Wednesday, March 28, 2012

DOJ Moves to Intervene in New Hampshire Mental Health Olmstead Suit

Almost two months ago, I blogged about the Olmstead lawsuit filed by private plaintiffs in New Hampshire to challenge unnecessary institutionalization at the state psychiatric hospital and a state-operated nursing home.  Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice moved to intervene as a plaintiff in that suit.  See this press release, which contains a link to the intervention papers.  The press release begins:
The Justice Department today moved to intervene in Lynn E. v. Lynch, a recently-filed lawsuit alleging that the state of New Hampshire fails to provide mental health services to people with disabilities in community settings in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. As a result of the state’s failures, people with mental illness who need state mental health services are forced to go to segregated institutions like the New Hampshire Hospital in Concord, N.H ., and the Glencliff Home in Benton, N.H.

Under the ADA, a state cannot require people with disabilities to enter segregated facilities unnecessarily in order to get services. In April of last year, the Department of Justice notified the state that it is violating the ADA by unnecessarily institutionalizing persons with mental illness and by failing to provide necessary community-based services and supports, like crisis services and housing supports. Leadership within the state of New Hampshire has recognized that the state’s mental health system is deficient. According to a top state official, “NH’s mental health system is failing, and the consequence of these failures is being realized across the community. The impacts of the broken system are seen in the stress it is putting on local law enforcement, hospital emergency rooms, the court system and county jails, and, most importantly, in the harm under-treated mental health conditions cause NH citizens and their families.”

The state adopted a 10-year plan for improving its system, however, the state failed to implement important pieces of its plan and to put in place needed reforms to meet the needs of people with mental illness. The New Hampshire Community Mental Health Centers association recently concluded that the state had failed to meet important benchmarks within its 10-year plan and informed federal officials that the New Hampshire community system “has less capacity in January of 2012 than it had in August of 2008 when the ‘Ten-Year Plan’ called for additional investment.”

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