Where have all the developmental centers gone? The federal push for community-based services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

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Across the country, the trend in treating individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities has been deinstitutionalization. In recent years, several states have been working to transition the treatment of their intellectually and developmentally disabled citizens from state-operated developmental centers to community-based services. In the process, numerous developmental centers have been closed. While some residents, parents, advocates and professionals are pleased with this direction, others are fighting the process. This article sheds light on the current state of affairs. Part II provides a snapshot of the public services available for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and explores recent trends in the deinstitutionalization movement. Part III provides an overview of the relevant provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as interpreted by the landmark case of Olmstead v. L.C. Part IV provides more information about the current push by the Department of Justice to ensure adequate community based services and summarizes some of the predictable players in lawsuits arising in connection with the proposed closure of developmental centers. Lastly, Part V reviews a couple of recent cases where efforts toward deinstitutionalization have led to civil lawsuits in federal court. Beyond the scope of this article is a broader issue: As a society, we have had great success in discharging intellectually and developmentally disabled residents from our state institutions; have we been as effective in providing them the services they need to successfully live in the community?

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