Saturday, June 19, 2010

HR 1255 - What is it really about?

From The Arc of WA blog...

HR 1255 - What is it really about?

The Arc of Washington State recently posted an Action Alert at where we encourage you to call and email your congressional leaders.

Here is the summary written by the Congressional Research Service for HR 1255:

Prohibits any entity that receives funds from the federal government from using them to file a class action lawsuit against an intermediate care facility for the mentally retarded on behalf of any facility resident unless the resident (or the resident's legal representative), after receiving notice of the proposed class action lawsuit, has the opportunity to elect not to have the action apply to the resident.

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) opposes this bill and is also encouraging people to contact congressional leaders and ask them to oppose it. The bill is the same one that was brought forward in 2007 (HR 3995) and it died in committee then.

On the surface, this bill would appear to be protecting the individual with a developmental disability. In reality, this bill would greatly limit the ability of protection and advocacy agencies to bring class action lawsuits regarding institutions for people with developmental disabilities. It would allow guardians and other representatives to “opt out” a resident from a class action.

The best interest of the individual with a developmental disability is not always served by the guardian, particularly when some attorneys make money by being the paid guardian for 20, 30 or more people living in institutions. It is less work for these paid guardians to keep their clients in an institution than to have to oversee services provided in the community.

The 2009 Facilities Closure report (one of many) commissioned by our legislature recommended that Washington close all but a few RHC beds by 2019 and convert Lakeland, Fircrest, and Yakima Valley into three small community support centers. Each center would have clinical expertise to support people with autism and their families. These three centers would also retain a small number of beds to honor the state’s commitment to allow people and their families to age-in-place.

The Olmstead Decision in 1999 affirmed the right of individuals with disabilities to live in their community and not be required to live in institutional settings. The 'integration mandate' 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." It is a violation of an individual’s civil rights to institutionalize them because it is easier for the guardian. We must look at what is the least restrictive environment that allows individuals to participate in community activities, be employed and be provided the freedom and opportunities that every other Washingtonian enjoys.

Advocating for full community participation for all,
Diana Stadden

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