Olmstead Consent Decrees

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.

Olmstead v. L.C. or the "Olmstead Decision"

On June 22, 1999, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the "integration mandate" of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public agencies to provide services "in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities."

The Olmstead lawsuit started with two women from Georgia named Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson who both had diagnoses of mental health conditions along with intellectual disabilities. Having been voluntarily admitted to the psychiatric unit in the State-run Georgia Regional Hospital, both women found themselves going in and out of the State's mental health facilities dozens of times over the course of subsequent years. Following each discharge the women would struggle to stay in their homes as they did not receive the assistance needed for community living, and would inevitably end up back in hospital. Lois and Elaine appealed to the State of Georgia to provide them with the necessary assistance to be able to live in the community with appropriate supports. Their request was supported by the doctors who treated them, agreeing that both women were capable of living in the community if appropriate supports were in place. Although treatment had concluded both women still found themselves confined to institutions, so Lois and Elaine filed suit with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for release from the hospital.

A Georgia judge ruled that the State of Georgia was in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and ordered that the State was required to place both plaintiffs in an appropriate community-based treatment program. Georgia lost an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the case progressed to the United States Supreme Court. On June 22, 1999, the United States Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act; that it is against the law for the state to discriminate against a person based on his or her disability. The Court said that by confining them in the hospital, the state was segregating them by requiring them to live with others with disabilities. The Court went on to say that people with disabilities have the right to receive the treatment they need in an integrated setting if that is what they want, if their doctors agree, and if it doesn't fundamentally change how the state provides services to people with disabilities.

The Supreme Court held that people with disabilities have a qualified right to receive state funded supports and services in the community rather than institutions when the following three part test is met:

  1. The person's treatment professionals determine that community supports are appropriate;
  2. The person does not object to living in the community; and
  3. The provision of services in the community would be a reasonable accommodation when balanced with other similarly situated individuals with disabilities.

Illinois Department of Human Services Olmstead Consent Decrees

The Illinois Department of Human Services has two Olmstead related consent decrees and the Department on Aging has a third, each serving a defined population. Click on links to the right of this page for more information and materials on each of the three consent decrees.

Williams

On September 29, 2010, the State of Illinois entered into a Consent Decree, settling the Williams v Rauner class action lawsuit, first filed in 2005. The lawsuit alleged that Illinois was in violation of Title II of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by "needlessly segregating" Plaintiffs, a class of approximately 4,500 Illinois residents with Serious Mental Illness (SMI) living in Nursing Facility/IMDs (Institutes of Mental Disease ), and denying them opportunities to receive services in more integrated settings. Though the State denied liability and any violation of these federal laws, the Parties to the suit were always fundamentally in agreement that, when clinically appropriate, consistent with the parameters now set forth in the Williams Consent Decree, all persons with Serious Mental Illness currently residing in Nursing Facility/IMDs in Illinois have the right to choose to live in community-based settings, and that the State has an obligation to expand the current community-based service system to support the needs of those individuals. This is in keeping with an aim of providing services to an individual in the least restrictive and most integrated setting possible.

Colbert

On December 20, 2011, the State of Illinois entered into a Consent Decree, settling the Colbert v. Rauner class action lawsuit, first filed in 2007. The lawsuit sought declaratory and injunctive relief to remedy alleged violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Social Security Act. Plaintiffs alleged that members of the class were unnecessarily segregated and institutionalized in nursing facilities, and that they were denied opportunity to live in appropriate community integrated settings where they could lead more independent and productive lives. The Colbert Consent Decree requires the State to provide Class Members the necessary supports and services to allow Class members to live in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs in community based settings. Eligible Class Members must currently live in a nursing home located in Cook County, Illinois, and must be receiving or be eligible to receive Medicaid.

Ligas

On June 15, 2011, the State entered into a Consent Decree settling the Ligas v. Norwood lawsuit, filed on July 28, 2005 on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities who were residing in private, State-funded facilities (Intermediate Care Facilities for Persons with Developmental Disabilities or ICFs/DD) of nine or more persons or who were at risk of being placed in such facilities. Plaintiffs sought placement in Community-Based Settings and receipt of Community-Based Services. The Consent Decree identifies two groups of Class Members:

  • Adult individuals in Illinois with developmental disabilities who qualify for Medicaid Waiver services, who reside in ICFs/DD with nine or more residents, and who affirmatively request to receive Community-Based Services or placement in a Community-Based Setting.
  • Adult individuals in Illinois with developmental disabilities who qualify for Medicaid Waiver services, who reside in a Family Home, who are in need of Community-Based Services or placement in a Community-Based Setting, and who affirmatively request Community-Based Services or placement in a Community-Based Setting.


For More Information

If you would like to inquire about the Olmstead Decision including specifics about Consent Decrees and Class Member referrals you can contact Jamie Ewing, Deputy Director at Jamie.ewing@illinois.gov.