SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- For most Californians, June marks the start of summer vacation, picnics, family trips and the end of homework assignments. But for Californians living with disabilities, this time of year represents much more. In particular, June is a turning point for independence exemplified by the Olmstead Decision. On June 22, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C. that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public entities to provide services "in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities." The ruling further highlighted that unwarranted isolation of individuals with disabilities is "regarded as discrimination based on disability."
The decision was triggered by an Atlanta lawsuit filed by a legal aid attorney on behalf of two women who claimed living in an institutional setting deprived them of their rights, under the ADA, to live in an integrated community setting. Ultimately, the case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and resulted in the Olmstead decision, named after then Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Services Tommy Olmstead. The decision requires states to place persons with disabilities in community settings.
"Before this case came to light, states primarily provided care and services in institutions such as skilled nursing facilities," noted Elsa Quezada, Chair of the California State Independent Living Council (SILC). "The Olmstead decision recognizes the importance of independent thinking, choice and decision-making."
Long before the Supreme Court issued its ruling, Independent Living Centers (ILCs) were carrying out the Olmstead mandate and embracing the independent living philosophy, which empowers people with disabilities to exert influence, choice and control in every aspect of their lives by allowing them to achieve self-determination, self-respect and equal opportunities.
"The California Independent Living Network offers individuals resources, skills and support to live independently," stated Liz Pazdral, SILC Executive Director. "By advocating with and for people with disabilities, ILCs remove barriers to independence." ILCs are non-residential, community-based organizations staffed and directed by people with disabilities. The centers give people the knowledge and tools they need to advocate for improved housing, transportation and employment.
ILCs also could play a significant role in Governor Brown's proposed Coordinated Care Initiative (CCI), which is intended to provide more cost-efficient health care and improve outcomes for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities. The CCI includes a demonstration project to begin in 2013 in eight California counties for persons eligible for both Medicare and Medi-Cal coverage (dual eligibles) that will include medical services and long term services and supports (LTSS.) The availability of LTSS within each of the counties could vary. Currently, the mandated services to be provided are nursing facilities, community-based adult services, multipurpose senior service programs and in-home supportive services. Managed care plans will begin to negotiate with existing LTSS providers for services and may contract case management functions out. ILCs will be in a position to assist consumers with plan enrollment and navigate local services as the provider networks begin to evolve.
The CCI would provide a full continuum of care, including home- and community-based services, under a managed-care delivery system. ILCs could be instrumental in implementing the CCI's goal of "maximizing the ability of dual eligible beneficiaries to remain in their homes and communities with appropriate services and supports in lieu of institutional care."
As California ILCs transform new opportunities into reality for people living with disabilities, they make every month Olmstead Awareness Month.
The California State Independent Living Council is an independent state agency which, in cooperation with the California State Department of Rehabilitation, prepares and monitors the State Plan for Independent Living. SILC solicits continual public feedback on the effectiveness of independent living services and coordinates with similar agencies and councils at the state and federal levels to increase communication and help assure that services to people with disabilities are delivered effectively.
SOURCE California State Independent Living Council