The District Court of Connecticut issued a major ruling in an Olmstead case yesterday on behalf of Connecticut residents with mental illness forced to reside in nursing homes. Originally filed in 2006, the case, Office of Protection and Advocacy v. Connecticut, alleged that the Connecticut state Departments of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Social Services and Department of Health violated the ADA and the Rehab Act when they failed to administer services in the most integrated settings possible. The case was dismissed in 2007 for lack of standing with permission to refile. The case was refiled in 2008 as both a P&A standing case and as a class action. Motions to dismiss were refiled in 2008 and yesterday the court denied the 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1) motions and granted class certification.
In terms of the 12(b)(6) motion, the court ruled that “the integration mandate requires defendants to administer services, programs, and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities….Olmstead made clear that the actions of the state that led to a denial of integrated settings could serve as the basis for an ADA claim….Under Title II of the ADA, States are required to provide community-based treatment for persons with mental disabilities where appropriate…. It is the defendants’ conduct in the administration of state programs that makes them proper parties here.” The court relied heavily on the recent rulings on cases brought by Disability Advocates, Inc.
The ruling on standing was a remarkable reversal of the previous bench ruling from the same judge who previously stated that neither Stincer nor Mink applied to the Connecticut P&A, a state agency. This time, based on the amended complaint that pled the standing requirements in much more specificity, the Court ruled that “the analysis in Mink and Stincer is directly on point. The court adopts that analysis.” While this ruling is narrow in terms of its applicability to the particular vagaries of the organization of the Connecticut P&A, it is an important victory for state agency P&As.
Finally, the class action decision, while denying class representation to one of our named plaintiffs, was another nice victory after having lost so thoroughly during our first round of decisions.
The case is being litigated by Nancy Alisberg of the Connecticut P&A, Ira Burnim, Karen Bower and Andrew Penn of Bazelon, Michael Allen of Relman, Dane & Colfax, and Ken Pasquale, Joseph Strauss, Danielle Walsman of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan.