The Olmstead Decision
Fact Sheet: Assuring Access to Community Living for the Disabled
Developing Comprehensive, Effectively Working Plans
Initial Technical Assistance Recommendations
In ruling on the case of Olmstead v L.C., the Supreme Court affirmed the right of individuals with disabilities to receive public benefits and services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. The Supreme Court indicated that a State can demonstrate compliance with its ADA obligations by showing that it has a comprehensive, effectively working plan for placing qualified persons with disabilities in less restrictive settings, and a waiting list that moves at a reasonable pace not controlled by the State's endeavors to keep its institutions fully populated.
We strongly urge States to increase access to community-based services for individuals with disabilities by developing comprehensive, effectively working plans for ensuring compliance with the ADA. There is no single model plan appropriate for all States and situations. In developing their plans, States must take into account their particular circumstances. However, we believe there are some factors that are critically important for States that seek to develop comprehensive, effectively working plans. Our intent in this enclosure is to identify some of the key principles, including the involvement of people with disabilities throughout the planning and implementation process. These principles also will be used by the Office for Civil Rights as it investigates complaints and conducts compliance reviews involving "most integrated setting" issues. We strongly recommend that States factor in these principles and practices as they develop plans tailored to their needs.
Comprehensive, Effectively Working Plans
Principle: Develop and implement a comprehensive, effectively working plan (or plans) for providing services to eligible individuals with disabilities in more integrated, community-based settings. When effectively carrying out this principle:
- The State develops a plan or plans to ensure that people with disabilities are served in the most integrated setting appropriate. It considers the extent to which there are programs that can serve as a framework for the development of an effectively working plan. It also considers the level of awareness and agreement among stakeholders and decision-makers regarding the elements needed to create an effective system, and how this foundation can be strengthened.
- The plan ensures the transition of qualified individuals into community-based settings at a reasonable pace. The State identifies improvements that could be made.
- The plan ensures that individuals with disabilities benefit from assessments to determine how community living might be possible (without limiting consideration to what is currently available in the community). In this process, individuals are provided the opportunity for informed choice.
- The plan evaluates the adequacy with which the State is conducting thorough, objective and periodic reviews of all individuals with disabilities in institutional settings (such as State institutions, ICFs/MR, nursing facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and residential service facilities for children) to determine the extent to which they can and should receive services in a more integrated setting.
- The plan establishes similar procedures to avoid unjustifiable institutionalization in the first place.
Plan Development and Implementation Process
Principle: Provide an opportunity for interested persons, including individuals with disabilities and their representatives, to be integral participants in plan development and follow-up. When effectively carrying out this principle:
- The State involves people with disabilities (and their representatives, where appropriate) in the plan development and implementation process. It considers what methods could be employed to ensure constructive, on-going involvement and dialogue.
- The State assesses what partnerships are needed to ensure that any plan is comprehensive and works effectively.
Assessments on Behalf of Potentially Eligible Populations
Principle: Take steps to prevent or correct current and future unjustified institutionalization of individuals with disabilities. When effectively carrying out this principle:
- The State has a reliable sense of how many individuals with disabilities are currently institutionalized and are eligible for services in community-based settings. The plan considers what information and data collection systems exist to enable the State to make this determination. Where appropriate, the State considers improvements to data collection systems to enable it to plan adequately to meet needs.
- The State evaluates whether existing assessment procedures are adequate to identify institutionalized individuals with disabilities who could benefit from services in a more integrated setting.
- The State also evaluates whether existing assessment procedures are adequate to identify individuals in the community who are at risk of placement in an unnecessarily restrictive setting.
- The plan ensures that the State can act in a timely and effective manner in response to the findings of any assessment process.
Availability of Community-Integrated Services
Principle: Ensure the Availability of Community-Integrated Services. When effectively carrying out this principle:
- The plan identifies what community-based services are available in the State. It assesses the extent to which these programs are able to serve people in the most integrated setting appropriate (as described in the ADA). The State identifies what improvements could be accomplished, including in information systems, to make this an even better system, and how the system might be made comprehensive.
- The plan evaluates whether the identified supports and services meet the needs of persons who are likely to require assistance in order to live in community. It identifies what changes could be made to improve the availability, quality and adequacy of the supports.
- The State evaluates whether its system adequately plans for making supports and services available to assist individuals who reside in their own homes with the presence of other family members. It also considers whether its plan is adequate to address the needs of those without family members or other informal caregivers.
- The State examines how the identified supports and services integrate the individual into the community.
- The State reviews what funding sources are available (both Medicaid and other funding sources) to increase the availability of community-based services. It also considers what efforts are under way to coordinate access to these services. Planners assess the extent to which these funding sources can be organized into a coherent system of long term care which affords people with reasonable, timely access to community-based services.
- Planners also assess how well the current service system works for different groups (e.g. elderly people with disabilities, people with physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, mental illness, HIV-AIDS, etc.). The assessment includes a review of changes that might be desirable to make services a reality in the most integrated setting appropriate for all populations.
- The plan examines the operation of waiting lists, if any. It examines what might be done to ensure that people are able to come off waiting lists and receive needed community services at a reasonable pace.
Principle: Afford individuals with disabilities and their families the opportunity to make informed choices regarding how their needs can best be met in community or institutional settings. When effectively carrying out this principle:
- The plan ensures that individuals who may be eligible to receive services in more integrated community-based settings (and their representatives, where appropriate) are given the opportunity to make informed choices regarding whether -and how- their needs can best be met.
- Planners address what information, education, and referral systems would be useful to ensure that people with disabilities receive the information necessary to make informed choices.
Implications for State and Community Infrastructure
Principle: Take steps to ensure that quality assurance, quality improvement and sound management support implementation of the plan. When effectively carrying out this principle:
- Planners evaluate how quality assurance and quality improvement can be conducted effectively as more people with disabilities live in community settings.
- The State also examines how it can best manage the overall system of health and long term care so that placement in the most integrated setting appropriate becomes the norm. It considers what planning, contracting and management infrastructure might be necessary to achieve this result at the State and the community level.