In 1999, U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision known as the Olmstead Decision. Two Georgia citizens, Lois Curtis and the late Elaine Wilson, who both spent a large majority of their lives receiving services inside of a state institution made the decision that they wanted to out of the institution and make a transition into the community. The Atlanta Legal Aid Society brought the case to court on behalf of the plaintiffs to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Georgia. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs that the State of Georgia was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Georgia then appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, who ruled that the continued institutionalization of people “who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuated unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life” and violated the ADA.
The ruling prompted each state to comply with the Olmstead Decision and meet the obligations under the ADA and to demonstrate it had in place a comprehensive and effective working plan for placing qualified persons with disabilities in the least restrictive environment and a waiting list for services that moved a “reasonable” pace.
In 2001, in order to bring the state into compliance with the law, Georgia created the Olmstead Planning Committee, tasked with drafting the plan mandated in the ruling. This committee has drafted numerous plans, none of which have been signed and implemented by the Governor. In 2010, while the state was under the leadership of Governor Sonny Perdue, Georgia and the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement was finalized. The lawsuit charged the state with unlawful segregation of individuals with disabilities and mental illness by housing them in state funded institutions with no mechanism in place to help transition them into community living. The Olmstead Planning Committee seeks to align the mandates of the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement with the Georgia Olmstead Plan by focusing on initiatives that include more resources for home and community based services. The Olmstead Planning Committee has identified nine strategic goals to focus on.
- Olmstead Compliance: supporting the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision
- Transition: moving individuals who meet the criteria in the Olmstead decision from institutions to more integrated community settings.
- Diversion: keeping individuals at risk for institutionalization in the most integrated settings with supports and services
- System Capacity: developing providers, support networks, systems, and communities to assist individuals with disabilities to obtain person centered services
- Resources: developing resources to prevent the unnecessary institutionalization of individuals with disabilities
- Evaluation: Creating a structure for the review of progress and barriers to implementation of the Olmstead Plan
- Sustainability: ensuring long-term funding for quality assurance, and systems that meet person centered planning requirements
- Policy: create and implement policies to support state compliance of the Olmstead Plan
- Data: providing data systems that have accurate, timely information to inform strategies and to help evaluate progress.
For more information, visit the Georgia Governor's Olmstead Planning Initiative webpage.