December 6, 2021 – Jennifer Mathis, Director of Policy & Legal Advocacy at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law & Deputy Legal Director, joined the Biden Administration as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where she will help lead its disability rights work. Mathis supervised the Center’s policy advocacy and litigated complex lawsuits establishing the rights of individuals with mental disabilities. Her work promoted community integration and affording people with psychiatric disabilities the opportunity to lead the same kinds of lives as people without disabilities. Mathis helped coordinate the disability community’s efforts in the Supreme Court in the Olmstead case and has successfully litigated integration cases in states across the country. Read the Press Release (PDF) here.
November 10, 2021 – CVS Health Partners with Disability Community in Commitment to Affordable and Equitable Access to Health Care. CVS Health, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and the National Council on Independent Living today announced that they are working together to seek policy solutions to protect equitable access to health care for all Americans and continue to protect the fundamental rights of people with disabilities.Read our full joint statement (PDF) here. Access the Writ of Certiorari Dismissed document (PDF) here.
October 29, 2021 – The Bazelon Center, disability rights groups, and civil rights groups file amicus briefs to the urge Supreme Court to uphold protections against disability discrimination by rejecting CVS’ attempt to dismantle non-discrimination protections under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The case, CVS v. Doe, involves a CVS-managed prescription drug plan that requires people who need “specialty medications” to receive them by mail, instead of at their local pharmacy. Five individuals living with HIV sued over the requirement, arguing that it effectively prevents them from receiving needed care for their condition and represents discrimination based on their disability. CVS is arguing in the case that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act does not protect against claims of “disparate impact,” or when neutral policies or practices have disproportionate impacts on a protected class, in this case people with disabilities. CVS’ position is not only legally wrong, but threatens the rights of people with disabilities everywhere. Read our Amicus Brief (PDF) here. Read our press release (PDF) here.
September 14, 2021 – The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and fellow advocates for children with disabilities have reached an interim settlement agreement as part of a class action lawsuit with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). The agreement outlines the parties’ commitment to ensuring that Oregon students with disabilities who have been placed on shortened school days because of their behavior receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. It also requires the parties to select an expert to examine the use of shortened school days across the state, and to provide recommendations on what actions, if any, ODE should take to ensure that children with disabilities receive an appropriate education for a full school day whenever possible. The Bazelon Center filed the lawsuit in 2019 along with the National Center for Youth Law, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), Disability Rights Oregon, and pro bono attorneys. The plaintiffs, including COPAA and four individual students, are “heartened by this interim agreement” which they hope will lead to systemic changes ensuring that students with behavior-related disabilities are included in school for a full day with their classmates. Read the press release (PDF) here.Read the Interim Settlement Agreement (PDF) here.
August 27, 2021 – The lawsuit filed by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Mountain State Justice, Disability Rights of West Virginia, The Arc of the United States, and the law firm Latham Watkins LLP for two Kanawha County students with disabilities was certified as a class-action lawsuit. Judge Berger’s decision that the case should focus on all children removed from their classrooms for behavior related to their disabilities will expand its impact to hundreds of Kanawha County’s students. Lewis Bossing, Senior Staff Attorney of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, says “Judge Berger’s opinion makes clear that KCS’s failures to support its students with disabilities are systemic, and that systemic changes are needed. We hope that KCS will work with us to address the problems that Judge Berger has identified.” The judge suggested parties try to negotiate a resolution. If parties are unable to resolve their differences, the trial will be scheduled August 2022. See the case (PDF) here. See the press release (PDF) here.
July 26, 2021 – Last week, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Disability Rights DC, the National Center for Youth Law, and Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP presented overwhelming evidence of the District of Columbia’s failure to provide medically necessary services to hundreds of children with mental health disabilities. The evidence was provided in support of a motion for class certification. The plaintiffs’ motion includes testimony from advocates and providers working with D.C. children with mental health disabilities and their families. One mother recounts how her daughter has been in and out of D.C.’s psychiatric hospitals for children and has been sent away to institutions in Georgia and Florida for treatment, where the daughter was physically abused. Another parent tells the story of her child, who has been sent to residential facilities in Virginia and Tennessee for treatment. An advocate noted that many of her clients have been hospitalized 10 or more times for extended stays of 30 to 90 days. Many of the plaintiffs’ witnesses also emphasize the lack of effective mobile crisis services for children and youth, which have been shown elsewhere to reduce hospitalizations by de-escalating concerning situations in the community. In D.C., however, this too often results in a trip to the emergency room or a call to the police. We hope this spurs the District to work with us to address its systems for serving these children. Read the press release (PDF) here.Read the motion to certify (PDF) here.
