DAA News Network

USA: State sued over failure to move disabled people from institutional care

Posted 11/2-11 at 01.25

In a lawsuit against the state of Arkansas, the US Justice Department claims that residents of the Conway Human Development Center aren't being given enough of a chance to move out into the community.

The state-run institution holds around 510 people with learning difficulties and/or physical impairments. This includes children.

At Conway, the Justice Department allege that staff used unjustified physical restraints that immobilized residents and that medical care is dangerously ineffective.

The suit is being contested by the state that claims Conway is "an excellent facility" with "high standards and high quality of services." Well-organized groups representing families of residents are supporting the state in this case.

However, according to Charlie Lakin, director of the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota, repeated studies have shown that people who leave institutions and get community-based care have improved outcomes, including better life skills.

Nationally the number of people with learning difficulties in state institutions has dropped from about 84,239 in 1990 to 33,682 in 2009. Eleven states no longer have such facilities, but a few states, such as Arkansas, retain extensive networks of centers.

Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department's Civil

Rights Division has stepped up efforts to push for deinstitutionalization of disabled people who are deemed able to live outside, enforcing a 1999 Supreme Court decision that rested on the Americans with Disabilities Act.




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