Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone
In 2009, the Civil Rights Division launched an aggressive effort to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C., a ruling that requires states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities and to ensure that persons with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. President Obama issued a proclamation launching the “Year of Community Living,” and has directed the Administration to redouble enforcement efforts. The Division has responded by working with state and local governments officials, disability rights groups and attorneys around the country, and with representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services, to fashion an effective, nationwide program to enforce the integration mandate of the Department’s regulation implementing title II of the ADA.
The story of the Olmstead case begins with two women, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, who had mental illness and developmental disabilities, and were voluntarily admitted to the psychiatric unit in the State-run Georgia Regional Hospital. Following the women’s medical treatment there, mental health professionals stated that each was ready to move to a community-based program. However, the women remained confined in the institution, each for several years after the initial treatment was concluded. They filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for release from the hospital.
On June 22, 1999, the United States Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Court held that public entities must provide community-based services to persons with disabilities when (1) such services are appropriate; (2) the affected persons do not oppose community-based treatment; and (3) community-based services can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the public entity and the needs of others who are receiving disability services from the entity.
The Supreme Court explained that its holding “reflects two evident judgments.” First, “institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable of or unworthy of participating in community life.” Second, “confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment.”
The content on this page was taken from http://www.ada.gov/olmstead/index.htm