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News and Notes   |    
New Resources on Olmstead from DOJ and Bazelon Center
Psychiatric Services 2011; doi:
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Copyright © 2011 by the American Psychiatric Association.

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On June 22, 2011, the 12th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a technical assistance document clarifying aspects of the landmark 1999 decision. In the Olmstead case the Court ruled that under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) the unjustified institutional isolation of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination. The decision affirmed the rights of people with mental illnesses and other disabilities to live in their communities. The DOJ's new technical assistance document offers guidance on such topics as the obligations of public entities to provide community-based services. To commemorate the anniversary, the DOJ also launched a new section of its ADA Web site that gathers resources related to Olmstead (www.ada.gov/olmstead), such as recent briefs filed by the department to enforce the provisions of the decision.

To help ensure that people with disabilities understand DOJ's recent technical guidance on Olmstead, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law has released a three-page brief, Making Your Life Your Own: How Olmstead Expands Rights and Opportunities for People With Serious Mental Illnesses. The brief begins by describing ADA's “integration mandate,” which directs publicly funded programs for people with mental illnesses to deliver services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs and in ways that do not discriminate, such as by needlessly keeping them away from the mainstream of their communities. The most integrated setting is one in which individuals with disabilities can interact with nondisabled persons to the fullest extent possible. The brief answers other questions, such as about the extent to which states may be required to change their Medicaid programs to address the mandate and how to get help for Olmstead violations. The Bazelon Center has also created two brochures—one for people with mental illnesses and one for people with other disabilities—that summarize key points from the brief. These resources are available on the Bazelon Web site at www.bazelon.org.

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