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Deinstitutionalization: Unfinished Business - Speeding Closure of State-Run Institutions

Author: National Council on Disability

Published: 2012-10-23 : (Rev. 2016-11-05)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Online toolkit and paper for advocates and policymakers to facilitate closure of state run institutions and meet needs of people with disabilities as they transition into the community.

Main Digest

On Tuesday, October 23, the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency, released its latest policy project "Deinstitutionalization: Unfinished Business" which includes an online toolkit and companion paper to provide advocates and policymakers with the tools they need to facilitate closures of state-run institutions and meet the needs of people with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities as they transition into the community.

NCD is a nonpartisan, independent federal agency made up of 15 Presidentially-appointed Council Members and supporting staff that advises the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policy, programs and services. In our federal advisory role, we engage regularly with community groups, non-profits and charity organizations. NCD is not a non-profit. As an independent federal agency, NCD does not represent the views of any political party.

The toolkit and accompanying paper acknowledges numerous federal and state reforms that have occurred since June 22, 1999 when the United States Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Olmstead decision that the unjustified institutional isolation of people with disabilities is unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

With the launch of the of "De-institutionalization: Unfinished Business " online toolkit and companion paper, NCD seeks to provide advocates and policymakers with information they need to develop a workable plan for closing institutions, strategies for implementing the plan, and tips to debunk myths and counter arguments that have been used against closing institutions, in order to support Americans with disabilities and their families in the quest to lead to a richer, more integrated life in the community.

"In my home state of Oregon, all adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities live in the community because we have no institutions. Not one person with a disability has asked that we reopen our large state institutions," said Sara Gelser, National Council on Disability Member and Oregon State Representative. "There is simply no good reason to maintain institutions in the 21st century. They deprive individuals with disabilities of their civil rights while diverting sorely needed resources from essential community based services for people with disabilities."

"Operating large state institutions, which cost three to six times the price tag of inclusive housing is both a fiscal and moral tragedy," said Gary Blumenthal, NCD member. "Strengthening self-direction and community living serves Americans with disabilities and our communities at large. A more inclusive, fiscally sound future requires our state and local communities to use every limited tax dollar in the most effective ways possible. That means continuing the trend to move people with disabilities out of state-run institutions and into their own homes. NCD hopes this toolkit will be useful in facilitating this necessary social and economic shift."

How was "De-institutionalization: Unfinished Business " prepared

In addition to conducting interviews and focus groups, NCD facilitated two case studies in the field: Oregon, which has closed all state institutions, and Georgia, which has just begun the process as part of its Olmstead settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Key findings:

"De-institutionalization: Unfinished Business " is dedicated to the memory of Susan M. Daniels, who was an extraordinary leader and advocate for equal opportunity, full participation, and the economic empowerment of people with disabilities worldwide.

The following spokespersons are available for interviews about "De-institutionalization: Unfinished Business"

Sara Gelser - Member, National Council on Disability - Ms. Gelser was appointed to NCD in 2010. She serves as State Representative for the citizens of Corvallis and Philomath in the Oregon State House of Representatives. The youngest woman in the Oregon State Legislature, she also serves as Assistant Majority Leader and chairs the House Education Committee. Previously, Ms. Gelser served as the Children with Disabilities and Family Support Coordinator for the Oregon State Department of Human Services. Additionally, she served as a regional coordinator for the Oregon Parent Training and Information Center, where she provided training to parents, educators and administrators about the implementation of special education law. Ms. Gelser is the founder of the FG Syndrome Family Alliance, a non-profit organization serving families and medical professionals dealing with FG Syndrome, a rare developmental disability. Ms. Gelser and her husband Peter have three daughters, Ellie, Nicole, and Maia, and a teenage son, Sam, who has FG Syndrome.

Gary Blumenthal - Member, National Council on Disability - Mr. Blumenthal was appointed to NCD in 2010. He is the President and CEO for the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers (ADDP), which aims to promote and ensure the health of the community-based organizations that provide supports and services for individuals with developmental disabilities. He also served as the Executive Director for the Alta California Regional Center, which oversees service delivery for children and adults with developmental disabilities in the Sacramento region. Previously, Mr. Blumenthal was the Wichita Regional Director for the Kansas State Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, CEO for the Florida State Protection and Advocacy Programs for People with Developmental Disabilities, and Director of the President's Committee on Mental Retardation during the Clinton administration. Mr. Blumenthal was also a member of the Kansas State House of Representatives for 11 years. He was an American Government teacher in the Shawnee Mission Public Schools in Overland Park, Kansas for 12 years. Mr. Blumenthal a graduate of the University of Kansas, Lawrence and the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

The "Deinstitutionalization: Unfinished Business" paper and toolkit is available on NCD's website at:

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