the federal HHS Office of Civil Rights
How do you get in touch with the HHS OCR?
"Just pick up the phone," says Velveta Golightly-Howell, acting regional manager of the HHS Office of Civil Rights in Region VIII. Joe Ehman of Atlantis CIL in Denver called her predecessor and invited her over in late 1999. Their managers and litigators have had four meetings at Atlantis since, and things are popping in the entire region.
Thanks to those meetings, one class complaint has come to HHS OCR from Utah, another from Colorado, five from Montana including two class complaints that the state segregates people in sheltered workshops and day programs instead of funding community-based services. Day-programming segregation amounts to what Howell called "discrimination by states based on funding decisions."
call to your own regional HHS Office of Civil Rights is the
single most important step you can take to get Olmstead
Speaking with people in institutions
" I impersonated a visitor," says Judith Gran, staff attorney with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.
"One Sunday afternoon during visiting hours I just walked in and hung out, acting as though I was just visiting family I went all over the institution, to all the different living units, and I met people."
That's how Gran found a resident who would later be a plaintiff in a lawsuit to shut down the institution.
Residents of institutions and nursing homes have a legal right to see you when you visit, even if you don't know them or even know their names. The legal jargon from the Medicaid regulations say, "The facility must provide reasonable access to any resident by any entity or individual that provides health, social, legal or other services to the resident...."
Here are two documents to print out and use. In order to download PDF files, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer. If you don't have this software, you can get a free copy of of Adobe Acrobat Reader from Adobe Systems, Inc. at http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html.
The 2 pages from the Medicaid regulations that say this. (The legal citation for this document is 42 CFR ¤483.10.)
If your state has not implemented the Olmstead decision -- and no state has -- or if it refuses to let someone you know, or someone you meet when you visit an institution, move to freedom with community supports, that's your cue to do something. Your best bet: filing an ADA Title II complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in the Dept. of Health and Human Services.
Download and print out the OCR official complaint form and use it. In order to download PDF files, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer. If you don't have this software, you can get a free copy of of Adobe Acrobat Reader from Adobe Systems, Inc. at http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html.