Olmstead Decision 25th Anniversary is on June 22, 2024

June 22 marks the ceremonial 25th anniversary of the landmark civil rights Olmstead Decision. In this case, the Supreme Court held that “unjustified isolation of individuals with disabilities” through “undue institutionalization,” constituted discrimination based on disability in violation of Title II of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).[1] 

Background: Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson were patients dually diagnosed with mental illness and developmental disabilities, voluntarily receiving care in the Georgia Regional Hospital.  But after their medical treatment was completed, Lois and Elaine remained housed at the institution for years, rather than transitioning to a community-based program.  

In May 1995, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society brought forth a lawsuit alleging the plaintiffs had failed to receive “minimally adequate care and freedom from undue restraint.” This violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title II of the ADA.[2]  

The name Olmstead is in reference to defendant Tommy Olmstead, the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Resources at the time. On June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court held that people with disabilities have a qualified right to receive state funded supports and services in the community rather than in institutions when the following 3-part test is met: 

  1. the person's treatment professionals determine that community supports are appropriate; 

  1. the person does not object to living in the community; and 

  1. the provision of services in the community would be a reasonable accommodation when balanced with other similarly situated individuals with disabilities. 

The purpose of each state’s Olmstead plan is to provide people with self-directed options to live and work in the least restrictive, most integrated settings possible. Comprehensive state Olmstead plans include housing, employment, transportation, education, and informed choice for daily decisions.  

Through blending, braiding, and sequencing of resources, we are all working toward the same goal: the greatest sense of inclusion for each person. However, 25 years later, many states are still not compliant with Olmstead, and many states do not reference Olmstead in day-to-day activities.  

Key Takeaways: 

  • What is your state’s Olmstead plan? Do agencies implement Olmstead across your state? 
  • Is your state’s Olmstead plan functioning and followed as intended? (Search online for the plan if you are not familiar with it) 
  • Find out how Olmstead plan state partners hold intentional discussions to revisit compliance and determine if updates and changes are needed. 
  • Consider a social media post, messaging, or an event recognizing the anniversary and the importance of the Olmstead decision in your state’s service system. 

More on Olmstead:  

Brief History on Olmstead 
Olmstead 25th Anniversary Booklet
Bringing Olmstead to Life: Celebrating the 25th Anniversary
Olmstead 25th Anniversary Event with Federal Agencies

Employment and Day Services for People with Disabilities 

  1. ^Olmstead v. L.C. ex rel. Zimring, 527 U.S. 581, 597 (1999) 

  1. ^Id. at 593

    Written by Paige Rose-Merrifield

Posted by Amy Huppi on Jun 21, 2024 2:06 PM America/New_York


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