Anniversary of Olmstead Decision – 10 years and counting…

Greetings!Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson - Olmstead Plaintiffs
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Day in Washington Disability Policy Podcast – Episode Summary: Day in Washington looks at disability policy issues. Today's podcast/blog post is a very special one, celebrating the anniversary of the Olmsted decision. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the case, suffice it to say that this lawsuit is the cornerstone of the movement towards deinstitutionalization for people with disabilities.

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Olmstead Overview

Olmstead Lawsuit – Read it for yourself

Olmstead and its Impact on Long Term Services and Supports

Detailed Olmstead Information


1 comment for “Anniversary of Olmstead Decision – 10 years and counting…

  1. June 22, 2009 at 1:59 am

    DAY IN WASHINGTON – Disability Policy Podcast


    Hello and welcome to your Day In Washington Disability Policy Update. I'm your host, Day Al-Mohamed working to make sure you stay informed.

    Today is June 22, 2009. Ten years ago, on this day, the United States Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that the unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities in institutions constitutes discrimination based on disability.

    This was a monumentous event in disability history and because of how the ADA was interpreted by the courts, it has played an integral role in how disability policy language in written and interpreted ever since.

    Let me start with some background. During the late 19th century and early 20th century society believed that these people with mental disabilities were degenerates and unfit, and accepted and justified segregation on the grounds that it was beneficial for both the community and the mentally disabled themselves. Why? Because people with disabilities were.let me quote this directly: were unsuitable for companionship, a blight on mankind, and whose mingling with society was a most baneful evil.

    In 1990, when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, Title II's language read that: .no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity. §12132.

    This responsibility is often referred to as the ADA.s integration mandate.

    In 1995, L.C. and E.W. Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, two women with
    mental disabilities filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia. According to court records, both women had intellectual disabilities. Lois Curtis, had also been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and Elaine Wilson, with a personality disorder. Both women had a long history of periodic institutionalization

    In May 1992, Lois Curtis was voluntarily admitted to Georgia Regional Hospital at Atlanta (GRH), where she was confined for treatment in a psychiatric unit. By May 1993, her psychiatric condition had stabilized, and her treatment team at the hospital agreed that Lois would be well served in one of the community-based programs the State supported. Despite this evaluation, Lois Curtis remained institutionalized until February 1996, when the State placed her in a community-based treatment program.

    Elaine Wilson was voluntarily admitted to Georgia Regional Hospital in February 1995; like Lois Curtis, she treated in the psychiatric unit. In March 1995, the hospital tried to discharge Elaine Wilson to a homeless shelter, but abandoned that plan after her attorney filed an administrative complaint. By 1996, Elaine Wilson's treating psychiatrist concluded that she could be treated appropriately in a community-based setting. However, she remained institutionalized until 1997.

    The women simply wanted the opportunity to live in their community. The core of the lawsuit turned on the question of “[w]hether the public services portion of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act compels the state to provide treatment and habilitation for mentally disabled persons in a community placement, when appropriate treatment and habilitation can also be provided to them in a State mental institution.”

    The Supreme Court ruled that under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990) the women had the right to receive care in the most integrated setting appropriate and that their unnecessary institutionalization was discriminatory and violated the ADA. The Olmstead case is now the cornerstone for advocacy efforts relating to integration.

    So what has happened since? To help states comply with Olmstead, the Federal government issued guidance based on the opinions given by the judges. It has also provided ongoing policy guidance encouraging review and development of state long term care and Olmstead plans, and promoted the increased use of existing policy options for Home and Community Based Services.

    The anniversary of this critical lawsuit is a reminder of the importance individual advocacy, but also of the need for good legislation to better address two core problems for individuals with disabilities that the Olmstead case highlighted that continue to this day:

    (1) a lack of an overall national policy framework for community integration of people with disabilities, and
    (2) inadequate change in the long-term services and supports system to eliminate unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities.

    So let me just finish where I started, today is June 22, 2009. Ten years ago, on this day, the United States Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that the unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities in institutions constitutes discrimination based on disability.


    And that’s it for this week’s Day in Washington. I’m Day Al-Mohamed with your Disability Policy Podcast, hoping that you stay well and stay informed. For more information about disability policy or to comment please visit: or call 206-888-6009.

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