Judge expands court oversight of Minnesota settlement

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News from Minnesota

The U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota has extended its jurisdiction by two years over a Court-approved settlement, signed in 2011, requiring the state to overhaul its institutional services.

“Multiple admonitions to the (state Department of Health Services) have been insufficient to secure effective action by the DHS to close the significant gaps between its stated intentions and actions,” Judge Donovan Frank wrote in an order, dated September 3. “Continued implementation delays can no longer be tolerated.

“More importantly, the dignity, quality of life, and best interests of every Class Member and similarly situated individuals with disabilities hinge on fulfillment of the promises made by Defendants at the fairness hearing in this matter.”

Under the settlement, the DHS agreed to pay $3 million to a class of approximately 200 people with disabilities who were subjected to frequent restraint and seclusion techniques at Minnesota Extended Treatment Options, a since-closed facility located in Cambridge, Minnesota, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

In addition to agreeing to limit the use of these techniques, the DHS agreed to create an Olmstead plan, to ensure that each of these individuals received proper transition plans into community based services. In Olmstead v. L.C., the Supreme Court upheld the Americans with Disabilities Act’s integration mandate, requiring states to provide services to ensure people with disabilities live in the most integrated settings according to their needs.

Originally, the Court would oversee the settlement for three years. However, in a recently issued report, the Court-approved monitor reported that although the DHS had created an Olmstead plan, it had failed to create adequate transition plans for many of the individuals in question.

In addition, the DHS had failed to meaningfully train  many state and county employees in person-centered planning, in order to implement to transition plans.

Accordingly, the Court granted new powers to the court-appointed monitor overseeing the implementation of the settlement and will retain oversight of the settlement until December 4, 2016, assuming that the terms of the settlement are met.

“Adherence to the Court’s Orders by the DHS officials and staff at all levels is essential, not discretionary,” the Court stated. “The interests of justice and fairness to each Class member and similarly situated individuals requires no less.”