by BARBARA MORSE, NBC 10 NEWS
(WJAR) — Mental health advocates are pushing for the Olmstead Plan in Rhode Island.
“We are behind the times,” said Laurie-Marie Pisciotta, director of the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island, or MHARI.
She said Rhode Island is one of only five states, plus the district of Columbia, that is not addressing what the U.S. Supreme Court put into place in 1999.
“We’re hearing everyday about people who are on wait lists for every level of care. It’s a crisis,” she told NBC 10 News. “It’s truly a crisis and the longer people are on wait lists, the worse their condition becomes.”
That’s where the so-called Olmstead Plan has made a difference in most states.
The Supreme Court case was born out of two women who had mental illness and developmental disabilities who were institutionalized voluntarily.
When they were released, mental health providers said they were ready for community-based care.
There was none, so they remained institutionalized.
They filed a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act and won.
“The court affirmed the state’s legal obligation to ensure that everyone who’s at risk of institutionalization has the right to live, work, and receive services in the least restrictive setting,” said Pisciotta.
“Every Rhode Islander has the right to be fully integrated into the community,” she said. “This means that a Rhode Islander who has serious persistent mental illness has the right to supportive housing instead of being homeless or imprisoned. It means that a Rhode Islander who has an intellectual disability has the right to be in a regular classroom with supports as opposed to being segregated.”
MHARI is leading a broad coalition of stakeholders trying to persuade lawmakers to develop an Olmstead Plan in Rhode Island.
It will also be sponsoring an upcoming gubernatorial debate on this.