DRO warns that current state initiatives will not be enough to forestall legal action

August 1, 2014 / ICFs

On July 1, 2014, Disability Rights Ohio, the federally authorized and state-designated system to protect and advocate (P&A) on behalf of individuals with disabilities in Ohio, sent a letter to the Kasich Administration officials, alerting them to our 18-month investigation that uncovered clear violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) within Ohio’s intellectual and developmental disabilities service system.

John Martin, Director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, responded on the state’s behalf with a letter dated July 31, 2014. In the letter, Director Martin states that “while we do not agree with many of your findings and conclusions, it is true that we share a similar vision for supporting individuals with disabilities.” Director Martin also adds that he, along with Director Greg Moody of the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation and Director John McCarthy of the Ohio Department of Medicaid, would like to meet and discuss the issues raised by DRO. In the letter, he talked about two stakeholder groups that they believe may address some of DRO’s concerns.

Kerstin Sjoberg-Witt, Advocacy Director and Assistant Executive Director of DRO, responded to Director Martin’s letter with the following statement:

While DRO is disappointed that the state does not recognize or agree with the many findings resulting from our thorough investigation and system review, we are pleased to hear that Directors Martin, McCarthy and Moody have agreed to meet with us. It is our sincere hope that all parties can reach a negotiated resolution that would address the ADA violations within Ohio’s Developmental Disabilities system and make systemic improvements to protect the rights of people with disabilities to be free from unnecessary segregation and isolation.

However, the state’s current initiatives will not be enough to forestall legal action. Significant, measurable improvements to the system that reflect the recommendations in our initial letter must occur in a timely fashion. Simply referring to a 10-year strategic planning process and a waiver transition committee as a way forward is evidence that perhaps the state does not share our sense of urgency on this matter. The individuals living in Ohio's institutions and working in Ohio's segregated workshops or day habilitation facilities cannot wait that long.

DRO and its partners sincerely believe that the challenges encountered in its investigation can be resolved in a way that protects the rights of people with disabilities to be free from unnecessary segregation and isolation, and also respects the state and county roles in designing the developmental disabilities system.

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