Department of Justice filed a brief opposing a motion for preliminary injunction in Illinois League of Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled v. Quinn

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief opposing a motion for preliminary injunction in Illinois League of Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled v. Quinn. The plaintiffs in the case argue that Olmstead forbids the State of Illinois from closing institutions for people with developmental disabilities.  The plaintiffs are guardians of individuals residing in the Jacksonville Developmental Center and the Murray Developmental Center which the state of Illinois plans to close in 2013.  The guardians argue that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives people a right to live in a segregated institution.  Illinois wants to shift resources away from institutions in order to expand community based services and supports.

In filing the brief, DOJ is clarifying that nothing in the ADA’s integration mandate, its implementing regulations, or case law confers a right to remain in any given institution.

DOJ Intervenes in Oregon Employment Lawsuit

Last week, the United States moved to intervene in the class action lawsuit, Lane v. Kitzhaber, No. 12-cv-138 (D. Or.).  The United States’ complaint in intervention alleges that the State has violated Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by unnecessarily segregating thousands of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in sheltered workshops, and by placing them at risk of such segregation, when they could be served in integrated employment settings.  Individuals who are at risk of unnecessary segregation include youth with I/DD who are referred for admission to sheltered workshops after graduating from or exiting Oregon secondary schools.

The Department opened an investigation in October 2011 into whether Oregon is violating Title II of the ADA by placing persons with I/DD in segregated sheltered workshops when such persons are capable of working in integrated workplaces with appropriate supports and services, i.e., supported employment.  The Center for Public Representation (CPR) and Disability Rights Oregon (DRO), along with two private law firms, filed Lane v. Kitzhaber to challenge segregated workshop placements under Olmstead.  On August 6, 2012, the court certified a class defined as “all individuals in Oregon with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are in, or who have been referred to, sheltered workshops” and “who are qualified for supported employment services.”  In June 2012, the Division filed a Statement of Interest in support of class certification and issued a Letter of Findings concluding that Oregon’s sheltered workshop system violated Title II of the ADA and Olmstead.   This information was provided by The Department of Justice.

Department of Justice settlement in Virginia

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia approved a settlement agreement between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commonwealth concerning its system for providing services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). DOJ found that Virginia was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to give people the opportunity to live in the community. Virginia will move many individuals out of training centers into the community, will provide services to some of the people on the waiting list, and will dramatically change the way Virginia provides services to individuals with I/DD. To view The Arc of Virginia’s statement visit their website.

Department of Justice agreement with North Carolina

The Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into an Olmstead agreement with North Carolina that will reform the state’s system for serving individuals with mental illness. Over the next eight years, the state will provide community-based supportive housing for 3,000 individuals living in adult care homes. The state will provide supported employment services to 2,500 individuals, create a crisis service system, and expand access to mental health services.

Senate HELP Committee held hearing on ADA and Olmstead Implementation on the 13th Anniversary of the Olmstead decision

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Olmstead enforcement on the 13th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Olmstead v. L.C. decision. In its decision, the Court recognized that the civil rights of people with disabilities under the ADA are violated when they are unnecessarily segregated from the rest of society. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez testified about DOJ’s enforcement efforts, which includes actions in 25 states. Henry Claypool, Principal Deputy Administrator in the Administration for Community Living, talked about the administration’s efforts to foster collaboration among relevant federal agencies. Ricardo Thornton, Sr. shared his past experiences living in Forest Haven, an institution in Washington, DC. Mr. Thornton talked about his transition to the community, his job, his church membership, and his family. His testimony was eloquent and moving:

When we were in the institution, we didn’t have a voice. We were thought to be incompetent so no one took the time to teach us things. But people can accomplish great things with support. Having an intellectual disability doesn’t limit what you can contribute. Being put in institutions limits what people can do and guarantees that people will be dependent for the rest of their lives.

Also testifying about successful community integration were:

  • Rita Landgraf , Secretary, Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (formerly Executive Director of The Arc of Delaware), and
  • Zelia Baugh, Commissioner, Alabama Department of Mental Health.

Statements of all the witnesses can be found at the HELP committee website.

To commemorate the anniversary of the Olmstead decision, DOJ created a website called the “Faces of Olmstead” that highlights some of the people whose lives have been changed because of the Olmstead decision and DOJ’s enforcement efforts.

Olmstead / Balancing Incentive Program

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded New Hampshire with the first Balancing Incentive Program (BIP) grant to rebalance long term services and supports funding, a provision of the health care reform law.  NH will receive $26.5 million over three years in the form of increased federal matching payments.  Under the BIP, states must expand home and community based services and supports while reducing the amount spent on institutional services.  A total of $3 billion is available from CMS until September 30, 2015 for other states that are interested.  To be eligible, states must be spending less than 50% of total Medicaid long-term services and supports funds on community based options.  CMS currently is reviewing a proposal from Maryland.  The BIP is one of several programs authorized by the health care reform law designed to address the inherent institutional bias in Medicaid.

Department of Justice Releases New Information and Resources

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an Olmstead web site that includes information and resources about the Olmstead case and decision, a searchable map that lists ongoing Olmstead litigation in the 12 Circuit Courts of Appeals involving DOJ, guidance for states and local governments about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) integration mandate, and information about how to file an Olmstead complaint. The site allows people to sign up for email updates concerning Olmstead. To read a press release about the new web site, go to the Department of Justice website.
DOJ also issued a new technical assistance guide for state and local governments about their obligations under the Olmstead decision and the integration mandate of Title II of the ADA. The guide includes a question and answer section related to Olmstead that answers, among other questions, “What is the most integrated setting under the ADA and Olmstead?”

On the thirteenth anniversary of the Olmstead decision, DOJ asked to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed against the state of Texas that alleges nearly 4,500 nursing home residents who have developmental disabilities do not receive proper treatment or the opportunity to transfer to places better suited for their needs. To read more about the case and DOJ’s statement of interest in the case, go to the ADA web page.

Justice Department cites Virginia for unnecessary institutionalization

The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a letter of findings to the Governor of Virginia about its failure to provide services to people with disabilities in the community. Virginia relies heavily on institutional care for people with intellectual disabilities.  DOJ said that the state is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision because it fails to provide community-based services to prevent unnecessary institutionalization for people, especially those with the most complex needs, and because it fails to have a workable transition process in place for people who could leave the institution.  In order to avoid litigation, DOJ recommended that Virginia obtain additional waivers and expand community services; develop crisis services; provide integrated day services, including supported employment, and move away from relying on sheltered workshops; create systems to monitor community services; provide true discharge planning for people in institutions; work with families who are opposed to community placement so they can make informed choices, and prevent new admissions to institutions unless that placement is the most integrated setting appropriate to serve the individual’s needs.  Read the letter at http://www.governor.virginia.gov/news/docs/DOJ_Findings_Letter_2011-02-11.pdf

Department of Justice Meeting

Disability Policy Collaboration staff participated in a meeting of disability advocates with the leadership of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.  Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez and his senior staff led a lengthy discussion of key issues being worked on by the Civil Rights Division. The DOJ officials reaped high praise from the disability community in relationship to their work on ADA and Olmstead implementation and enforcement. The participants also discussed other issues related to disability rights.