On July 10, 2009, mental health patients at Minnesota Extended Treatment Options, a state facility, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and Minnesota state law against the Minnesota Department of Human Services in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought injunctive, declaratory relief, and damages alleging that Minnesota Extended Treatment Options frequently subjected patients with developmental disabilities to the improper and inhumane use of seclusion and mechanical restraints in violation of their fourteenth and eighth amendment rights under the United States Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and §504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The plaintiffs also claimed state law violations under the Constitution of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and under Minnesota statutes for negligence, false imprisonment, battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and fraud. The plaintiffs' claim for declaratory relief alleged that the Minnesota state statutes referred to as "Rule 40" (Minn. Stat. § 245.825 and Minn. R. 9525.2700 - .2810), which govern the use of seclusion and mechanical restraints in licensed facilities serving persons with developmental disabilities, violate the Minnesota and United States Constitution.
Specifically, patients were restrained with metal handcuffs, leg irons, shackles and/or nylon straps for insignificant conduct violations such as spitting, laughing, hand-washing, or touching a pizza box. The Minnesota State Ombudsman for Mental Health and Development Disabilities reviewed the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options facility in 2008 and released a report titled "Just Plain Wrong". The Ombudsman found that METO staff excessively used restraints and law enforcement-style devices and 63 percent of METO residents at the time of the review had been restrained. One resident was restrained 299 times in 2006 and 230 times in 2007.
On March 8, 2010, the District Court (Judge Donovan W. Frank) ordered the Defendants to submit a draft settlement agreement to the Plaintiffs by April 2, 2010. On July 19, 2010, the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the state law claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. That same day the Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and a motion to certify the class.
On September 14, 2010, the parties reached a $3 million settlement agreement following two days of mediation. In the settlement, the parties agreed to work together to develop appropriate policies and procedures for implementation at METO and the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Additionally, the parties agreed to form a committee comprised of stakeholders within the developmental disabilities community. The committee's responsibilities include reviewing the Minnesota Department of Health Services rule (Rule 40), which governs and protects people with developmental disabilities. The committee will modernize Rule 40 to reflect current best practices including the use of positive and social behavioral supports, the development of placement plans consistent with the principles of the "most integrated setting" and "person centered planning", and development of an "Olmstead Plan" consistent with the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 582 (1999). The three Plaintiff families who brought suit will serve as class representatives if the settlement is approved.
On Dec. 5, 2011, Judge Frank approved the class settlement agreement. 2011 WL 6178845. On July 17, 2012, the Court appointed an independent advisor and monitor to oversee implementation of the settlement and to provide status reports to the Court.
On Dec. 11, 2013, the Court accepted the monitor's suggestion to modify an aspect of the settlement agreement governing the emergency use of manual restraints and "Velcro soft cuffs and fabric ankle straps." The monitor suggested eliminating the soft cuffs and ankle-strap options and made other changes, including special staff training on the revised policy.
On April 30, 2014, in response to another monitor update, Judge Frank issued an order expressing disappointment in the fact that "more than two years after the approval of the Settlement Agreement, for some [state] employees, safety is equated with a show of force, power and control in a legacy of the old institutional way and not the direction [DHS is] headed." (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court strongly encouraged the state to redouble its efforts at compliance with the settlement agreement.
On Sept. 18, 2014, the Court declined to adopt the state's proposed Olmstead plan, and ordered that they submit a revised plan.
As of Dec. 2014, the implementation of the settlement agreement is ongoing. Joe Reiter - 03/28/2011
Andrew Junker - 12/04/2014