Recent or Noteworthy Cases
Equip for Equality, in conjunction with partner organizations ACLU of Illinois, Dentons, and Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, settled three major Olmstead lawsuits. The lawsuits were brought on behalf of individuals with mental health disabilities residing in large private state-funded institutions, individuals in Cook county nursing facilities, and individuals with developmental disabilities in state institutions.
In Colbert v. Quinn, (or Colbert v. Rauner) a Consent decree was entered that would provide class members who were in Cook County nursing facilities, the opportunity to live in the least restrictive environment. One thousand individuals currently living in nursing facilities would receive housing assistance to move into the community. The state was required to develop a plan to transition other nursing facility residents into the community. The state was to be monitored by an independent reviewer.
In Ligas v. Hamos, (or Ligas v. Harwood), individuals with developmental disabilities living in institutions who desired to live in the community would be given that opportunity. Over a six year period, any of the 6,000 individuals in the institutions would have this opportunity. Additionally, 3,000 other individuals would living at home with a developmental disability would be given community services. A court monitor was appointed.
In Williams v. Quinn, (or Williams v. Rauner), over a five year period, individuals with mental health disabilities residing in state funded institutions would be given the opportunity and community services to live in the community rather than in institutions. A court monitor with mental health expertise was appointed.
Case No. 1:14-cv-00175-L-PAS. This case was brought by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and is the first statewide settlement applying Olmstead to segregated workshops for people with disabilities. The Settlement was entered on April 8, 2014, and stipulates that Rhode Island will provide "supported employment placements" for approximately 2,000 people with disabilities, who will work at competitive wages for at least 20 hours per week. The State will also guarantee "transition services" - vocational rehabilitation and supported employment services - to approximately 1,250 people between the ages of 14 and 21 (the "transition ages") in the hope of creating a more integrated employment system by the time they begin to work.
This case is a landmark victory for the disability rights movement. But, it is a social as well as a political victory. As U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha for the District of Rhode Island said in a recent interview, "It is an opportunity for this State to move forward; to recognize, finally, that we are better, stronger, when all of us – all of us – are interwoven in the fabric that is Rhode Island."
In the News:
Case No. 13-cv-4165. This case was brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and various individuals due to the administering of the State's mental health service system in a way that segregated people with mental illnesses into large, institutional adult homes. The 2014 agreement counteracts the State's disability-based discrimination within its mental health service system and ensures that people with mental illnesses residing in one of the twenty-three adult homes in New York City receive services in the "most integrated setting appropriate to their needs" as required by the ADA and Olmstead. They will have the opportunity to receive these services in the community and not be forced to reside in an institution.
Case No. 1:14-cv-00175. This case was originally filed by several individual plaintiffs, but shortly thereafter the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice filed and was granted a motion to intervene. The Settlement will expand and improve New Hampshire's mental health service for people with disabilities in integrated community settings over the next six years. It will also reduce unnecessary institutionalization and allow thousands of adults with mental illnesses to remain in the community. The Settlement is the first to require that the State create mobile crisis teams as well as crisis apartments in its most populous areas to avoiding hospitalization or institutionalization. The State will also create permanent supported housing and special residential communities for people with mental illnesses. Finally, the State will enhance supported employment services, guaranteeing that every resident is given equal employment opportunities.
On January 26, 2012, the Department of Justice filed a complaint that the state of Virginia was unnecessarily depriving Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) of the opportunity to live in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, as authorized by the ADA and Olmstead decision. The State and the U.S. agreed to a Settlement on the same day.
Under the settlement, people with disabilities will receive services in the community through Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services Waivers. These waivers will provide residents of nursing facilities, hospitals, and other institutions with the opportunity to transition to the community. They will also enable those with ID/DD who are at risk of institutionalization to remain in the community. The agreement also requires improvement of crisis response services, a "person-centered" case management process, an Employment First program, and other protections for people with disabilities.
