Capitol Correspondence - 06.25.24

Celebrating 25 Years of the Olmstead Decision

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This past weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Olmstead v. L.C., a decision that profoundly influenced the lives of people with disabilities and the organizations that support them. The case revolved around Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, two women with disabilities who were unjustly confined to a state-run hospital despite being cleared for community-based care by their doctors. The Supreme Court ruled that such institutionalization constituted discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Olmstead decision affirmed the right of people with disabilities to receive public services in the most integrated settings suitable to their needs, when those services are appropriate and can be reasonably accommodated. This ruling catalyzed significant policy innovations across various federal agencies, fostering the development of community-based services and supports.

Over the past 25 years, the Olmstead decision has been applied to various aspects of life beyond employment, including education, housing, and health care, ensuring that individuals with disabilities can live and thrive in their communities rather than being isolated in institutions. This landmark ruling has significantly influenced disability rights and the provision of community-based services across the United States, affirming that people with disabilities have the right to live, work, and receive services in their communities.

Despite the significant progress made over the past 25 years, underinvestment in our Medicaid program means that the promise of Olmstead remains only partially fulfilled. Many individuals with disabilities still face barriers to true community integration and autonomy. As we celebrate this milestone, we also reaffirm our commitment to the ongoing work required to achieve full implementation of Olmstead’s vision.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Olmstead decision, ANCOR Links podcast producers sat down with Lydia Dawson, our Vice President of Government Relations, to talk about Olmstead’s enduring significance today. We also spoke with Ira Burnim from the Bazelon Center, who was one of the attorneys who helped bring the Olmstead case to the Supreme Court.

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