Disability Law Center and Parsons Behle & Latimer File Class Action Lawsuit on Behalf of Institutionalized Utahns with Intellectual Disabilities

Press Statement
For Immediate Release

Posted: January 12, 2018

On January 12, 2018, the Disability Law Center (DLC) and the law firm of Parsons Behle & Latimer filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Utah against the state of Utah, including the Utah Department of Health, the Division of Services for People with Disabilities, and Governor Gary Herbert. The suit asserts that Utah violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. by operating its service system in a way that unnecessarily segregates individuals with intellectual disabilities in institutions. Two named plaintiffs and the DLC will represent the class in the suit.

In Utah, there are over 600 people with intellectual disabilities currently residing in privately owned institutions (often referred to as intermediate care facilities or ICFs). These institutions are large, crowded facilities, lacking privacy and any semblance of a home. Utahns with intellectual disabilities who live in these institutions have no meaningful ability to access services in the community. This lawsuit demands that Utah shows a commitment to de-institutionalization and creates an effectively working path from an institution to the community.

“On this holiday weekend where we, as a nation, celebrate the sacrifices and advancements in civil rights, we take a moment to recognize that more work needs to be done. The people we are representing live in segregation because the State has failed to ensure the civil rights of people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead,” said Laura Henrie, Associate Legal Director of the DLC. “People with disabilities have the right to live in the community. Unfortunately, the state of Utah has not followed the law or national trends over the last decade, growing the number of institutions in the state. Often, the first thing we hear when we walk into these institutions is a resident begging us to help them get out. For far too long, the State has ignored these pleas, leaving our clients to languish in a life of segregation.”

“The DLC has spent years investigating this case, devoting countless hours to working with the institutionalized population,” Executive Director of the DLC, Adina Zahradnikova, stated. “We have seen the harm, up close and personal, being done to these individuals. We do not take this step lightly, but we believe it is incumbent on the State to remedy their failures and develop a working plan toward deinstitutionalization. The unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities is unacceptable, and the DLC will work tirelessly to protect their right to a fully integrated community.”

“We immediately recognized the importance of the critical issues raised by this lawsuit, and welcomed the opportunity to work with the DLC to advocate on behalf of these individuals.” Juliette P. White, Shareholder at Parsons Behle & Latimer states. “It is our hope that the State will also recognize their obligation to provide institutionalized individuals with the opportunity to make a meaningful choice about where they live. This suit is intended to ensure that that people with disabilities, and all Utahns, have the freedom and opportunity to live integrated, meaningful, and productive lives.”

“I would like a chance to live out on my own whether it is housing or an apartment—more control over my freedom,” said Staci Christensen, a named plaintiff in the case. “I wanted that for a really long time. It would be a dream come true.”

FOR RELEASE UPON FILING (by COB January 12, 2018)
Nate Crippes
(801) 910-5815 / (800) 662-9080
ncrippes@disabilitylawcenter.org