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The Justice Department announced today that it has concluded an investigation into whether the State of South Carolina subjects adults with mental illness to unnecessary institutionalization and serious risk of institutionalization in adult care homes, in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Justice Department determined that there is reasonable cause to believe South Carolina violates the ADA by failing to provide sufficient community-based services to prevent unnecessary institutionalization of adults with mental illness. Instead, the state subsidizes their stay in adult care homes where people have little contact with people without disabilities, often leaving the homes only for medical appointments and group visits to grocery and convenience stores. Critical services that would allow adults with mental illness to live instead in their own homes and communities are not sufficiently available across the state.
“People with disabilities should not be isolated in institutions for years on end when they can and want to live in their own homes,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will safeguard the rights of people with disabilities to ensure that they are able to participate fully in community life.”
“A sacred promise of the ADA includes giving people a meaningful choice for where they wish to live, including in their own private home,” said U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs for the District of South Carolina. “I hope that the violations identified by the Justice Department can be remedied so that these South Carolinians will be able to leave the shadow of institutional living and instead live in and contribute to their communities.”
The Department’s investigation found South Carolina lacks needed community-based mental health services such as assertive community treatment, supported employment, permanent supportive housing, intensive case management, and peer support. These services are provided in certain parts of the state but are not sufficiently available to afford opportunities to avoid or move out of adult care homes and live in the community. As a result, thousands of adults with mental illness are segregated in adult care homes for years.
The Department’s investigation involved extensive review and analysis of documents; interviews of staff and people living in adult care homes, South Carolina state employees, and stakeholders; and visits to adult care homes statewide. Individuals with information relevant to this matter can contact the Department by emailing Community.SouthCarolina@usdoj.gov.
Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at Civil Rights Division | Rights Of Persons With Disabilities (justice.gov) and www.ada.gov.