Ohio Settles 1989 Lawsuit For Community Supports
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 2, 2004
COLUMBUS, OHIO--An agreement to settle a 15-year-old lawsuit was proposed Tuesday which would give people with developmental disabilities the option to move out of Ohio's state-operated institutions and nursing homes.
Press statements from the offices of Governor Bob Taft, Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Director Kenneth W. Ritchey, and the Ohio Legal Rights Service -- which represents 8,000 people in the case -- applauded each other for working together to settle the suit.
"This is a landmark settlement," said Taft in a press release. "I am pleased that all parties were able to work through the complex issues and come to a resolution without taking the case to trial."
The suit was filed in 1989 to reduce the number of people housed in institutions and to provide more supports to help them, and thousands others on waiting lists, to live in the community.
Since the suit was filed, more than 900 people have moved out of state-run institutions while thousands others have received funding to hire home health aides so they can stay at home or move out of nursing homes.
Under the agreement, which awaits approval by a federal judge, Taft would propose funding in his 2006-07 budget to allow people with developmental disabilities to choose between an institution and home-based care when covered by Medicaid.
Disability advocates also pledged to help persuade state legislators to approve the budget plan.
The agreement gives a boost to Taft, who announced in January 2003 that he would close Springview Developmental Center in Springfield and Apple Creek Developmental Center near Wooster in June 2005 and June 2006 respectively.
Family members of institution residents, along with institution employees, resisted Taft's plan and tried to stop the closures. They pressured lawmakers to add a review committee to a bill providing protections for crime victims with developmental disabilities so they would have time to come up with ways to defeat the plan. After an extended review, Taft decided to move forward with his plan.
A spokesperson for the employees' union said that Tuesday's settlement would help officials to eventually close the state's institutions.
During the past decade, Ohio has been slow to downsize its institutions and move people into the community. The most recent information from the annual State of the States in Developmental Disabilities report showed that 1,936 people with developmental disabilities were housed in Ohio's 12 state-run institutions in 2002. That number was down from 2,261 in 1993 -- a reduction of about 14 percent over ten years.
In the same time period, the population of people with developmental disabilities in state-operated institutions across the country dropped by more than 39 percent.
Martin v. Taft Class Action Lawsuit Proposed Settlement (Ohio Legal Rights Service)
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"Ohio Governor's Attempt To Close Institutions" (Inclusion Daily Express)