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OPA vs. CT

Judge Denies State’s Request to Dismiss Charges that It Unnecessarily Warehouses People with Mental Illnesses in Nursing Homes,
Violating Federal Law
Hartford, CT – April 1, 2010 – In Office of Protection and Advocacy v. State of Connecticut, a U.S. District Court judge yesterday granted class certification and denied the State of Connecticut‘s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges that the State failed to provide “the most integrated setting appropriate” for the needs of hundreds of people with mental illnesses who have been warehoused in state nursing homes, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The case, brought by the state Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (OPA) and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a national mental health legal-advocacy organization, alleges on behalf of OPA and certain individuals residing at Chelsea Place Care Center Hartford, Bidwell Care Center in Manchester and West Rock Care Center in New Haven, that the state failed to provide a “comprehensive and effectively working plan” to place residents with mental illnesses into more integrated, supported living situations, as required by the landmark 1999 Olmstead Supreme Court decision.
 “The judge’s favorable decision to deny the state’s request to dismiss the case and to grant our motion for class certification to proceed on behalf of all nursing home residents with mental illnesses in the homes at issue is a win for people of Connecticut with disabilities,” said Karen Bower, Senior Staff Attorney at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.

“This case is about freeing people from segregation - people who should not be locked away - and giving them their lives back,” said James McGaughey, Executive Director of Connecticut’s Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities.
“We are very pleased with Judge Thompson’s decision. This allows us to move forward with the litigation to ensure the civil rights, freedom, and dignity of nursing home residents with mental illnesses at Chelsea, Bidwell and West Rock and future Connecticut citizens at risk of entering these facilities,” said Ken Pasquale of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, who along with Joseph Strauss and Danielle Alfonso Walsman, are co-counsel to OPA and the class representatives.
The decision also grants the Office of Protection and Advocacy standing to proceed with the complaint as a plaintiff on behalf of its constituents.  “This provides us with an important tool to use in our work to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in Connecticut,” said Nancy B. Alisberg, Managing Attorney of Connecticut’s Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. 
The Commissioners of Social Services, Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Public Health, and the State of Connecticut itself are the defendants.
For more information on the case, and to speak to co-counsel, please contact:

Emily McKee, Bazelon Center, 202-467-5730 x120, emilym@bazelon.org
Nancy B. Alisberg, OPA, 860-297-4397 or 860-716-6713, nancy.alisberg@po.state.ct.us, nancyalisberg@yahoo.com, Susan L. Peters, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, 212-806-6098, speters@stroock.com

Content Last Modified on 4/30/2010 10:54:28 AM