CDR Celebrates the 23rd Anniversary of the Olmstead v. Lois Curtis SCOTUS Case
This year as we continue to navigate our world through a pandemic that has killed millions of people and in particular thousands of people inside institutions, Center for Disability Rights (CDR) celebrates the 23rd Anniversary of the Olmstead v. Lois Curtis case. 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. (ADA.gov) This historic case is the basis of why CDR has made getting people out of institutions our priority in policy and advocacy work. 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. (ADA.gov)
During the early months of the pandemic, research demonstrated that community integration of Disabled individuals reduced the spread and deaths from COVID-19. Research published in JAMDA, the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, compared the infection and death rates of people in Connecticut nursing facilities to those receiving services in the community and demonstrated that people receiving services in the community were 11 times less likely to get infected with COVID-19 and die than their nursing facility counterparts. Although people may assume that the COVID-19 deaths in nursing facilities and other institutions were unavoidable or exacerbated because people in institutions are “sick” and “frail,” the research told a different story. (CDR Blog Post: Institutionalization is a Public Health Crisis)
CDR is also leading the work in the passage of The Latonya Reeves Freedom Act (HR. 6820/S.3417) a bill named to honor a Coloradan who fled Tennessee to gain the freedom to live in her own home, would protect and expand the civil right of Americans with disabilities to receive long-term services and supports (LTSS) in the setting of their choice. As the Supreme Court observed in Olmstead v. Lois Curtis, “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,” and furthermore, institutionalizing people who could live in community settings “perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life.” The Latonya Reeves Freedom Act would complement the ADA and accelerate the pace of people with disabilities leaving institutions, including by describing with specificity steps that must be taken by states and providers of insurance covering long-term services and supports to achieve community integration.
The Latonya Reeves Freedom Act coalition has a support letter that currently has 47 civil and human rights organizations signed on. Please review the letter below. The letter remains open for organizations to sign on. The coalition is taking national, state and local organizations so please send this letter out to your networks. To sign onto this letter please go here.
We will update the letter and send to Congress regularly. Next month as we celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) we will host a congressional staff only briefing on this imperative legislation. The coalition meets monthly to work on the bill please join us in our work to get this bill passed into law.
Now is the time for congress and society to make the premise of the ADA which is community integration and the judgement of the SCOTUS Olmstead v. Lois Curtis case a reality. This is a celebration of the 23rd Anniversary of this historic case. But it is also a reminder that until there is full integration of people with disabilities into our society and all barriers for those who are institutionalized are removed, the ruling is unfulfilled.
For more information on this work and to get involved with the LRFA Coalition please contact Dara Baldwin, Director of National Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org