Settlement filed in Illinois Olmstead case

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A five and a half year legal battle regarding Illinois’ system for transferring people with disabilities from institutional to community settings may be coming to a climax.

On January 11, Equip for Equality announced a settlement with state officials, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, requiring the state to provide an individualized, independent evaluation for each of its 6,000 individuals in its institutions.

In the lawsuit, filed in July 2005, the plaintiffs charged the state with unnecessarily institutionalizing people with disabilities by failing to systematically evaluate the individuals or create a waiting list for individuals looking to transfer, while advising these individuals that they could only be transferred in undefined “emergency situations.”

As part of the proposed settlement, the judge would also appoint a monitor to oversee the settlement’s compliance.

“This case is about choice, and now thousands of people with developmental disabilities will have the option to choose community living,” said Barry Taylor, legal advocacy director at Equip for Equality, in a news release. “Under the proposed Consent Decree, the State of Illinois will move closer to fulfilling the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act to integrate people with disabilities into our society.”

During the next six years, the state would also be required to provide community services to an additional 3,000 people with developmental disabilities currently living in their homes.

The case has been delayed multiple times. After being certified class action status in 2006, the judge found the class action definition too broad in July 2009 because it included individuals who did not request a transfer from their institutional placement. A new complaint was filed the next month.

The proposed settlement includes language stating that individuals satisfied with their services in the institution would not be required to transfer.

The case was brought by Equip for Equality, Access Living and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. The Justice Department filed an amicus brief in January 2010.

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