Department of Justice Seal



TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2001

(202) 616-2777


TDD (202) 514-1888



Presidential Executive Order Underscores

Administration's Commitment To

Breaking Down Barriers That Prevent Persons With
Disabilities From Having Full Access To Their Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced his strong support for the Olmstead executive order signed yesterday by President Bush as part of his New Freedom Initiative. The New Freedom Initiative increases the responsibilities of all Executive Branch agencies whose programs affect the lives of people with disabilities. The executive order directs federal agencies to assist states and localities in ensuring prompt and effective implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1999 decision, Olmstead v. L.C.

The Olmstead decision requires states to place individuals with disabilities in community settings rather than institutions, where such placement is appropriate and reasonable. This will ensure that individuals with disabilities can live closer to families and friends, engage in productive employment, and participate in community life.

Unjustified isolation or segregation of persons with disabilities through institutionalization is a form of discrimination prohibited by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The Department of Justice enforces the ADA, the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, and other federal civil rights laws.

"Protecting the rights of persons with disabilities is a critical part of the Department's civil rights law enforcement effort," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "As a result of the Department's enforcement of the ADA and the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, thousands of institutionalized persons who were living in dire conditions now receive adequate care and services in community-based settings."

The Department's Special Litigation Section currently has cases or investigations in 12 states, and Puerto Rico involving community placement. Some of these include:

  • Indiana - DOJ recently entered into a settlement agreement involving two facilities for persons with developmental disabilities. The agreement includes provisions for the development of a comprehensive plan for the provision of services and supports in the most integrated setting and for the transfer of residents to the community, where appropriate.

  • Pennsylvania - DOJ settled two cases involving a developmental center and a nursing home. The agreements require the continual assessment of the appropriateness of individualized placements and of the services provided in the community.

  • Puerto Rico - DOJ has a settlement involving six facilities for persons with mental retardation and is working with the Commonwealth to develop a community-based system for many of the residents of those facilities.

  • Tennessee - Following contested litigation in one case and settlement in another, the DOJ is closely monitoring court orders requiring the community placement, where appropriate, of individuals from all of the state's institutions for persons with mental retardation to ensure that placements are safe and appropriate.

  • Virginia - DOJ has entered into settlement agreements involving Northern Virginia Training Center, Eastern State Hospital, Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute and Central State Hospital. All four agreements provide for individualized assessments of persons with disabilities and placement in the most integrated setting. Each agreement also focuses on the discharge planning process, with an emphasis on transitioning people into the community. The State has substantially complied with the agreements for Northern Virginia Training Center and Eastern State Hospital, and those agreements have ended.

  • Wisconsin - DOJ has entered into a settlement agreement involving two facilities for persons with developmental disabilities that ensures appropriate placements, in the most integrated settings with the appropriate community services for those persons.

In enforcing federal civil rights laws, the Department conducts regular investigations of health care facilities and reviews the appropriateness of placement of individuals in institutions. In our settlements, the Department works to ensure that persons who are moved from institutional settings to community settings receive the services and care they need when they are placed in the community.

The Department of Justice will work closely with the Department of Health and Human Services, which has the lead role in coordinating implementation of the Olmstead executive order.

"The Department of Justice will continue to safeguard the civil rights and liberties guaranteed to all Americans," concluded Ashcroft.