From ADA.gov: 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.”
I am so thankful for what the disability community achieved in the last 29 years w/ the ADA and 20 years with the Olmstead decision. I owe a lot to Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson and everyone who came before and after. But I am also I’m also very salty & frustrated at the outright attempts to weaken regulations and programs that are vital to our civil and human rights. So I’m gonna get real with ya’ll.
While I have help that I need, it’s still not easy. The struggle is REAL when it comes to surviving and remaining in the community. I feel very vulnerable and know that I’m one crisis or policy change away from institutionalization. This is the lived reality of a lot of disabled people like myself. This vulnerability extends to the systems and policies I’m enmeshed in:
-Bureaucracy & labor involved in participation in programs. I have to file a plan of treatment every six months for my waiver and an annual redetermination for Medi-Cal which is Medicaid in California. There’s always a need to ‘verify’ and ‘document’ my needs for these services.
-Poverty trap (Medicaid) asset/income limitations. Did you know I can only have $2000 in my checking and savings AND that I can’t make more than 2.5 times the federal poverty level? I’m in the community, but am I really in the community like other non-disabled people? Nope.
-All of these realities are anxiety producing, especially when there’s a mix up or delay. There’s a long way to go to truly fulfill the spirit of the Olmstead decision. Check out her blog to read her entire article and more of her insights.