(From Stl Today (post-Dispatch- web site 12/3/2012)
Justice Department's aggressive actions force habilitation centers to close
Dec 3rd, 2012
Justice department's aggressive actions force habilitation centers to close
The article “Northwest center for disabled is closed” (Nov. 27) brings to light a national issue about the care of people with severe mental and physical disabilities.
Part of the real story behind the nationwide closing of habilitation centers is the aggressive action by the Department of Justice. The department is grossly misinterpreting the 1999 Supreme Court Olmstead decision, which states: “We emphasize that nothing in the ADA or its implementing regulations condones termination of institutional settings for persons unable to handle or benefit from community settings. ... Nor is there any federal requirement that community-based treatment be imposed on patients who do not desire it.”
Contrary to this clear statement, the Justice Department is using this decision to threaten states with lawsuits claiming that the civil rights of the residents are being violated, just because they live in one of these centers. To avoid a Justice Department lawsuit, governors of states are settling out of court and agreeing to close habilitation centers. The fact that these residents are thriving in these centers is being ignored.
Across the nation, families rely on the comprehensive, life-saving services offered at habilitation centers. We are greatly alarmed by the misguided, aggressive actions of the Justice Department that are putting our family members in harm’s way. Families are to be the primary decision makers about services received.
Mary A. Vitale • Florissant