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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Olmstead and ASD

Housing is a major problem for people on the spectrum. In the Olmstead decision, the US Supreme Court found that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires the placement of mentally disabled patients in "integrated settings" when they are medically cleared for such settings, they themselves express a desire for such settings, and the resources for such a transfer are available. (See the HHS Olmstead page.) At Autism Spectrum News, Sheryl Dicker and Kristina Majewski write:
Using the Olmstead decision, people with disabilities once segregated in institutions have filed lawsuits nationwide to mandate states to provide services and supports in the community. Thus, people with ASD in institutions, including mental hospitals and nursing homes, can use Olmstead to create community-housing supports. In Georgia, for example (the Olmstead state), the state has been compelled to develop housing in the community for 9,000 individuals, pursuant to the October 19, 2010 settlement agreement. According to this agreement, all individuals currently in hospitals will be transferred to community settings by July 2015. Other examples abound in several states. According to a 2003 study of the states’ response to Olmstead, conducted by Ohio’s Developmental Disabilities Council, more than forty states have created “Olmstead specific task forces.” Those task forces have been charged with ensuring that individuals are moved from institutions to community settings by establishing budgets, requesting appropriate funds be made available to provide adequate housing and supportive services, and moving people off waiting lists.

Unfortunately, data collected by the University of Minnesota’s Residential Information System Program, between the years 2005 and 2009, shows that the number of people living in public and private institutions has not declined in many states including New Jersey and New York. The data further reveals that thousands of people in several states are still waiting to receive residential services (118,122 individuals nationwide as of 2009). Recent litigation by the Disability Rights of New Jersey, addresses this concern. A complaint was filed against the NJ Department of Human Services, claiming that the rights of 8,000 individuals with developmental disabilities were violated because they remained on residential waiting lists and were not moved from segregated settings to the community. (In 2003, a similar lawsuit was initiated in Oregon on behalf of 5,000 individuals with developmental disabilities). The NJ case argued that lack of money is not a defense for the state because civil liberties are independent of state funds, and indeed, it costs double to care for individuals in an institutional rather than a community setting. It is interesting to note that in Olmstead, the plaintiffs reported a cost $283/day to care for an individual in an institutional hospital as compared to $112/day for community services.