Monday, October 29, 2012

Philadelphia CityPaper on Pennsylvania Olmstead Litigation

See this interesting article.  An excerpt:
Carl Solano’s sister is 58 years old, but, with her Down syndrome, her mental age has been pegged at less than 1. Since the 1960s, she’s lived at the White Haven Center, a state-run Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) about 100 miles north of Philly. “The only thing she knows is the staff, the other residents, the place that has been her home for 40 years,” says Solano, a Philadelphia lawyer. “She doesn’t know danger there. She’s in a place that’s protected.” Now, Solano is terrified that she could be pushed out of that sheltered environment.

That’s because, as part of a legal settlement signed last year, the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) agreed to begin moving certain people with intellectual disabilities out of ICFs and into community-based settings, typically small-group homes. Solano and seven other guardians of people living in ICFs are suing in federal court to intervene in the settlement. “People trusted the Department of Public Welfare. They feel betrayed,” says Solano, who believes the state facility is the best place for his sister and some others like her.

The thing is, the conventional wisdom says otherwise — and so do disability-rights advocates, the state and even the federal government, which operates under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as a Supreme Court decision known as Olmstead, both of which bar states from segregating people with disabilities into institutions if they can live elsewhere. “Almost 100 percent of professionals in this field believe that people are better served in their communities than in institutions, period,” says Maureen Cronin, executive director of the Arc of Pennsylvania, which advocates for the disabled. 
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The thing is, DRN managing attorney Robert Meek says Solano’s concerns are beside the point: The goal of his class-action lawsuit was never to force anyone out of ICF care. “This case was not about people who don’t want to move [or whose guardians don’t want them to move]. The case was about the state’s failure to offer community-based services to people. If you’re opposed to moving into the community, you’re not a member of the class.”

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