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Advocates Say State Forces Residents With Mental Illness Into Nursing Homes

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express (subscribe)

HARTFORD, CT--More than 200 people with mental illnesses are being warehoused -- nearly half on locked wards -- in three Connecticut nursing homes in violation of their rights, two disability advocacy groups alleged in a lawsuit filed last Monday.

The Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law filed the suit in federal court against the state departments of social services, public health and mental health and addiction services. It claims that the state is acting too slowly to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in L.C. & E.W. vs. Olmstead. That 1999 decision found that unnecessarily institutionalizing people with disabilities violates their rights under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

The suit, OPA v. State of Connecticut, asserts that many of those being held in the nursing homes do not have physical needs but are there merely to receive mental health services, which could be provided in the community. It asks the court to order the state agencies to fund community-living alternatives for those residents.

A December 2004 study reported that more than 2,700 people with primary psychiatric diagnoses live in the state's nursing homes, and that the number is growing at a rate of between 5 and 10 percent each year.

"The current situation is a travesty. The state spends huge amounts of money to keep people with psychiatric disabilities where they don't want to be -- and shouldn't be," Ira Burnim, legal director of the Bazelon Center, said in a press statement.

Lawsuit Challenges Unwarranted Confinement of People with Mental Illnesses in Connecticut Nursing Homes (OPA)

Representative residents of Connecticut nursing homes (Bazelon Center)

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