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Press Release

Justice Department Finds Nebraska Violates Federal Civil Rights Laws by Unnecessarily Institutionalizing People with Serious Mental Illness

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department announced today that it found that Nebraska is unnecessarily segregating people with serious mental illness (SMI) in assisted living facilities and day program facilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C. The department found that Nebraska is restricting access to critical community-based services that people with SMI need to live and work in the community.

“Far too often, people with mental health disabilities are institutionalized when they could succeed and thrive in the community,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “It’s time to bring an end to the days of funneling people with disabilities down a dead-end road towards institutionalization and unemployment when they could succeed if provided pathways towards independence and dignity. The Justice Department remains committed to protecting the rights of people with disabilities and ensuring that the ADA’s promise of integration becomes a reality.”

“By increasing its investment in community-based services for Nebraskans with SMI, the State can help these individuals become engaged and vibrant members of their communities,” said U.S. Attorney Susan Lehr for the District of Nebraska.

The ADA and the Olmstead decision require states to make their services for people with disabilities available in the most integrated setting appropriate to each person’s needs — places like people’s homes and workplaces. With the right services, people with SMI can live in their own homes. They can also get and keep jobs where they work alongside people without disabilities doing the same work for the same pay.

Instead of helping Nebraskans with SMI find jobs, Nebraska relies heavily on segregated day programs that group these individuals together in facilities. People with SMI may spend years in segregated day programs with no path to employment. Instead of being able to live in their own homes, many people with SMI are forced to enter assisted living facilities to get help.

Nebraska already offers services that could help its citizens with SMI find jobs and live independently. For example, Nebraska offers a service called “supported employment” that helps people with SMI find jobs and supports them in the workplace. Nebraska also offers services that help people with SMI succeed in their own homes. But the department found that Nebraska limits access to community-based services and has not developed sufficient service capacity to enable people with SMI to avoid unnecessary institutionalization. As a result, many Nebraskans with SMI struggle to access community-based services. Instead, for many Nebraskans with SMI, the only options are institutions and unemployment. Nebraska could expand access to its existing community-based services so that people with SMI can get the support they need to live and work in the community.

The department describes its findings and minimum remedial measures necessary in a letter to Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen. View the department’s letter of findings here.

For more information about the Civil Rights Division, please visit For more information about the ADA, please call the department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or (TTY 833-610-1264) or visit ADA complaints may be filed online at

Updated May 14, 2024

Civil Rights
Disability Rights
Press Release Number: 24-609