For too long in Rhode Island, people with serious mental illness; physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities; older adults and youth have been needlessly institutionalized or isolated. Many have been educated in segregated schools and classrooms, lost their children when they could parent, spent their days in day programs instead of being gainfully employed, or have been arrested and incarcerated for behavior related to their mental illness or cognitive disability, especially people of color. Others are homeless, continually cycling between emergency room departments, prison and shelters. In fact, Rhode Island’s Homeless Management and Information System (RI-HMIS) reports that people with behavioral health and/or physical disabilities account for 63% of our homeless population.
Olmstead refers to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1999 landmark ruling in Olmstead v. L.C., which found that segregation of people with disabilities is discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court decided that states have a legal obligation to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the opportunity to live, work, and receive services in the community in the least restrictive setting permitted by their disabilities. The Court’s decision also noted that compliance with the ADA could be achieved if a state could show that it had a “comprehensive and effectively working plan” for moving people out of restrictive settings into the community. So far, 26 states have created “Olmstead Plans,” and 18 states have published alternative strategies. Seven states (RI, FL, TN, ID, NM, SD, and DC) have neither.
It would assess the strengths and weaknesses of our State’s ability to meet the needs of populations at risk of institutionalization. It would set goals for the development of housing options and community supports. It would help the State to coordinate and secure services and resources. And it would compel the State to put permanent funding strategies in place.
Sign up for the Mental Health Association of RI’s Action Alerts.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, to get involved, or to schedule an Olmstead Plan presentation for your group or organization. Having your group or organization’s endorsement will demonstrate broad support for a Plan.
Contact The Governor. Ask him to issue an Executive Order establishing an Olmstead Plan. Explain why it would help you or loved one.
Tips on Communicating with Your Elected Officials
Read More: Americans With Disabilities Act
Read More: Criminalization of Mental Illness