Perspectives: Implementing the New DOJ Agreement

“Georgia commits to improving the quality of community services for people with I/DD, particularly for people with complex needs.”

The United States v. Georgia case has now entered a new phase. The State has committed to taking additional steps to improve its community system for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in areas where the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Independent Reviewer found the State had not complied with terms of the 2010 Settlement Agreement.

The Developmental Disabilities Network is collaborating with the State to make significant changes to end unnecessary segregation and to make sure people with
I/DD live full lives in the community. Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO) helped to negotiate the extension to the 2010 Settlement Agreement to add necessary provisions to address long-standing problems, and the entire DD Network (Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, GAO, Institute on Human Development and Disability and Center for Leadership in Disability) are lending subject matter expertise to the implementation of needed systems reform.

The goal of the “Extension Agreement” is to ensure that all people with I/DD can live and thrive in the community, including people with complex needs. The major steps the State will take to reach this goal include:
• Transitioning individuals with I/DD from state hospitals to the community, using an improved transition process with enhanced post-move monitoring;
• Implementing a “high risk surveillance list” for individuals who have transitioned from state hospitals since 2010 to identify and immediately respond to gaps in services and medical and behavioral risks;
• Creating a statewide clinical oversight program to provide targeted expertise, technical assistance and oversight to community providers, support coordinators and medical professionals who provide services to individuals with I/DD who have complex medical or behavioral needs;
• Improving the state’s support coordination system to ensure that individuals with I/DD are receiving the services and supports they need to live full lives of their choosing integrated into the community;
• Addressing how crisis respite homes
will be used;
• Providing new waivers each year of the Extension Agreement to individuals with I/DD on the waiting list; and
• Improving its quality management system and recruiting additional providers to serve people with developmental disabilities and complex needs.

The Extension Agreement has been approved by US District Court Judge Pannell and is court-enforceable. The Independent Reviewer for the 2010 Agreement, Elizabeth Jones, will monitor Extension Agreement implementation.

This agreement will have broad impact on ALL people in the I/DD system, like changes to support coordination and access to the clinical oversight program for anyone with complex needs. Ongoing stakeholder engagement is critical in improving the system. This agreement should also align with other initiatives in the State like the Home and Community-Based Settings (HCBS) rule transition plan and the implementation of the Work Innovation and Opportunities Act – both of which are about more integrated and individualized supports for people with I/DD to live and work in the community.

Ruby Moore is executive director of the Georgia Advocacy Office.

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