Settlement approved in Illinois institutionalization case

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News from Illinois

Jumpstarting a potentially large-scale deinstitutionalization effort, a federal judge signed a landmark settlement Wednesday requiring the state of Illinois to create a six-year timetable to evaluate whether thousands of people with developmental disabilities are receiving appropriate community-based services.

The settlement requires the state to create transition service plans for all individuals whom, upon request, wish to move from institutional to community based settings. It also requires the state to create a plan to provide services to an estimated 3,000 individuals on the state’s waitlist in need of essential services. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois will approve a monitor to oversee the process.

“This case is about choice, and now thousands of people with developmental disabilities will have the option to choose community living,” said Barry Taylor, legal advocacy director at Equip for Equality, the lead plaintiff in the case, in a news release. “Under the Consent Decree, the State of Illinois will move closer to fulfilling the promise of the (Americans with Disabilities Act) to integrate people with disabilities into our society.”

Equip for Equality filed the class action lawsuit in July 2005, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and Access Living, accusing the state of violating the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision by unnecessarily institutionalizing people with disabilities and failing to systematically evaluate their individual needs. The settlement was announced in January.

The settlement’s benchmarks include a provision requiring the state to create transition plans for at least a third of the people in its institutions within two and a half years. In regards to the waitlist, at least 1,000 individuals must receive services within two years, with at least 500 of the individuals receiving services in subsequent years.

“Experience around the country shows that when given meaningful supports, people with disabilities thrive in community settings,” said Benjamin Wolf, associate legal director of the ACLU of Illinois, in the release. “We are pleased that everyone involved has come together to offer real choices to these citizens of Illinois.”

Equip for Equality is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.