Minnesotans with disabilities need good choice about where to live and need to obtain quality services in community settings that best meet their needs. A committee of Minnesotans has been studying those issues for several months. Now it’s the community’s turn to weigh in.
“The Promise of Olmstead: Recommendations of the Olmstead Planning Committee” as well as the committee meeting minutes and planning documents are available online for review at: www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/groups/olmstead/documents/pub/dhs16_172625.pdf. A public comment period on the plan ends Dec. 31. Send comments to [email protected]
The study is a result of a lawsuit over treatment of residents of the now-closed Minnesota Extended Treatment Options program (METO) in Cambridge. The study was a condition of that legal settlement. The settlement requires Minnesota to eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities and to ensure the persons with disabilities receive services in the safest and most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.
The Minnesota Olmstead Planning Committee was formed as part of the settlement with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). It requires the development of a Minnesota Olmstead Plan in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. LC. The plan has a completion date of June 2013; an interim report was issued this fall. The interim report includes recommendations to Minnesota DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.
The lawsuit sparked uproar in Minnesota’s disability community. In July 2009, three former residents of Minnesota Extended Treatment Options (METO) and their parents brought a class action lawsuit against the State of Minnesota and DHS in the United States District Court, District of Minnesota, on behalf of residents of METO. METO residents were subjected to improper use of restraints and punishments deemed excessive, to the point that their rights were violated. In June 2011 the plaintiffs and the state reached a comprehensive class action settlement agreement, which was approved by court on December 5, 2011.
Among other things, the settlement agreement required the State to close METO by June 30, 2011, and mandated that any successor program comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C., and utilize person-centered planning principles and positive behavioral supports. The agreement also mandated that as part of system wide improvements, DHS establish an Olmstead Planning Committee charged with making public recommendations as to the establishment of a state plan by Oct. 5.
By June 5, 2013, the state and DHS are mandated to develop and implement a comprehensive Olmstead Plan that uses measurable goals to increase the number of people with disabilities receiving services that best meet their individual needs and in the “most integrated setting,” consistent and in accord with the Olmstead decision.
Olmstead refers to Olmstead v. L.C., the United States Supreme Court held that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires the placement of persons with disabilities in community settings, rather than in institutions, when the state’s treatment professionals determine that such a placement is appropriate; if the transfer is not opposed by the individual, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated given the resources available to the state and its obligation to provide for the needs of others with mental disabilities. In that court decision, a majority of justices ruled that failure to provide care for individuals with mental disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs is discrimination, in violation of the ADA, unless the state or other public entity can demonstrate an inability to provide for integration into the community without “fundamentally altering” the nature of its programs.
This court decision favors community living with supportive services over institutional placement. While Olmstead doesn’t require a state plan, compliance with the court’s ruling is difficult to demonstrate without such a plan in place. One of many advantages of having a plan is place is that it allows for evaluation of whether or not a state is following the Olmstead decree.
“It’s important for people to read the (interim report) and make comments,” said Christopher Bell, one of the Minnesota committee co-chairs. He and others involved on the committee have been reporting on progress to the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD). One challenge the committee had in trying to make recommendations and file an interim report in a tight time frame and without adequate information and expertise to fully address some topics. Some topics will have to be addressed later.
An Olmstead Plan is meant to cover topics including community-based services and supports, home and community-based waiver services, Medicaid state plan services, health care services, transportation, employment, communication integration, housing and navigating the system. There are also recommendations for state-operated community services, state-operated forensics services, the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center and Minnesota State Hospital-Cambridge. (After METO was closed in June 2011, the Cambridge facility was occupied by the specialty health system-Cambridge, a program for people with developmental disabilities.)
In its interim report, the committee stated “The State, as it prepares its Olmstead Plan, must look broadly across state executive agencies providing services to people with disabilities and do its own analysis of laws, policies and procedures that should be reviewed in light of the ADA and the Olmstead decision.”
The committee also stated that its recommended reforms shouldn’t be implemented in a manner which causes harm to individuals with disabilities. “Individual needs and desires should not be sacrificed in an effort to promote greater community integration,” the committee stated. “The (committee) cautions against reducing existing resources for less integrated settings before sufficient resources supporting more integrated settings are available. An effective Olmstead Plan should involve redirecting public resources to more integrated settings but this must be done in an orderly and measured way to ensure that people with disabilities, collectively and individually, continue to benefit from public programs. If an individual with a disability desires to move from an institution or a less integrated setting to a more integrated setting, the move should not be carried out unless and until the services and supports the individual needs are available and in place.”