On June 22, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), sent letters to governors in all 50 states (identical to the letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo) asking for specific information about each states' efforts to ensure their compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Olmstead ruling. The ruling requires that individuals with disabilities be able to live and work in the most integrated community settings possible.
This request is the first time the federal government has asked for information on states' strategies to implement Olmstead's mandate of increased community integration outside of specific litigation. Specifically, Harkin asked each governor to provide the HELP committee with the following:
- Their state's strategic plan to increase community integration for individuals with disabilities;
- The number of people moved from institutions into home and community based settings;
- The amount of state funds used to provide services for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, broken down by setting category;
- The extent to which the state has expanded its capacity to serve individuals in their own homes, including money spent on the expansion; and
- Policy recommendations that would assist the state in implementing its plans.
Harkin explained that this request stems from concern HELP has following a Senate hearing addressing progress made in ADA/Olmstead enforcement that too many individuals with disabilities remain unable to receive necessary services in integrated settings and outlined a variety of tools available through Medicaid to assist states in providing community-based services.