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In Case You Missed It: PBS NewsHour Covers HELP Chairman Harkin’s Investigation Showing ADA’s Promise of Integration is Not Being Met for Many Americans with Disabilities

“NewsHour” Segment Also Features Ricardo Thornton, Who Was Warehoused—Until His Early Twenties—in an Institution for Individuals with Disabilities; Thornton Testified Before the HELP Committee in 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In case you missed it, PBS’ NewsHour program last night reported on an investigation issued by Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) showing that the civil rights promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are not being met for many individuals with disabilities. Harkin’s report showed that many states are failing to live up to the integration mandate of the ADA, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. in 1999 that the unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities in institutions is a violation of the ADA.

The report, titled “Separate and Unequal: States Fail to Fulfill the Community Living Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” is the result of requests for information sent by Chairman Harkin to all 50 states on the progress made to transition individuals out of institutions.  Harkin, who is the Senate author of the landmark ADA, has long sought to ensure that all Americans have a real choice to receive Medicaid-funded care in the community.  The HELP Committee report is a comprehensive review of the types of community-based services states provide to individuals with disabilities compared to the institution-based services they must provide. 

The investigation revealed that almost a quarter of a million working-age Americans remain unfairly segregated in nursing homes, and the number of working-age Americans with disabilities confined to nursing homes is actually growing.  While progress has been made nationally, by 2010 only 12 states spent more than 50 percent of Medicaid funds on community-based care instead of institutional care.

The NewsHour segment, titled “Limited Funds, Lingering Bias Has Delayed States' ADA Compliance,” also featured an interview with Ricardo Thornton, who was warehoused—until his early twenties—in an institution for individuals with disabilities. Today, Mr. Thornton, who testified before the Senate HELP Committee in 2012, works at a public library, is married with a son and granddaughter, and lives in Washington, D.C.

The story can be seen HERE.