The Olmstead Plan: Living in Community

A Win for Choice

Congratulations to the Olmstead Sub-Cabinet in persevering and allowing people with disabilities to make their own choices. This journey is one fraught with opportunities and/or obstacles. Thank you for your persistence in listening, shaping and path-making. Policymakers have an opportunity to learn much from this group and from the federal judge who kept pushing us to do better.

We asked for response to the broad spectrum of needs: this plan addresses that.

We asked for individual choice: the plan clearly allows for that, in specific and measurable ways.

The revised Olmstead Plan clearly identifies ongoing issues with funding for housing. It also acknowledges the need and rationale for a spectrum of housing and housing support. It acknowledges the disparate needs of people with differing abilities and needs for support.

Concerns about previous plans imposing futures for all people with disabilities without providing adequate funding, support or personal consent, are mitigated by including numbers and clear targets that indicate personal choice.

What it means for the people we serve

This means that people like John, who lives at 211 Oak Street, is nonverbal, and requires 24-hour awake support, can continue to live here as long as he (and/or those who advocate on his behalf) chooses. When John recently fell and broke his hip, he recuperated in a nursing home for over a month. He was all smiles when he came home. His housemates threw him a party to welcome him back.

On the other hand, when John’s housemate Susie decided she didn’t want to live with others, she was able to move into her own apartment. She’s happy to spend time with her staff and the activities she loves. She, too, receives 24-hour support; her overnight staff sleep at her apartment to ensure she is safe.

Fred lives in his own apartment with regular staff support and support of his neighbors. Fred moved to this apartment after living his entire life (until he was 55) with his parents. When his parents were preparing to move into assisted living, they brought Fred to us and asked us to support him. Together, Fred, his parents and his staff found an apartment and staffing to ensure Fred is safe. He’s blossomed, learning to cook, navigate the community and keep his apartment up, and making friends at every turn.

Going forward

Our ongoing obligation will be to monitor and comment as the Olmstead Plan is implemented to ensure that the principles we have raised – that each person is able to live where he or she chooses – continue to be upheld.

For now, we celebrate a victory. Thank you, Olmstead Sub-Cabinet. We look forward to continuing this journey of choice with people with disabilities and our communities.

About the Author

Sandi Gerdes

Sandi Gerdes, executive director of Laura Baker Services Association, has a 30-year history of leadership in the disabilities community. A longtime advocate for choice, Sandi has developed numerous innovative service programs tailored to the unique needs of the individuals the organization serves.

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