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According to an AP article, the US federal government is suing the state of Arkansas because, it is claimed, Arkansas "illegally segregates hundreds of individuals in institutions across the state and places hundreds more at risk of needless institutionalization." The first question will be, what is really provided? The feds say that the institutions are the only option for services, while the politicians in Little Rock say that they are one choice among many for consumers. More substantively, the courts will need to decide whether the institutions should be closed down or if they should be part of a broad spectrum of choices offered to consumers for support. 

I thank God for the conscientious objectors and others who exposed the abuse and neglect in large institutions in the US for people with disabilities including intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses. But I am concerned that this lawsuit may be one more nail in the coffin for choice for people with intellectual disabilities.

In Michigan, where I live, and I assume elsewhere as well, a movement is gaining strength to close down all homes for people with intellectual disabilities that have more than 6 residents, to close down sheltered workshops, to close down or at least urge people not to participate in gatherings of people with intellectual disabilities like Special Olympics or Friendship groups. 

On the CRC Disability Concerns Facebook page, I posted a recent document from a subcommittee of the Michigan Department of Community Health which advocates just that. In my view, this document patronizes people with intellectual disabilities by telling them that a fulfilling life does not include a whole variety of things like working in a sheltered workshop or living in a home that is licensed as an Adult Foster Care home. There are many people with intellectual disabilities for whom sheltered workshops and AFC homes are not appropriate. But there are some for whom this is the most appropriate and least restrictive environment.

I hope the new lawsuit against the state of Arkansas results in greater choice for people with disabilities, not in patronizing them with a one-size-fits-all plan.  

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