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On Olmstead Anniversary, President ‘Committed’ To Progress

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Ten years after the Supreme Court ruled that unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, President Barack Obama is “committed” to increasing access to community living, the White House tells Disability Scoop.

On June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court decided in Olmstead v. LC and EW that states have an obligation to provide care for people with disabilities in a group home setting, where medically possible. The case centered on two women, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, with mental retardation and mental illness. The women sued the state of Georgia after being kept in an institutionalized setting for years after doctors determined the women could be best cared for in a smaller community-based setting.

Today, however, many Americans with disabilities remain institutionalized with little alternative.

“The president remains committed to expanding access to community services and independent living and to addressing civil rights concerns of Americans with disabilities to have the right to live in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs as enshrined by the Supreme Court in the Olmstead decision,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye told Disability Scoop.

As part of that commitment, the president is launching an initiative Monday called “The Year of Community Living,” which will include efforts to increase access to housing, community supports and independent living. As part of the initiative, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan are expected to announce the availability of an increased number of Section 8 housing vouchers Monday afternoon.

The initiative will also include public listening sessions to be held across the country by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The president previously indicated his support of the Community Choice Act, which would expand community based services for people with disabilities. However, protests ensued outside the White House in April when administration officials declined to include the issue within efforts for health care reform. The Community Choice Act was introduced in Congress in March, but has not progressed.

Rallies are being held Monday across the country to mark the anniversary.

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