It has been nearly 20 years since the Supreme Court ruled that individuals with disabilities have the right to live in the community, but even today, not all people with disabilities in the United States are given that meaningful option.
A new bill, The Disability Integration Act (DIA) of 2017, was introduced by Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer (D-NY) in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to combat this issue. This bill would ensure that states are providing long-term services and support (LTSS) to individuals with disabilities In community-based settings, such as the individual’s own home. It also further enforces the American with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) mandate on integration.
Alongside the ADA, court cases, such as Olmstead v. L.C. (1999), have set the precedent for this legislation. The Olmstead ruling states that under the ADA, if placement in a community-based setting is appropriate, and the individual would prefer to live there, the state must comply with their wishes and fulfill those accommodations as those are their civil rights. The Disability Integration Act would help to make certain that every state is securing these rights in a timely manner, and that states are upholding the many details of this ruling.
The Olmstead ruling clarifies that “institutionalization is unjustified when:”
- the state’s medical professional community has determined that community placement is appropriate;
- the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual; and,
- the placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the state and the needs of others with disabilities.
Supporters of the DIA legislation seek to provide a life that is as independent as possible for those individuals who can “handle and benefit” from the choice of living in a community-based living situation. This would allow individuals with a disability to have access to their greater community and have the opportunity to participate in economic, social, and educational advancement.
The most frequent options for living independently are based on benefits provided by Medicaid. The funds provided to individuals through Medicaid afford individuals the ability to pay for their community-based services, such as personal care assistants, without having to worry about how they are going to pay for housing, utilities, or other additional necessities.
The DIA bill would further reinforce the integration mandate under the ADA, by ensuring that every individual that qualifies for LTSS has a “federally protected right” to become integrated into an community, and would create an extensive “state planning requirement” that imposes objectives to help transition individuals out of institutions. Furthermore, there is a requirement for states to annually publish a public report about the number of individuals with disabilities who continue to be served in institutions versus in their communities, as well as the number of individuals who have made the transition.