The MENTOR Network recently observed the 15th anniversary of a Supreme Court ruling that changed the lives of countless Americans with disabilities. On June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C. that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals with disabilities have the right to live in the setting and community of their choice.
Now known as the Olmstead decision, the landmark ruling helps individuals with disabilities live in supportive residences in the community alongside people without disabilities. States must provide such opportunities through community-based supports and residential programs.
Before and after the Olmstead decision, The MENTOR Network has been committed to helping people with disabilities lead full lives in the communities of their choice. We have been at the forefront of moving individuals from institutions into supportive, community-based programs and continue to help each person we serve live life to the fullest. Since the Olmstead decision, we have partnered with additional states to further expand choices and opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For example, through programs in Georgia, New Jersey and Mississippi, we’ve created community-based residences, as well as Host Home programs, innovative day programs and hourly supports that allow these individuals—and their families—to build increasingly rich, independent lives.
Since January 2012, New Jersey MENTOR—a partner of The MENTOR Network—has partnered with the Division of Developmental Disabilities to help 107 individuals move into the community from institutional settings. New Jersey MENTOR currently provides shared or independent living apartments and 34 beautiful community living residences throughout the Garden State.
“New Jersey MENTOR has been extremely successful in creating community living options as an alternate to institutionalization for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Joanne Kirk, New Jersey MENTOR’s director of operations. “It is our philosophy that people should be afforded the benefits and enjoyment of being part of a community. Our goal is to provide more individualized, person-centered opportunities through group homes or shared apartments. Both shared-living experiences allow individuals to participate in vocational, educational, recreational and social aspects through robust support and programming.”
REM Mississippi is another partner of The MENTOR Network that has had recent success providing community-based options for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. After an inspection by the Department of Justice found that thousands of people were unnecessarily institutionalized in violation of the Olmstead decision, we jumped in to help. We have formed a solid partnership with state officials, as well as advocates, families and people in need of our supports. We predict that, together, we will meet the needs of Mississippi’s most vulnerable citizens and offer the choices in the community that everyone agrees they deserve.