July 15, 2021 The Bazelon Center co-authored an amicus brief alongside the ACLU and a coalition of disability rights organizations asking the court to recognize Britney Spears’s right to choose her own attorney. We are pleased to report that the court allowed Spears to be represented by an attorney of her choice. Read the Amicus Brief (PDF) here. Read the Press Release (PDF) here.
June 21, 2021The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the historical segregation, punishment, and policing inflicted disproportionately upon students with disabilities, particularly those of color. However, the pandemic has also forced school systems to accommodate their structure in newfound ways. During the Re-imagining Inclusion, Equity, and Opportunity in Schools event, keynote speakers, including Monique Dixon from the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, discuss equality in the classroom. This event will be taking place on the anniversary of Olmstead, June 22 at 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM EST. Register here. Read the press release (PDF) here.
April 27, 2021 The Bazelon Center, NAMI, Mental Health America, and NASMHPD urge all states to take advantage of new funding for community-based mental health services available through the American Rescue Plan. The American Rescue Plan is the most recent COVID-19 relief law enacted by Congress. It provides a significant increase in federal Medicaid funding for states that provide any of a specified set of home and community-based services, including mental health services, through the Medicaid program. See press release (PDF) here.
April 23, 2021 The Bazelon Center and its partners had concerns about what was happening in Alameda County. That and the lawsuit we filed prompted an unprecedented investigation. On April 22, 2021, The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division issued a letter of findings concluding that Alameda County’s mental health system is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and that conditions at the county’s Santa Rita Jail violate the U.S. Constitution and the ADA. This is the first-ever findings letter by DOJ that examines civil rights violations in a mental health system and a jail, and the relationship between the two. Read the press release (PDF).
March 31, 2021 The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of C.L., an Orange County speech-language pathologist with PTSD and other disabilities who relies on her psychiatric service dog, Aspen, to live independently. In the case C.L. v. Del Amo Hospital, The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Disability Rights Legal Center, and Derby McGuniness and Goldsmith LLP won their appeal as the Ninth Circuit rules that formal “certification” of a service dog is not required under the law. There will be further proceedings. See joint press release (PDF) here. See the appeal decision (PDF) here.
March 30, 2021 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. Pandemic or not, the Constitution requires that psychiatric institutions provide safe conditions and adequate medical care in accord with professional norms. The Bazelon Center urged the U.S. Court of Appeals to uphold the federal trial court’s decision that Saint Elizabeth’s without justification failed to follow CDC standards. Read the press release (PDF) here. Read the amicus brief (PDF) here.
March 9, 2021 The Bazelon Center, AAPD, and other members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) release their support of the nomination of Vanita Gupta to serve as the Associate Attorney General of the United States in the U.S. Department of Justice. The disability and aging rights community believe Vanita Gupta is a strong leader and stellar choice after years of working with our communities. Read the full joint (PDF) statement here.
February 25, 2021 Today, the Bazelon Center was one of fifteen groups representing patients, people with disabilities, and health care professionals filing an amicus brief in the case Cochran v. Gresham, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to protect access to health coverage as it considers the validity of work and community engagement requirements in Medicaid. The groups, which also include the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Hemophilia Federation of America, Mental Health America and The AIDS Institute, along with 8 others, cite the detrimental impacts these requirements would have on states’ most vulnerable residents.
To date, 12 states have been approved to implement such eligibility requirements in their Medicaid programs and several other states have similar applications pending. While lower courts had previously blocked work requirements ruling that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the previous administration, violated federal law by approving them, states have continued to pursue these barriers.
February 11, 2021 Today, The Bazelon Center and a national 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.” Crisis standards of care are used to decide who should receive priority for treatment when there are not enough resources to serve everyone. The report provides an explanation of crisis standards of care policies implemented by states and hospital systems and how they may discriminate against people with disabilities, older adults, higher weight people, as well as Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, in hospital care. It also outlines principles that can help prevent discrimination, the relevant civil rights legal framework, and recommended strategies to ensure that crisis standards do not discriminate during the pandemic or in the future. The report highlights the deaths of Michael Hickson—a Black father of five with multiple disabilities—and Sarah McSweeney—a white woman with significant disabilities—who were denied life-sustaining treatment by physicians who expressed clear biases regarding the value of their lives. The authors of the report include the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Arc of the United States, the Center for Public Representation, Justice in Aging, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the National Disability Rights Network, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Professor Jasmine Harris of the University of California, Davis School of Law, and Professor Natalie M. Chin of the City University of New York School of Law. See the full press release (PDF) here.See the intersectional crisis care guide (PDF) here.
