At our law firm, we support people with intellectual disabilities and other impairments and their families in a wide range of legal issues. We provide guidance and legal services to meet the immediate and future needs of those with disabilities and their loved ones. This process is called special needs planning or disability planning, which can address issues of abuse and neglect, estate planning, special needs trusts, money management and ABLE accounts, residential services, long-term care, guardianship and conservatorship, public benefits, insurance and others.
The right to community integration
In helping people with developmental disabilities, lawyers are fortunate to stand on the shoulders of advocates who have helped establish certain legal rights as well as improved services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With the recent passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we are reminded that she was a fierce advocate for equality, including equal rights and opportunities for persons with disabilities.
She wrote the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. that established the right under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of people with disabilities to receive residential and other services in communities rather than in segregated institutions. The dispute arose in Georgia when two women with developmental disabilities and mental illness stayed in a state institution for years longer than their treatment required.
Specifically, Justice Ginsburg wrote that states (including Colorado) must not segregate people with disabilities in institutions if their medical professionals recommend community placements, the person wants to live in the community and the community-based services are reasonably available.
She eloquently said that “institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable of or unworthy of participating in community life.” Notably, the opinion explained that living in an institution deprives people of everyday activities like family interaction, work, culture, education, “economic independence” and socialization.
Colorado’s reaction to Olmstead
To help fulfill its obligations under the Olmstead decision, former Gov. Hickenlooper created the Office of Community Living to guide development within the state of services and supports for people with disabilities and the elderly. In 2014, Colorado released its comprehensive Community Living Plan in direct response to the Olmstead directives.
In this context, we help our clients with disabilities and their families secure appropriate residential services within their communities as well as a range of services to help them live full lives.