VOR Response to Pennsylvania House Resolution 903: Pennsylvania already has an Olmstead Plan

Submitted to: Patricia A. Berger, Esquire, Senior Counsel/Project Manager, Pennsylvania House Legislative Budget and Finance Committee

January 6, 2015

Pennsylvania State House Resolution No. 903 (2014) directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to –

conduct a comprehensive review and issue a report of the Department of Public Welfare, Office of Developmental Programs’ implementation of the 1999 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States in Olmstead v. L.C., relating to the closure of State centers for people with intellectual disabilities and the provision of home-based and community-based services.” (H.R. 2014-903).

H.R. 2014-903 is motivated by an allegation that Pennsylvania does not have an “Olmstead Plan with measurable objectives demonstrating how Olmstead will be implemented.” Further, H.R. 2014-903 incorrectly indicates that the “closure of the five State centers for people with intellectual disabilities and the provision of home-based and community-based services” are the only ways to comply with Olmstead.

VOR respectfully submits that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania already has an Olmstead Plan: The Settlement Agreement in Benjamin v. Department of Public Welfare approved by District Judge John Jones on September 25, 2014.

Benjamin, a federal class action lawsuit, was filed by Disability Rights Network (DRN) alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as interpreted by Olmstead v. L.C.

In defense and leading to Settlement, Pennsylvania spent more than $1 million dollars in attorney fees and costs associated with the Benjamin litigation. Pursuing a legislative review of what has already been resolved favorably in court over 5 years at significant taxpayer expense would be contrary to public trust and an absurd use of scarce State resources.

Read full letter here


What you need to know about Wills & Bequests

by Julie Huso, Executive Director
EP Magazine, October 2014

Planning is critically necessary to avoid unintended consequences in which your wishes are not carried out and the person you care about so deeply is left at risk of losing essential public benefits.

Read full article (coming up)


Will it be different this time? Deinstitutionalization’s Past: A Reason to Pause and Reconsider

by VOR, June 2014

In a frank and challenging article, “The Past and Future of Deinstitutionalization Litigation,”    Samuel Bagenstos,  former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Obama Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and a key litigator in deinstitutionalization cases, disputes the generally-accepted view that deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill was a failure, admits that political expediency denied many people with mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) quality placements in the community, and calls for the creation of a new political alliance to achieve quality community placements.

Read full article

Pennsylvania victory: Settlement agreement protects choice; VOR as Amicus

October 9, 2014

(PDF of this article and links)

On September 25, 2014 attorneys for family intervenors secured a favorable settlement in Benjamin v. Pa. Department of Public Welfare (DPW), securing approval from the District Court (order and opinion). 

The settlement requires the State to enable hundreds of Pennsylvania’s intellectually disabled residents to remain in their current state facility (“ICF/IID”) homes or transition into community-based care, according to individual choice.

"Finally after almost 5 1/2 frustrating years, efforts to construct an agreement culminated in a very good outcome," said Bert Springstead, lead intervenor and retired VOR Board Member and State Coordinator. "For example, it is expected that an unbiased implementation of the agreement’s protocols will diminish the current mistrust of DPW by many family members and guardians."

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