DOJ slams Mississippi for ADA violations

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The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division released its findings December 22 of an investigation of Mississippi’s services for people with disabilities, concluding that the state is violating federal law by segregating thousands of people with disabilities in isolated settings.

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“Mississippi’s over reliance on institutions is longstanding, in spite of sweeping and powerful trends over the past half century that have prompted other states to move away from serving people with disabilities in large, outdated, segregated institutions and more toward more individualized, independent, effective care in integrated community settings,” the report stated.

According to the report, Mississippi is the most “institution-reliant system” in the country. The state spends 55 percent of its mental health budget on institutional care, as opposed to community based care. The national average is 27 percent.

Likewise, the state spends 68 percent of its budget devoted to people with developmental disabilities on institutional care, compared to a national average of 33 percent.

As a result, people with disabilities languish in institutional settings for decades, trapped due to unreasonably strict criteria for transferring to other settings and a lack of alternative options, despite Medicaid incentives to move people to more integrated settings, the report stated.

As the report stated, this emphasis is not due to budgetary concerns. It costs the state $110,000 on average to place an individual with developmental disabilities in institutional care, compared to $27,000 in community based care. Likewise, the figures are $150,000 to $44,500 for people with mental illnesses.

The report recommends that the state reduce its reliance on institutional care, conduct a proper assessment of each individual currently in institutionalized care and expand opportunities for alternative living options.

Many of the reports finding were based on previous reports by the state and other outside organizations. For disability advocacy groups, it confirms what they have been saying for years.

“We are last in the country. Even slow states like Louisiana got moving 10 years ago.” said Disability Rights Mississippi executive director  Ann Maclaine, referring to the time of passage since the Supreme Court upheld the ADA’s integration mandate, in an article in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. “

Disability Rights Mississippi is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.