In January 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia alleging that the State of Georgia violates the ADA in its unnecessary placement of individuals with disabilities in state institutions. Georgia's policies were at issue in the landmark Supreme Court case of Olmstead v. L.C., but DOJ alleged that, ten years after Olmstead, Georgia had failed to adequately carry out its policies designed to prevent unnecessary institutionalization. The complaint addressed multiple groups, including individuals with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and/or substance abuse disorders. Through this lawsuit, DOJ sought to vindicate the rights of individuals who were unnecessarily placed in the State Psychiatric Hospitals, alleging that the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) and the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) fail to provide adequate protections against over-institutionalization.
After the complaint was filed, the court granted a stay so that the parties could enter settlement negotiations. This phase of negotiations was apparently unsuccessful, as Georgia filed a motion to dismiss on July 1, 2010 after receiving several extensions of the filing deadline. On August 9, 2010, Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr. denied Georgia's motion to dismiss and ordered the parties to proceed to discovery. Georgia then filed an answer to the complaint on August 23, 2010. After a period of discovery, DOJ filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on September 24, 2010. After ensuing negotiations, the parties agreed to a settlement that was entered on October 19, 2010.
The settlement provided for an increase in community-based services over a five-year period. The state will cease admissions to state institutions and will provide for services in the community. The state further agreed to increase crisis support services and and create new options for community living. Pursuant to the settlement, Georgia will create new enrollment slots for Medicaid waivers for individuals with developmental disabilities and will increase home-based services for individuals participating in the waiver program. Georgia will also provide additional services to keep individuals with mental illness outside of institutions. Georgia will increase assertive community treatment, crisis management, and other services in the community. The state will also provide for housing options and support services to allow individuals with mental illness to remain in the community. Through services such as these, the state will prevent the unnecessary institutionalization of individuals with disabilities.
The parties agreed to the appointment of an independent reviewer, Elizabeth Jones. Her one-year report, issued in October 2011, documented substantial progress on the part of the state.
The independent reviewer continued to note Georgia's considerable efforts in attempting to reach the standards set out in the settlement agreement, but on September 18, 2015, Ms. Jones was forced to report that not all of the goals set by the settlement agreement had been met by the five-year deadline. Georgia had done an acceptable job of providing resources for the deinstitutionalization of adults with persistent serious mental illness, but had not complied with the standards for persons with developmental disabilities. The independent reviewer did note that there were acceptable plans on the horizon that had not yet been implemented, and that delays in implementation were not necessarily because of idleness on the part of the State.
After this report, and after an appearance by amici in December 2015, the plaintiffs filed a motion for the defendants to state why they should not be held in contempt because of their non-compliance with the settlement agreement.
Eventually, this motion was held as moot. On May 18, 2016, the parties filed a joint motion for extension of the settlement agreement, asking that the court maintain jurisdiction while Georgia strives for compliance with the settlement. On May 27, 2016, the court granted the motion.
This case is still ongoing. Beth Kurtz - 11/20/2012
Megan Brown - 11/06/2016