Governor declines to appeal Medicaid case, preventing high court from revisiting Olmstead decision

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Disability activists nationwide breathed a sigh of relief October 22, as Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire announced that she would not file another appeal in M.R. v. Dreyfus, preventing the Supreme Court from reexamining the disability community’s most cherished victory at the high court.

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“While for the time being the Olmstead case remains intact, this likely won’t be the last challenge to the integration mandate and Olmstead,” said David Lord, director of public policy, for Disability Rights Washington. “That said, the real story here is positive and encouraging. We have shown that we are ready to face the next challenge. Disability advocates across the nation recognized this threat to their rights, organized, spoke up, persisted, and were finally heard, and won.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act’s integration mandate requires states to provide services ensuring people with disabilities live in the most integrated settings according to their needs. The Supreme Court upheld this provision of the ADA, the strongest tool for lawyers for people with disabilities to enforce deinstitutionalization efforts, in 1999 by a 6-3 majority in Olmstead v. L.C.

In the M.R. case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, relying on Olmstead, ruled in 2011 that Washington State violated the ADA when it enacted 10 percent across-the-board cuts in 2010 to its Medicaid-funded in-home care services.

When Gregoire announced that she was considering appealing the decision, disability rights activists, fearing that the more conservative Supreme Court could modify or even overturn Olmstead, campaigned furiously for Gregoire to change her mind. National and local disability activists filed dozens of letters, rallied and held meetings with the governor.

“I have, and will continue to support the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead ruling,” Governor Gregoire said in a statement. “We heard the concerns of many advocates who feared that Supreme Court review of the 9th Circuit decision could have had broader negative implications. While any appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court would have made it clear that the state did not seek to undermine the Olmstead ruling, my team and I have worked tirelessly to avoid taking this case to that level at this time.”

Disability Rights Washington, the sponsor of DisAbility Rights Galaxy, is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.