February 8, 2021 A federal district court in Oregon ruled that a lawsuit filed by the Bazelon Center and other advocates on behalf of children with disabilities will move forward as a class action lawsuit. The Bazelon Center, the National Center for Youth Law, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), Disability Rights Oregon, and pro bono attorneys advocate for four individual students and COPAA against the Oregon Department of Education, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, and other state officials, and alleges that the state’s failure to educate students with disabilities for a full school day in their public schools, instead shortening their school day – in some cases by several hours a day – violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the federal Rehabilitation Act. This lawsuit requests systematic relief at the state level and can impact thousands of k-12 students with disabilities. Read the press release (PDF) here. View the judge’s decision (PDF) here.
January 26, 2021 Today attorneys 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 the borough’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. Disability Rights New York, The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and Disability Rights Advocates work together to support the plaintiffs, three Staten Island students with disabilities. They are not seeking monetary damages; rather, they seek reforms that will compel the New York City Department of Education to provide the resources necessary so that every Staten Island District 75 student has the opportunity to attend their neighborhood schools if they choose. Read the press release (PDF) here.View Class Action Complaint (PDF) here.
January 15, 2021 – In North Carolina, a coalition of advocates worked together to resolve medical rationing policies that have disproportionately impacted Black people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the complaint, North Carolina revised its “Protocol for Allocating Scarce Inpatient Critical Care Resources in a Pandemic” to comply with Disability Rights laws. The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law thanks coalition partners Disability Rights North Carolina, Center for Public Representation, The Arc of the United States, Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Samuel Bagenstos as we took a great step to ensure equitable allocation for critical care and resources. Read the press release (PDF) here.
January 13, 2021 – The Bazelon Center teams up with other leading mental health organizations NASMHPD, American Psychological Association, Mental Health America, and NAMI to call on states to include individuals with long-term psychiatric hospital stays in the highest priority group. We also urge state authorities to follow SAMHSA’s recommendation to use outpatient treatment options, when clinically appropriate, wherever possible to reduce risks of spread during the pandemic. Read the press release (PDF) here.
January 13, 2021 – The Connecticut Legal Rights Project (CLRP), the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and the Center for Public Representationachieved their goals of Wilkes v. Lamont, so the case was dismissed. This case was filed to address COVID related deaths and unsafe conditions in two of Connecticut’s state psychiatric hospitals, Connecticut Valley Hospital and Whiting Forensic Hospital. Thank you Governor Ned Lamont, The Governor’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for recognizing individuals in psychiatric hospitals should be a vaccination priority. Read the press release (PDF) here. View the case (PDF) here.
November 9, 2020 – National disability groups are closely following the Supreme Court’s consideration of the challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) brought by Texas and 19 other states and supported by the Trump Administration. Texas argues that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the entire law must be struck down. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case, California v. Texas, on Tuesday, November 10th. The Judge Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and 16 other leading disability rights organizations, represented pro bono by law firms Dentons and Baker Hostetler, filed anamicus brief with the US Supreme Court highlighting the crucial health care protections that Congress provided for people with disabilities in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA prevents people from being denied coverage or charged more due to pre-existing conditions and made coverage of needed services available and affordable to millions of people with disabilities for the first time. Read the press release (PDF) here. Read the amicus brief (PDF) here.
October 26, 2020 – Today, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, together with thirteen of the nation’s largest disability organizations have joined together to urge all Americans who care about issues related to disability to vote on November 3rd. These organizations today released the following collective statement. Read the statement (PDF) here.
October 6, 2020 –Today, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, together with fourteen other disability and civil rights groups, sent a letter to the Conference of Chief Justices urging the conference to endorse the widespread adoption of temporary diploma privilege, for individuals applying for admission to the bar during the ongoing pandemic. In-person bar examinations during the COVID-19 pandemic pose a significant danger for communities of color and people with disabilities because of the disproportionate infection and death rates in those communities. This policy would allow qualified law school graduates to practice law without sitting for the bar exam during the pandemic. Read the press release here (PDF). Read the letter (PDF) here.
September 23, 2020 – The County of Los Angeles has entered into a new settlement of a longstanding lawsuit, Katie A v. Bontá, where it has made a number of commitments to significantly increase intensive home and community based mental health services for thousands of children and youth involved with the County’s foster care system. Read the press release (PDF).
July 22, 2020 – In an effort to put an end to tragic police shootings of residents with disabilities who are all too often Black Baltimoreans, especially after the shooting of Ricky Walker, Jr. by Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) officers, the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law partnered with a coalition of civil rights groups to demand immediate action from Baltimore City officials. Read the press release (PDF). Read the letter (PDF).
June 23, 2020– Today the Dane County (WI) Criminal Justice Council (CJC) announced a new partnership with the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. This partnership highlights the CJC’s ongoing commitment to public safety, equity and data driven justice. The technical assistance award is available to the CJC through the partnership with the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge. Bazelon’s technical assistance will include review of state and national funding streams available to reduce the number of individuals experiencing serious mental health issues in the Dane County jail, as well as innovative alternatives to incarceration (before jail). Read the full press release (PDF).
