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Home Of Tommy Olmstead Still Behind In Olmstead Response
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 31, 2003

MACON, GEORGIA--The state from which the famous Olmstead case originated is not doing well on implementing the Supreme Court's ruling in the case. In fact, Georgia, the state that was successfully sued by Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, is lagging far behind the rest of the nation in its Olmstead implementation.

Curtis and Wilson filed suit in 1995 against the state Department of Human Resources in order to be released from an institution. Tommy Olmstead was the commissioner of DHR at the time.

In June 1999, the U.S. Supreme court decided in favor of Curtis and Wilson, ruling that unnecessarily placing people with disabilities in institutions is a form of discrimination that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Since that time, state Medicaid directors have been ordered to come up with plans to help people move out of institutions and to develop appropriate alternatives in the community.

Compared to other states, Georgia is at or near the bottom in implementing measures to meet the Supreme Court's mandate. It is ranked 48th for total developmental disabilities spending, 49th for per capita community placements, and 50th in "fiscal effort toward community placements". The state also has established no waiting list for community placements. The legislature has not passed laws requiring the state to take action.

Karl Schwarzkopf, current director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases, doesn't appear to understand how important the Olmstead decision was. Schwarzkopf says he must balance the need for community services with the need for institutions.

"It's difficult to take dollars out of the facilities where people still exist and move them to the community," Schwarzkopf told the Macon Telegraph.

In the meantime, people like Malaquias Chenaultt continue to languish in state-run institutions.

Chenaultt, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, has been asking to move out of Central State Hospital for the last five years. After a lot of persistence, advocacy and legal wrangling, it looks like he might get out next month.

Related:
"Georgia lags in responding to Olmstead decision" (Macon Telegraph)
"From behind a locked door" (Macon Telegraph)

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