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Bag o' Outrage

Commentary by Lucy Gwin

Lucy Gwin is editor of Mouth magazine.

Tommy Olmstead, seen here in a 1999 photo from his website, was until June 15, 1999 Commissioner of the State of Georgia's Department of Human Resources. (The Supreme Court announced its decision on June 22. Hey, Tommy, just in time!)

When two women, identified as L.C. and E. W. (Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson) sued him so that they might leave state hospitals and get the supports they needed to live in freedom in their own communities, he fought them all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here are a few of the statements he made
in his petition for the Court to "grant certiorari" (meaning "hear the case"):

"The state's choice of setting for an individual requiring public care depends upon the individual's mental condition, on the fact and extent of his dangerousness and inability to care for himself, and on fiscal and administrative considerations." . . .

Photo of Tommy Olmstead

"The state has considerable discretion in determinining the scope and nature of the services it will provide, and need only exercise professional judgment in determining which services are appropriate. 'Minimally adequate care' is the constitutional requirement, not 'appropriate' care, 'better' care, or care that will make patients 'safer, happier, or more productive" . . .

"This Court should accept certiorari [agree to hear the case of] this important decision now, rather than to delay and allow this confusion, with its disruption of state planning and budgeting, to continue."

Today Tommy Olmstead is Commissioner of Human Resources for DeKalb County, Georgia, rather than for the whole state -- the press release said he resigned to take a job he'd always wanted and now was free to pursue.

But his spirit lives on, in spite of the Supreme Court decision, in all the states where people are forced into nursing homes and other institutions -- not because it's cheaper or better or safer, but because that's the way bureaucrats like it.



About Mouth magazine


Cartoon image of Tommy Olmstead
Cartoonist Scott Chambers has
some fun with Tommy O.

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