70s-era DC case receives final approval

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted final approval to a legal settlement reached in September, ending 37 years of court supervision of the D.C.’s services for people with mental illnesses.

When the class action lawsuit was filed in 1974, the District’s St. Elizabeth’s Hospital  warehoused more than 3,600 people with mental illnesses.

The agreement requires the district will expand its job services and housing options for people with mental disabilities, as well as “reduce its use of restrictive inpatient facilities for mentally ill youth and increase community-based treatment,” according to an article in the Washington Post.

During the 1980s, the District made significant strides providing services so people with mental illnesses could live outside the hospital, and integrated in their communities. But in 1997, a federal judge, one of three who worked on the case during its long history, placed the city’s mental health department under receivership. In 2000, the District regained control, when it agreed to meet a variety of conditions, most of which were met in the most recent report by the court-approved monitor.