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The history and future of the Olmstead decision

By Julie Alexander, Independent Living Services Coordinator

About the Olmstead decision

June 22, 2018, represents the 19th anniversary of the Olmstead Supreme Court decision, which stipulated that people with disabilities should not be segregated from society in institutions but should be given the opportunity to choose community living options. The Olmstead decision revolved around the claims of two individuals with disabilities, L.C. and E.W., who were staying in an institution and wanted to leave, but the state indicated that there were no resources available to use for them to leave. These two individuals sued the state and eventually won their claim, which was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. In its decision, the U.S. Supreme Court indicated that segregation in an institution is discrimination and a violation of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The “integration mandate” was then created and set in motion. The integration mandate requires that public agencies provide services to individuals with disabilities who want to leave an institution and move into an integrated setting that meets their needs. It also states that there must be a determination that the services provided can be accomplished by the state, which is able to determine the resources that it can use toward meeting this need.
At present, the integration mandate still exists and people with disabilities can still sue the state that they are living in asking for community-based options rather than institutional care. The state can still make a determination on whether or not it has resources to meet the need. It’s usually much less costly to provide community-based and in-home services than institutional care.

About the Disability Integration Act

In April 2017 the Disability Integration Act was first introduced by Representative Sensenbrenner (R-WI) in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2472) and by Senator Schumer (D-NY) in the Senate (S. 910). These pieces of legislation would enable the Olmstead decision to not just be a Supreme Court decision but also to be the law of the land. H.R. 2472 and S. 910 would create a pathway for making personal care and other long-term care services fundable nationally as mandatory services using home and community-based waivers. If passed, personal care and other long-term care supports would be offered as mandatory services along with institutional care when people are in need of these services. People then could choose. Unfortunately H.R. 2472 and S. 910 were not passed and signed into law in 2017, and right now institutional care is the only mandatory service offered to individuals when they have health care needs.

Disability Integration Act in 2018

This year the Disability Integration Act has been reintroduced into Congress. Individuals with disabilities who are interested in voicing an opinion about the Olmstead decision and the Disability Integration Act can contact their federal legislators. In Wisconsin, contact U.S. Senator Baldwin, 202-224-5653 V/Relay, and U.S. Senator Johnson, 202-224-5323 V/Relay, if you would like to let them know your thoughts about the Disability Integration Act. Individuals in support of the Disability Integration Act can call U.S. Representative Sensenbrenner, 202-225-5101 V/Relay, and thank him for introducing this piece of legislation in the House of Representatives. Also contact U.S. Representative Moore, 202-225-4572 V/Relay; U.S. Representative Ryan, 202-225-0600 V/Relay; or U.S. Representative Grothman, 202-225-2476 V/Relay, if you are in their legislative districts, and let them know your thoughts about this piece of legislation. If this piece of legislation is passed into law, seniors and people with disabilities in all of the United States will have options for living in the community.

For more information, call 414-291-7520 V/Relay.