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With An Eye to the Future

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2017: 45th Anniversary of the "Welsch" Class Action Suit

Welsch v. Likins, 373 F. Supp. 487 (4th D. Minn. 1974).

In August 1972, six people with developmental disabilities institutionalized in Minnesota sued the state, claiming that their living conditions were that of a "hell hole," and that lack of appropriate treatment violated their constitutional rights. In February 1974, the plaintiffs won.
The state hospitals did not fully comply with the court, so the case went on and on, until, finally in September 1980, the Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs again, and this time, issued the "Welsch Consent Decree." This Consent Decree applied to all eight Minnesota state hospitals and required:

  • A reduction in state hospital populations;
  • Improved staffing ratios;
  • Procedures governing the use of major tranquilizers;
  • Procedures governing the use of certain behavior management practices; and
  • Discharge planning and evaluation.

The Court appointed a monitor this time, who could be depended on to keep thing moving. The case was finally closed in 1989.

The Welsch case was critical in forcing the state hospitals to improve and community services to expand.

Exhibits at the Welsch Trial in 1973

Contractured legs, Boswell Hall
Contractured legs, Boswell Hall

Dayroom, Cottage 9
Dayroom, Cottage 9

See more images from Minnesota's State Institutions at