The Olmstead Plan and why it is important

Olmstead is the name of a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Olmstead v. L.C. and E.W.) that expounded certain aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those provisions apply to how state and native governments administer services to individuals with disabilities. Previously, the default public policy position was that individuals with disabilities would live and be granted services in segregated, often institutional settings. Olmstead is about moving the default position to the choice end of the spectrum with the starting assumption that community living and full integration with persons with disabilities is the best possible option. This ideally supports their individual disability-related needs and their personal preferences.

In 1995, the state of Georgia, where the Olmstead case began with two women named Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson. Both women had intellectual disabilities and psychological conditions. They had been living in a state hospital for a pretty long time, and both had benefited from the mental health services they received. The professionals who had treated them agreed they could leave the facility, and both women expressed a desire to return to their homes within the community. At the time, however, the State of Georgia failed to have any community living options that might meet their needs. As a result, they'd have no choice but to stay within the institutional setting indefinitely. Lois and Elaine believed that having to remain in a very segregated setting when it had not been necessarily meant they were being discriminated against on the idea of their disabilities. With the assistance of legal advocates, they brought suit to enforce their rights under the ADA to receive publicly funded services in an integrated community setting.

On June 22, 1999, the United States Supreme Court ruled on Olmstead v. L.C. After much deliberation, Lois and Elaine eventually won their suit. The Supreme Court ruling was touted as a civil rights landmark, reaffirming non-discrimination against individuals with mental illness and disabilities. This was the cause for many other states and local jurisdictions to reevaluate the way they serviced individuals with disabilities with the recognition that:

•People with disabilities should have the same opportunities to live life like people without disabilities;.

•People with disabilities should have real opportunities for integration into their local community, independence, recovery, choice and self-determination in all facets of life. These include but are not limited to where they live, how they spend their time, where they work, or how they participate in their community.

•People with disabilities should receive quality services that meet their individual needs.

Since 2000, the Iowa Department of Human Services has been the state’s designated lead agency in responding to the Olmstead Decision. The Olmstead Plan, now in its fourth edition, represents a vision for implementing Iowa’s obligation to provide individuals with disabilities opportunities to live, work, and be served in integrated settings. The plan has been developed with input from various stakeholders, including individuals who access public disability services, and we will continue to gather public input on an ongoing basis.

Nancy’s Place will contribute to the Iowa Department of Human Services' vision of carrying out the Olmstead Plan by empowering individuals with disabilities to have more opportunities of integrating into their community instead of institutional settings by providing more housing options specifically geared towards them.

By Hunter Cook

Hunter Cook's picture