Williams v. Quinn challenges Illinois’ segregation of individuals with mental illnesses in intermediate care nursing facilities. More than 4,000 people are housed in such facilities in Illinois, commonly referred to as “IMDs” (“institutions for mental diseases”).

The class action complaint, filed in 2005, alleges that IMD residents are “needlessly segregated and inappropriately warehoused” in violation of federal laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They asked a federal district court in Chicago to order state agencies to develop suitable community-based alternatives for them. The plaintiffs cited the 1999 Olmstead decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which requires states to serve people with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

The complaint details the highly regimented nature of the IMDs. These facilities offer no privacy and many provide little to no services. Most residents get federal disability benefits, but must sign over their monthly checks to the facility and receive an allowance of only $30 a month.

In March 2010, the plaintiffs and the State of Illinois agreed to a settlement.  The settlement, which was approved by the Court on September 30, 2010, will allow IMD residents to be served in more integrated settings.  It commits Illinois, over a period of years, to develop more supportive housing and offer IMD residents the opportunity to live and receive services in integrated, community settings.

According to the court-appointed monitor’s report issued in July of 2015, so far more than 1.300 class members have transitioned from IMDs to community settings.


U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois


April 26, 2006




Ethel Williams, Han Wrightsell, Donell Hall and Edward Brandon, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated


Pat Quinn, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of Illinois