Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Case about NJ postponing deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities will go to trial, district judge says

From The Star-Ledger in N.J.:

TRENTON, N.J. — A dispute over the state’s delay of a plan to move developmentally disabled people out of institutions is headed for trial in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson in Trenton has rejected arguments she heard a week ago from the advocacy group Disability Rights New Jersey and the state Department of Human Services urging her to use court records to decide whether the state violated the rights of about 1,850 people by failing to move them from institutions.

The trial is needed, Thompson said, to determine whether the state is justified in postponing a plan to move them out of the state-run developmental centers before 2015 because it can’t afford to pay for it.

Disability Rights contends confining these people to institutions violates their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The advocacy group sued when the state failed to adhere to its own plan introduced three years ago that called for relocating 100 willing developmental center residents in the first year and 250 every year thereafter.

The plan was a response to a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as Olmstead that says federal law protects the right of disabled people to live in “the most integrated setting’’ possible.

Thompson said she could not decide the case without determining whether “New Jersey has an Olmstead plan that can be considered to be effectively working given the recent fiscal crisis and budget cuts,’’ according to her Sept. 24 decision.

Human Services spokeswoman Nicole Brossoie said the state relocated 121 people from institutions in fiscal year 2008; 112 in 2009; and 62 in 2010.