North Carolina, DOJ reached settlement in Olmstead case

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Just less than a month after North Carolina announced a new plan to deinstitutionalize thousands of people with mental disabilities, the U.S. Department of Justice announced August 23 it had reach a legal settlement with the state, binding the state to follow through on its obligations.

Disability Rights North Carolina filed a complaint against the state with the DOJ in July 2010, arguing that it was illegally trapping thousands of people with mental disabilities in its system of adult care homes, without providing them an adequate opportunity to live in more integrated setting. In characterizing the adult care homes as institutions, the advocacy group alleged that the state’s housing services for people with mental disabilities violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision, which bars the unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities.

The new 8-year plan requires North Carolina to transfer an estimated 3,000 people from adult care homes into more community-based settings.

“This agreement will enable North Carolinians with mental illness to live in community-based settings, enriching their lives and the lives of their neighbors, and recognizing their worth and dignity,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, in a news release.

North Carolina must also expand its Assertive Community Treatment teams to serve an additional 5,000 people and provide crisis services so the individuals don’t have to be reinstitutionalized. Additionally, it must also provide supported employment services for 2,500 people with mental disabilities.

“Disability Rights NC applauds the Governor and the Secretary Delia for their leadership,” executive director Vicki Smith said in a news release. “This agreement will protect the rights of people with disabilities and help the State avoid costly litigation.”

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