Ruling Gives Disabled Community Care Rights

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Elaine Wilson and Lois Curtis just wanted a place to call home. Instead, they wound up changing the way this country cares for the mentally disabled.

Their five-year legal battle took them from mental institutions to a meeting with the president, to the U.S. Supreme Court -- and to life in a homelike setting instead of a hospital.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob accepted a joint and final settlement between the plaintiffs and the state, which they had sued.

In June 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a federal anti-bias law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, requires community placement of the mentally disabled if they can fare just as well there as in state hospitals.

Georgia officials had urged the court to rule that states are free to choose between treatment in community settings and hospitals when both are deemed appropriate.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, federal officials have told Medicaid directors in every state that they must review their funding patterns to provide community-based care for mentally disabled clients who can function in community settings. …