News and Press Releases

Independence First and the Office of the united states attorney observe the anniversary of the supreme court's decision in olmstead

June 20, 2012

James L. Santelle, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced today that, on Friday, June 22, 2012, Independence First and the Office of the United States Attorney will be observing the 13th anniversary of the 1999 decision of the United States Supreme Court in Olmstead et al. v. L.C.  By that ruling, the Court set forth the rights of people with mental disabilities, including those with traumatic brain injuries, to receive government services in a community setting as opposed to an institution.

 Joined by Independence First Executive Director Lee Schultz, Santelle extended an invitation to all members of the community to attend a special program in observance of the anniversary, beginning at 1:30 p.m. on the 22nd at the Offices of Independence First, 540 South 1st Street, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53204.  Among other aspects, that program will include an informational and interactive discussion about the meaning and effect of the Olmstead decision, including mechanisms for its continued implementation within the disability community.  Light refreshments will be served.

 Independence First, “The Resource for People with Disabilities,” is one of the nation’s leading organizations committed to the advancement and promotion of the interests and rights of disabled persons.  Among their many other beneficial programs and initiatives, the staff of Independence First works to assist the disability community in finding meaningful employment, accessible housing, recreational opportunities, accessible transportation, family caregiving, and other support that promotes independent living.  

 In making the announcement of the observance event, Santelle commented: “In recent years, the United States Department of Justice has partnered closely with the leadership of Independence First to ensure that the rights and privileges of all Americans are extended to members of our disability community.  Our collaborative enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act through litigation in the federal courts and in remedial, non-judicial actions in settings throughout the region has resulted in increased accessibility and enjoyment to public and private venues for disabled persons.  We remain committed to the promotion of those legitimate interests for everyone suffering with mental disabilities of the sort discussed in Olmstead—alongwith all other types of disabilities identified for protection by the law.”

 In Olmstead, the Supreme Court recognized that the unjustified isolation of people with disabilities in institutions when legitimate health care services can be provided in outside, community settings is a form of discrimination.  Among other observations, the Court noted that confinement within an institution may diminish everyday activities including family relationships, social contacts, employment options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment.

            Both Schultz and Santelle confirmed that all members of the public, including but not limited to those associated or otherwise involved in disability issues, are strongly encouraged to attend the anniversary observance on the 22nd.  For further information about it, interested parties should contact Ms. Karen Avery, Independence First, at (414) 226-8302, (414) 291-7520 (V/TTY), or



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