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PACER Partner, the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, is an excellent resource for further information on transition-related legislation.

The Olmstead Decision

What is "The Olmstead Decision?"

Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, two women with disabilities who lived in Georgia nursing homes, asked State officials to allow them to move into their own homes in the community. After the State refused, Atlanta Legal Aid attorney, Susan Jamieson filed a lawsuit on their behalf. After appeals, the case was heard by the U. S. Supreme Court. In July 1999, the Supreme Court issued the Olmstead v. L.C. decision.

In Olmstead, the Court ruled that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits the unnecessary institutionalization of persons with disabilities. In the words of the Supreme Court, services to persons with disabilities must be provided "in the most integrated setting possible." The Court ruled that there should be community options for Curtis and Wilson.

Disability activists have hailed Olmstead as a landmark decision with implications similar to that of another historic ruling: Brown v. Board of Education. However, many individuals with disabilities and their families are unaware of the Olmstead decision and the full range of community services that are available as alternatives to services provided in an institutionalized setting.

The Olmstead v. L.C. decision challenges federal, state, and local governments to develop more opportunities for individuals with disabilities through accessible systems of cost-effective community-based services. Several federal and state initiatives are now underway to expand home and community options and make community living a reality for more people. Medicaid can be an important resource to assist States in meeting these goals.

The scope of the ADA and the Olmstead decision is not limited to Medicaid beneficiaries or to services financed by the Medicaid program, however. Olmstead is particularly relevant to transition-age youth with significant disabilities who are aging out of government healthcare programs that serve children with disabilities or preparing to exit special education settings and access adult services and participate more fully in the community. Youth, their families, and advocates can use the Olmstead decision to advocate that programs and services be provided "in the most integrated setting possible."


U. S. Department of Justice Olmstead Litigation
The U.S. Department of Justice is working with State and local government officials, disability rights groups and attorneys around the country, and with representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services to fashion an effective, nationwide program to enforce the integration mandate of the Department's regulation implementing title II of the ADA. This helpful site provides a map where Web visitors can find related litigation in their region and links to Frequently Asked Questions, Findings Letters and Amicus Briefs.


Olmstead and Community: Implementing the New Freedom Initiative (2004)
This IL NET training curriculum was designed to help prepare independent living advocates to carry out Olmstead implementation activities within implementation activities in their states. TATRA Project staff assisted the authors in the development of these training manuals, particularly Module 2-T: Olmstead for Students and Families. Note: Audio/visual files for this manual are still being updated and will be available soon. IL NET is a collaborative project of the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) of Houston, Texas and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) in Arlington, Virginia.

Related Articles and Analysis

Home and Community-Based Services: Introduction to Olmstead Lawsuits and Olmstead Plans (updated 2011)This report provides state-by-state information on both the formal strategies (Olmstead Plans) that states have developed in response to the Olmstead ruling and community integration lawsuits related to Olmstead.

Questions and Answers on the ADA’s Integration Mandate and Olmstead Enforcement (2011)
a 2011 FAQ from the US Department of Justice.

Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead Resources (2010)
an up-to-date listing of Olmstead resources from the National Network of ADA Technical Assistance Centers 

Young Adults with Disabilities Aging Out of Medicaid pdf icon (2007)
An Issue Paper from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured
When youth with disabilities "age out" of Medicaid programs designed for children at age 18 or 21, young adults and their families may suddenly find that they do not meet the more stringent eligibility requirements for adult SSI recipients, or that the services available to them as adults are much more limited than what they previously received.

The Olmstead Decision Five Years Later (2004)
In 2004, the Kaiser Commission released two publications on the impact of the Olmstead decision on Medicaid and the Uninsured a video examining what progress has been made and the impact on the Medicaid program.

The Law: Medicaid Waivers and Individual Control (2005)
Beach Center on Disability

Individual Control of Budgets: Key Components and Research (2005)
Beach Center on Disability

Related Websites

Clearinghouse for the Community Living Exchange Collaborative

Department of Justice Website devoted to Olmstead Enforcement

Olmstead Plans and Lawsuits, a state by state from the Center on Personal Assistance Services Website

National Reports

Introduction to Olmstead Lawsuits and Olmstead Plans (2006)

Olmstead: Reclaiming Institutionalized Lives (2003)
September 2003 summary of a recent National Council on Disability report assessing the progress of efforts to implement the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999), and related federal and state government initiatives.

Delivering on the Promise: Compilation of Individual Federal Agency Reports of Actions to Eliminate Barriers and Promote Community Integration (March 2003)
Related Fact Sheet: "Delivering on the Promise" (2002)


Olmstead at Five: Assessing the Impact (2004) PowerPoint presentation
Taylor Burke, George Washington University. Available in both PowerPoint and MS Word

The Olmstead Decision and Services for Youth with Disabilities in Community Settings
Transcript of National Center on Secondary Education and Transition teleconference call held on March 21, 2002

Using the Emerging Disability Policy Framework to Craft a Comprehensive Effectively Working Olmstead Plan (2002)
Robert Silverstein, Director of the Center for the Study and Advancement of Disability Policy.

Olmstead v. L.C.: An Overview and Description of the U.S. Supreme Court Decision (2002)

Summary of the Olmstead Decision (2002)
Robert Silverstein, Director of the Center for the Study and Advancement of Disability Policy.

Background Documents

Supreme Court Opinion OLMSTEAD v. L. C. (98-536) (1999)
Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute, Supreme Court Collection


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