December 13, 2005

CO mental health activist sues for lack of accommodation

When Glen Ison took her position on the board of directors for the Colorado Mental Health Center as its only consumer member, she knew she would need assistance during board meetings with note taking and other tasks. She requested that she have a suport person attend meetings with her so she could participate -- Ison has a mental illness, bipolar disorder, which affects her ability to concentrate in stressful situations. After repeated attempts to be accommodated for her disability, Ison and the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition sued Midwestern on Monday for discrimination, in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The board initially refused her request for a notetaker, says a press release from CCDC. "After receiving letters from CCDC making the same request, Midwestern placed numerous conditions on Ms. Ison's continued board membership." Her support person was not allowed to sit at the table with board members or attend executive sessions, for example.

When Ison's daughter spoke on her behalf about the issue at a meeting of the state legislature's Joint Budget Meeting to address mental health service in Colorado, says CCDC, "Midwestern convened an executive session and removed her from the board. At first, Midwestern claimed they did so because Ms. Ison allegedly spoke negatively about Midwestern in public. Later they claimed it was for 'no cause.'

"I just want to continue my service on the board for people with mental illness." Ison said, "They need someone with a mental illness who receives services so they can understand the issues we face."

Ison is seeking reinstatement to the board of directors with the requested accommodations and damages.

Posted on December 13, 2005