Pennsylvania’s Plan to Move Special Needs Residents Out of Institutions Violates ADA
A federal court in Pennsylvania finds that the state is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because it is ineffectively implementing an “11th hour” plan to help people with special needs move out of institutions and into the community. Benjamin v. Department of Public Welfare (M.D.Pa., No. 09-cv-1182, Jan. 27, 2011).
In 2009, 1,224 people with special needs lived in five Pennsylvania Intermediate Care Facilities for Persons with Mental Retardation. Citing the fact that only 54 residents were discharged into the community from these facilities between 2004 and 2009 (200 residents died during this same period), several long-time residents filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the state was not doing enough to move qualified residents into the community as required by the ADA.
After the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment the state put a written plan into place on June 18, 2010, in which it claimed that it would seek funding to place 50 institutionalized residents into the community each year, although money allocated for this task could be diverted if the funds could serve a better purpose elsewhere. The state then moved for summary judgment, claiming that it was in compliance with the ADA because it had an action plan in place to address the community placement issue. The state also claimed that if the plaintiffs’ suit was successful, it would force the state to fundamentally alter its programs for people with developmental disabilities.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania grants the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and denies the state’s motion. In a strongly worded opinion, the court finds that the Department’s plan is clearly inadequate to the task of deinstitutionalization. The court says that “[c]onsidering the absence of concrete benchmarks for deinstitutionalization in the contingency-ridden plan, no record of actual implementation of the Plan, and a history of unnecessary segregation of and discrimination against institutionalized persons, we cannot conclude that DPW has complied with or will comply with the integration mandates of the ADA and [Rehabilitation Act].”
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