Case No. 5:12-cv-557. This case was brought by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice against the State of North Carolina due to the DoJ's investigation into the State's adult care homes. The eight-year Settlement, reached on August 23, 2012, will expand access to community-based supported housing for people with disabilities. A person-centered discharge system will provide a smooth transition for the 3,000 individuals who will rejoin the community from their current residences in adult care homes. A pre-admission screening process will prevent more people from being unnecessarily institutionalized. The State will also provide community-based mental health services such as Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams and crisis centers, and will administer supported employment practices to 2,500 inhabitants.
Case No. 11–80335–CIV. In the fall of 2009, Kyra Alejandro was diagnosed with a learning disorder and several mental illnesses. She then trained her dog as a service dog and took it with her to school to help her in class, but the school, unsatisfied with the documentation she provided, refused to let her continue to bring it. The court decided in favor of the plaintiff in 2011, ruling that the school's refusal to allow the dog to help a student constituted disability discrimination under Title II of the ADA.
Case No. 07 C 4737. A lawsuit was filed in August 2007 on behalf of five nursing home residents with disabilities in Cook County, Illinois. The Settlement, reached on December 20, 2011, says that the State must "provide improved evaluations and transitions to HCBS [Home and Community Based Services]" as well as adequate HCBS for people with disabilities at home, in the community, or at risk of institutionalization. Additionally, the State must provide housing and related assistance, including personal assistance, to people with disabilities in the community. Finally, the settlement requires Illinois to develop a transition plan for other nursing home or institution residents who wish to live in the community.
Case No. 1:10-cv-00249-CAP. In January 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint that State violated the ADA in its unnecessary placement of individuals with disabilities in state institutions. The complaint addressed multiple groups: those with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and/or substance abuse disorders. The agreement reached on October 19, 2010, provides that the State must expand community services so that people with disabilities can receive assistance in most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, without being necessarily regulated to an institution. The State will also create thousands of home and community-based waivers to transition current hospital and nursing home residents back into the community. It also stipulates that the State will no longer admit individuals with developmental disabilities to any state institutions. Finally, the State will create a comprehensive crisis program to adequately respond to any disability-related crisis.
Case No. 2:10-cv-04185-NKL. The complaint was brought on behalf of plaintiffs and filed on August 23, 2010. The plaintiffs were incontinent due to disabilities and sought declaratory and injunctive relief to be provided via Medicaid assistance, without being necessarily institutionalized. The court issued an order on June 24, 2011, requiring the State to grant Medicaid-funded incontinence supplies to individuals who need those supplies to prevent being institutionalized.
Case No. 11-CV-591. The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint and simultaneous Settlement agreement with the State of Delaware resolving the investigation into whether people with mental illness in Delaware were being served in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs as well as its survey of the conditions of the Delaware Psychiatric Center. The Settlement is intended to prevent the unnecessary institutionalization of people with mental illness, and to ensure that if a mental health crisis occurs, there are sufficient resources available in the community to prevent the need for the individual to return to a hospital or other institution.
The State will create a comprehensive community crisis system including mobile crisis teams, several crisis centers, and short term crisis stabilization units. It will also provide community-based treatment through eleven Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams, four intensive case management teams, and twenty-five targeted case managers. Finally, the State will create housing vouchers and enact supported employment services for residents with mental illness.
Case No. 2002-038715. The lawsuit was filed in January 2002 by sixteen plaintiffs with disabilities who were currently residing in institutions but desired to rejoin the community. On April 24, 2009, a Settlement was reached that required the State to provide housing and sufficient medical and health services in the community to people with disabilities that they would not be institutionalized. The decision enabled 7,000 people previously living in institutions to rejoin the community. The Settlement also ensured "additional funds to assist class members in state-run institutions; improved information to class members and training about community living options; increased state-level coordination of services for people diagnosed with developmental and mental health disabilities; and continued funding and program efforts to provide community living alternatives."