting list and get people the services they needed to be truly independent. TRIPIL staff and consumers were proud to be part of the gathering of more than 100 that camped on lawns near the Capitol to demand results from those in power.

More than ten days passed. Determined advocates slept in the open air to illustrate how important it was that voices be heard and services improve. Ultimately, the protest proved successful.

Governor Ridge met with the crowd and agreed that his Department of Public Welfare would work to resolve the waiting list crisis. During that meeting, he remarked that the protesters were true patriots who had used the process guaranteed in the Constitution to create a change in state policy.

TRIPIL staff and consumers brought that sentiment home to Southwestern Pennsylvania and membership voted to officially change the name of the organization to Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living.

For more than a decade later, we carried that name — and the mission it represents — forward. Though in 2017, we changed the name of the organization, we will continue working to make changes and state and federal policy that improve the lives of everyone in our communities. If you want the chance to be a part of the change, please join us!