June 10, 2020 – The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, and Center for Public Representation this week filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in a class action case challenging Connecticut’s failure to take adequate steps to protect residents of two state psychiatric hospitals from contracting and dying from COVID-19. Both hospitals, Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH) and Whiting Forensic Hospital (WFH), have had outbreaks of the virus. Five patients at CVH have died from COVID-19. At CVH and WFH, Defendants have confirmed 73 cases of COVID-19 among patients and 64 cases among staff, since testing began. Read the full press release (PDF).
April 8, 2020 – Today, in response to a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) by the Alabama Disability Advocacy Program (ADAP), the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and other disability rights advocates, the state of Alabama has withdrawn its discriminatory ventilator rationing policy and instructed hospitals across the state that they cannot discriminate against people with disabilities in accessing treatment. The previous policy placed the lives of disabled adults and children at serious risk, in violation of federal law, by ordering hospitals to “not offer mechanical ventilator support for patients” with “severe or profound mental retardation,” “moderate to severe dementia,” and “severe traumatic brain injury.” Read the press release (PDF) and read the original complaint (PDF).
April 6, 2020 – The Judge David L. Bazelon Center, together with the Disability Law Center (DLC), the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Arc of the United States, the Center for Public Representation, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and Samuel Bagenstos, filed a complaint today with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) contending that Utah’s treatment rationing plan discriminates against people with disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws. The complainant is DLC on behalf of Utahns with disabilities who will likely die if medical professionals are allowed to withhold health care services from them on the basis of their disabilities. The complaint asks HHS to take immediate action to address this discrimination and assist local jurisdictions and providers to develop non-discriminatory approaches before there are lethal consequences to application of these illegal policies. Read the press release (PDF) and the complaint (PDF).
April 3, 2020– The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and partners released today a guidance document for states and hospitals on avoiding disability discrimination in the event of rationing of life-saving medical treatment. The guidance is based on the bulletin that the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights issued on March 28 concerning the requirements of federal disability rights laws in the context of rationing scarce medical treatment. The guidance explains how the principles in HHS’s bulletin would apply in practical terms, what those principles mean for covered entities developing and implementing rationing protocols, and what concrete steps can be taken to comply with federal law. The guidance is endorsed by nearly 90 national disability rights organizations. Read the press release (PDF) and the guidance (PDF).
March 24, 2020 – The Judge David L. Bazelon Center, together with the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, the Arc of the United States, the Center for Public Representation, and Samuel Bagenstos, filed a complaint today with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) contending that Alabama’s ventilator rationing plan discriminates against people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws. The complainants are ADAP and The Arc, on behalf of Alabamians with intellectual and cognitive disabilities who will likely die if medical professionals are allowed to withhold health care services from them on the basis of their disabilities. The complaints ask HHS to take immediate action to address this discrimination and assist local jurisdictions and providers to develop non-discriminatory approaches before there are lethal consequences to application of these illegal policies. The day before, we filed a complaint challenging Washington state’s discriminatory scheme to ration COVID-19 treatment. Read the press release (PDF) and the complaint (PDF).
March 2, 2020 – The Honorable Judge Michael H. Watson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio has granted final approval to a comprehensive settlement agreement in the class action Doe v. State of Ohio, case number 2:91- cv-00464. The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Disability Rights Ohio (DRO), and the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson worked with the Ohio Department of Education to reach a settlement that will improve the State’s support for special education throughout Ohio and support improvement in student outcomes. In addition, the settlement will provide intensive support to 11 of Ohio’s school districts to secure measurable improvements in student performance and inclusion for children with disabilities. The settlement will be in effect for five years.Read the release (PDF).
October 23, 2019 – The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, as part of a coalition of organizations including disability rights, civil rights, education, and privacy groups sent a letter to Senator Cornyn expressing concern aboutlegislationhe introduced today, the Restoring, Enhancing, Strengthening, and Promoting Our Nation’s Safety Efforts (RESPONSE) Act. Read the release (PDF) and the letter (PDF).
September 26, 2019 –The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a national legal advocacy organization advancing the rights of people with mental disabilities, as part of a coalition of 38 organizations including leaders and allies in disability rights, civil rights, education, and privacy communities, issued a joint statement affirming that mental health disabilities are not predictors of gun violence and that people with mental health disabilities must not be scapegoated for the acts of mass gun violence in this country. Read the release (PDF) and the joint statement (PDF). [Updated November 8, 2019: There are now 110 groups signed on to the Coalition for Smart Safety statement. Read the updated joint statement (PDF).]