Facing Lawsuit, State To Shift Away From Sheltered Workshops
Under mounting pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice, one state now plans to start moving away from sheltered workshop placements for people with developmental disabilities.
Just two weeks ago the Justice Department filed a motion to intervene in a class-action lawsuit against the state of Oregon alleging that the state is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing supported employment services. Federal officials said they sought to join the suit after unsuccessfully attempting to negotiate with the state.
Now, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is taking steps to alter the employment landscape for those with disabilities. In an executive order set to take effect this summer, Kitzhaber said the state will no longer fund new placements in sheltered workshops as of July 2015.
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In the meantime, Kitzhaber’s order outlines a number of steps the state will take to increase competitive employment services and implement new policies developed under the idea that all individuals with intellectual and development disabilities are “capable of working in an integrated employment setting.”
It’s unclear what impact the governor’s move could have on the lawsuit, which has been closely watched by advocates nationwide.
Bob Joondeph, executive director of Disability Rights Oregon who is representing plaintiffs in the case, told The Oregonian that the executive order is a step in the right direction, but he was uncertain about how the state’s plan would be implemented.
For the state’s part, Kitzhaber’s executive order indicates that Oregon is not admitting that changes are required nor is the order an admission of “any legal issue” in question in the pending lawsuit.