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June 17, 2021 – The Bazelon Center Applauds the Supreme Court for Upholding the Affordable Care Act for the Third Time
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge by Texas and other states to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. In California v. Texas, Texas and 17 other states challenged the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act based on the mandate that requires people to have health insurance. Texas argued that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the entire law should be struck down. The Supreme Court rejected these claims because the plaintiff states did not have the standing to bring them. Texas and the other plaintiffs failed to show that they were harmed as a result of any unlawful conduct by the government. “Today’s decision is an enormous victory for people with disabilities and for all Americans,” said Jennifer Mathis, Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. “The Affordable Care Act has saved lives and enabled millions of people with disabilities to live full lives in their own homes and communities.” Read the full alert.
May 14, 2021 – Bazelon Center Praises Passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
The Bazelon Center praises the recent passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Jennifer Mathis, the Bazelon Center’s Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy and co-chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities CCD Rights Task Force, had urged the House of Representatives to support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, H.R. 1065. This bill prohibits employment practices that fail to extend reasonable accommodations to qualified employees affected by a pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This act is not only important for pregnant women, but for our national economy and people with disabilities. Read our letter of support (PDF) here.
April 26, 2021 – DOJ Finds that Alameda County, CA Violates the ADA and the U.S. Constitution
The Bazelon Center and its partners reported concerns about what was happening in Alameda and later filed a lawsuit against the County.  DOJ’s Civil Rights Division conducted an unprecedented investigation into both the County’s mental health system and its jail. On April 22, 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued findings that “people with mental health disabilities in Alameda County find themselves unnecessarily cycling in and out of psychiatric institutions and jails because they lack access to proven services that would allow them to recover and participate in community life.” Read the DOJ’s conclusion.
March 25, 2021 – Bazelon Center Files Amicus Brief Supporting Plaintiffs in Class Action Case Challenging Patient Safety Violations at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital
On March 25, 2020, the Bazelon Center of Mental Health Law filed an amicus brief along with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), National Council of Independent Living, and Mental Health America in a case against the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health and Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital to address the risks to and protect the rights of psychiatric patients at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital. “DC is arguing that it may ignore the CDC’s guidelines if it chooses,” said Ira Burnim, Legal Director at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. “That is irresponsible, and it is contrary to well-established constitutional protections.” Read the amicus brief (PDF) here.
March 30, 2021 – Bazelon Center Wins Appeal in Psychiatric Service Dog Case
On March 30, a three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated the United States District Court for the Central District of California judgment in the Bazelon Center case, C.L. v. Del Amo Hospital, in favor of the defendant in an action seeking injunctive relief under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination in “places of public accommodation,” including hospitals. The panel’s opinion, written by Judge Ronald M. Gould, held that the district court erred as a matter of law by effectively imposing a certification requirement for C.L.’s dog to be qualified as a service animal. Read the full Ninth Circuit decision (PDF) here.
February 23, 2021 – Tell Your Representative to Support COVID-19 Relief
The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on the latest COVID-19 relief legislation. This legislation includes provisions sought by the disability community to provide additional Medicaid funding for home and community-based services to enable people with disabilities and older adults to transition out of or be diverted from the congregate care settings. These settings have posed dangerous risks of COVID-19 transmission. These provisions, which explicitly include community-based mental health services, are critical to saving lives. It is important that they remain in the final legislation. Please ask your representative to support the legislation and ensure that these provisions are included in the final bill. Read the Medicaid provisions of the legislation (PDF).
February 11, 2021 – The Bazelon Center and a Coalition of Civil Rights Groups and Legal Scholars Release a Guide to Prevent Intersectional Medical Discrimination During COVID-19
Today, a coalition of civil rights groups and legal scholars announce the release of a new report: “Examining How Crisis Standards of Care May Lead to Intersectional Medical Discrimination Against COVID-19 Patients.” The report explores and addresses how crisis standards of care may perpetuate medical discrimination against people with disabilities, older adults, higher weight people, as well as Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, in hospital care. Many face pervasive negative biases and inaccurate assumptions about their value, quality of life, capacity to communicate and make decisions, and likelihood of survival. During this pandemic, these biases can have deadly consequences when hospitals must make decisions about which critically ill patients should receive treatment. Read the full report.
January 26, 2021 – Bazelon Center and Partners File Lawsuit to End Segregation of District 75 Staten Island Students
Today the Bazelon Center and partners filed a major class action lawsuit challenging New York City’s segregated school system for students with disabilities on Staten Island. The lawsuit alleges that New York City’s separate school district for children with disabilities, known as District 75, denies these students an equal education, forcing them into segregated schools and classrooms without adequate resources and with no meaningful opportunity to be integrated into their community schools. Black students with disabilities are overrepresented in segregated District 75 schools. “For students with disabilities, education in an integrated classroom is not just a civil right – it’s where they belong and do better,” said Lewis Bossing, Senior Staff Attorney at the Bazelon Center. Read the full alert.
January 15, 2021 – NC Expands COVID-19 Medical Rationing Protections for the Disabled in Response to Civil Rights Complaint
The US Department of Health & Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) resolved a federal complaint filed by Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC) and The Arc of North Carolina alleging that North Carolina’s scarce medical resource plan illegally deprioritized people with disabilities in the allocation of lifesaving care. Medical rationing policies have also disproportionately impacted Black people with disabilities, because they have higher rates of COVID-19 infection and hospitalization. In response to the complaint and engagement with OCR, North Carolina has revised its “Protocol for Allocating Scarce Inpatient Critical Care Resources in a Pandemic” to comply with federal disability rights laws and ensure that people with disabilities will not encounter discrimination even when public health emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitate the rationing of medical resources. Read the full alert.
January 14, 2021 – The Bazelon Center Calls on States to Include Individuals in Psychiatric Hospitals for Priority Vaccination
On December 3, 2020, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices issued recommendations for allocating initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccine. The Committee’s recommendations do not directly address whether psychiatric inpatients are or should be included among those first to receive the vaccine (Phase 1A). To implement the CDC’s recommendations, state authorities making vaccine allocation decisions should: include psychiatric inpatients whose hospital stay is likely to be weeks or months in the first group to receive the vaccine (phase 1a), give short-term psychiatric inpatients the same priority as other hospital inpatients, and require that hospital discharge plans provide for the administration of a second dose of the vaccine. Read the full alert.