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The 2000s: Olmstead and the Struggle Over Rights and Resources

The right of people with developmental disabilities to live in the community was reinforced by the July 13, 1999 decision of the United States Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C. and E.W. Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson wanted to receive services from the state of Georgia in the community instead of in a psychiatric institution.

They argued that Georgia violated their right to services in the most integrated setting under the ADA. Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

The decision still leaves room for states to maintain "a range of facilities."

Steve Gold on the Helen L. Case

Presented by Ohio SILC January 22, 1998.
Don't Forget to Review:
Moments in Disability History

The Olmstead Decision
Elaine Wilson ans Lois Curtis were kept in a hospital against doctor's advice
Photo courtesy Jeffrey Macmillan
for US News &World Report

The court recognized that the ADA does not necessarily require a State to serve everyone in the community but that decisions regarding services and where they are to be provided must be made based on whether community placement is appropriate for a particular individual, in addition to whether such placement would fundamentally alter the State's programs and services.

In the wake of the Olmstead decision, the federal government has issued a series of directives and suggestions for states to comply with the ADA.

Federal grants have been made available to expand community-based services. Dozens of states organized task forces to develop implementation plans.

Photo courtesy Tom Olin