Justice Department Reaches Extension Agreement to Improve Georgia’s Developmental Disability and Mental Health System
The Justice Department today announced that it has entered into an extension agreement with the state of Georgia to improve the quality and availability of services for people with developmental disabilities living in the community and to provide supported housing to individuals with significant mental illness who need it.
The extension agreement builds upon a 2010 settlement agreement resolving a lawsuit brought by the department under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision. The case involves Georgia’s provision of community services for individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities. The department found in 2009 that Georgia was forcing people with disabilities into state hospitals instead of providing community-based services, in violation of the ADA’s integration requirements. In January, the department alleged that Georgia was not in compliance with the 2010 agreement, both regarding helping people move from institutions into their communities and regarding quality and oversight of community-based services. In light of the agreement and the significant commitments Georgia has made in it, the department has agreed to withdraw its motion to enforce that earlier agreement.
The agreement will resolve the seven areas of alleged deficiency identified by the department in its January court filing. Under the agreement, Georgia will help people with developmental disabilities move from its state hospitals to integrated settings, consistent with their needs and preferences; will identify and address each individual’s needs in the community prior to discharge; and will monitor services and track outcomes for people after their discharge. For individuals who have moved from the state hospitals to the community, Georgia will monitor their health and wellbeing to ensure that emerging needs are met in a timely fashion. The extension agreement also calls for creation of at least 675 new Medicaid home- and community-based waiver slots as alternatives to placement in a facility. Georgia will provide clinical oversight and enhanced support coordination for individuals with developmental disabilities served by the state.
The extension agreement enhances quality oversight, requiring specific actions in the event of serious incidents and corrective actions to address deficiencies. The state will collect and review data to identify any trends and develop quality improvement initiatives. In addition, Georgia will require providers to develop risk management and quality improvement programs.
Under the agreement, at least 600 additional individuals with mental illness will receive bridge funding and at least 633 will receive housing vouchers under the Georgia housing voucher program. By June 30, 2018, the state is to have capacity to provide supported housing to any of the people with mental illness covered by the settlement agreement that need it. The extension agreement requires a referral procedure to supported housing for people who need it leaving the state hospitals, jails, prisons, emergency rooms or homeless shelters.
“By strengthening the services provided by Georgia’s mental health system, this agreement will make a difference in the lives of Georgians with developmental disabilities or mental illness who wish to build lives in the community,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We look forward to working with Georgia to deliver on the promise of community integration enshrined in the ADA.”
“During the past five years, the State of Georgia has significantly changed the way it provides services for people with disabilities,” said U.S Attorney John A. Horn of the Northern District of Georgia. “Recognizing that we have more work to do in this area, I am encouraged by Georgia’s willingness to continue to partner with the Department of Justice and stakeholders to improve the quality of services for people with developmental disabilities and significant mental illness in our community.”
The Civil Rights Division enforces the ADA, which authorizes the Attorney General to investigate whether a state is serving individuals in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs. Please visit www.justice.gov/crt to learn more about the Olmstead decision, the ADA and other laws enforced by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The agreement was secured due to the efforts of Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia.