WASHINGTON, June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Supreme Court held this morning that states discriminate against persons with disabilities if they prevent those persons from having the opportunity to live in community-based environments rather than institutions. With its decision in Olmstead v. L.C. & E.W., the Supreme Court upheld and gave force to the critical regulation of the Americans with Disabilities Act that required that persons with disabilities be provided services in the "most integrated" setting appropriate to the needs of the person. The High Court reviewed Olmstead when the Georgia Department of Human Resources appealed a lower-court decision that the state violated an ADA regulation by segregating two Georgia women with mental disabilities in a state psychiatric hospital even though the facility's professionals had recommended a transfer to community care. Georgia, and the other states supporting Georgia's appeal, argued that the treatment of the women was not "discrimination" as defined under the ADA. The Court flatly rejected the state's argument and confirmed the principle under the ADA that persons with disabilities must be placed in the community whenever it is determined that community placement is appropriate and such placement can be reasonably accommodated in light of the state's resources and the needs of others with mental disabilities. The National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.) and Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh of the law firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart LLP filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the position taken by the two women who sought community placement. As Attorney General, Thornburgh oversaw the passage of the ADA in 1990 and directed the Justice Department's drafting of the regulation at issue in Olmstead. The N.O.D./Thornburgh brief opposed Georgia's argument and asserted that the unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities is inconsistent not only with congressional intent but also the Justice Department's interpretation of the statute and regulation. "I am heartened by the decision of the Supreme Court," said Thornburgh. "The right to live in the environment of your own choosing is a right set out in the ADA. The Court's decision makes that right abundantly clear." N.O.D. President Alan A. Reich reacted to the decision by noting that it "is an important step in achieving the goal of the ADA and of people with disabilities -- full and participation in all aspects of life." N.O.D. promotes the acceptance and full participation in all aspects of life of America's 54 million men, women and children with physical, sensory or mental disabilities. Founded in 1982, N.O.D. is concerned with all disabilities, all age groups and all disability issues. Through its network of 4,500 community partners in towns, cities and counties nationwide, N.O.D. promotes voluntary action to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. To learn more about N.O.D., visit its Web site at www.nod.org. To read the N.O.D./Thornburgh brief, visit www.nod.org/amicus_brief.html.
SOURCE National Organization on Disability