Thursday, August 23, 2012

DOJ Reaches Major Olmstead Agreement with North Carolina

See this press release, which outlines the basic contours of the settlement.  It begins:
The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into an agreement with the state of North Carolina to ensure the state is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. The agreement will transform the state’s system for serving people with mental illness. Under the settlement agreement, over the next eight years, North Carolina’s system will expand community-based services and supported housing that promote inclusion and independence and enable people with mental illness to participate fully in community life.

Under the ADA, as interpreted by the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Olmstead v. L.C., people with disabilities have the right to receive services in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs. The settlement follows an investigation by the Department of North Carolina’s mental health service system that began in 2010. Since the department’s letter of findings was issued one year ago, in July 2011, the state has worked cooperatively with the department to negotiate an agreement..

“As the Supreme Court noted over a decade ago, the unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities is based on the unsupported assumption that they are unworthy of participating in community life,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This agreement will enable North Carolinians with mental illness to live in community-based settings, enriching their lives and the lives of their neighbors, and recognizing their worth and dignity. I commend Governor Bev Perdue and North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Al Delia for their leadership, which played a crucial role in making this comprehensive agreement a reality.”

Over the next eight years, North Carolina will provide integrated supported housing to 3,000 people, expand Assertive Community Treatment teams to serve 5,000 individuals, and provide a range of crisis services. The agreement will also expand integrated employment opportunities for people with mental illness by providing supported employment services to 2,500 individuals. These services will allow the state to serve people with mental illness effectively in their communities while avoiding costly institutional settings.
The settlement is here.  DOJ issued its findings letter in this case in my last week at the Department in 2011; congratulations to my former colleagues for bringing home such a big settlement.

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