Imagine a time when there were no supports for Oregonians with developmental disabilities living on their own or with their families. A time where there were extensive wait lists for group or foster care homes. A time when a family had to be in crisis in order to receive supports. A time when some people waited over a decade to receive any services at all.

Rewind two decades and you’re there.

Twenty years ago today, history was made and the face of disability services in Oregon was fundamentally changed.

The families of five Oregonians with developmental disabilities filed suit against the state of Oregon on January 14th, 2000. The lawsuit alleged that Oregon failed to offer services to adults with disabilities in the most integrated possible setting and failed to offer services with reasonable promptness. Staley v. Kitzhaber became a class action, representing thousands of people statewide. The suit opened new doors to Oregonians with disabilities, ultimately paving the way for the development of progressive support services brokerages. The suit was filed just one month before the closure of Oregon’s state institution Fairview Training Center, and a settlement was reached in September of 2000. Implementation of the settlement agreement began on July 1st, 2001.

Beyond creating in-home brokerage supports, the agreement pressed for a significant reduction of the number of people waiting for non-crisis out-of-home options through an expansion of comprehensive services for up to 300 eligible individuals statewide.

Hats off to the self-advocates, families, community members, and policymakers who had the determination, strength, and tenacity to press for historic change in the lives of Oregonians with disabilities. What an extraordinary group of visionaries!

Throughout 2020, we will celebrate and illuminate key milestones in Oregon’s disability history. In celebration of the 20 year anniversary of the Staley filing, check out this article by Bill Lynch, then-director of the Oregon Developmental Disabilities Council (now known as OCDD). Lynch’s piece, Waitlist Families Sue State was printed in the April 2000 edition of The Clarion.

Waitlist Families Sue State

By Bill Lynch of The Oregon Developmental Disabilities Council

The lawsuit alleges that the State of Oregon failed to provide services in the most integrated possible setting to adults with mental retardation and/or developmental disabilities eligible for placement in an ICF/MR (intermediate care facility for the mentally retarded) and that individuals with developmental disabilities are entitled to receive Medicaid-Funded services with reasonable promptness. The Oregon Advocacy Center (editor’s note: now Disability Rights Oregon), Legal Aid Services of Oregon and the law firm of Garvey Schubert & Barer represent the plaintiffs, including five individually named persons with disabilities and The Arc of Oregon.

In a bold move designed to get sorely needed publicly­ funded services, families of  five Oregonians on wait lists for developmental disability services filed suit against the state. Legal assistance to the families is being provided by the Oregon Advocacy Center (OAC), Aid Services of Oregon, and the law firm Garvey, Schubert & Barer. The suit is based on federal Medicaid law which requires that Medicaid eligible individuals with developmental disabilities receive services within a reasonable period of time. The suit further states that the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires services to be provided in the most integrated setting.

Four of the families need residential placements for their sons and daughters who require round-the-clock care. These individuals are receiving minimal or no services. Their parents are aging and have various health problems that limit their ability to continue providing 24-hour care.

Jim Staley, one of the plaintiffs, has been waiting for services for 15 years. He has severe mental retardation and health problems. Jim is non-verbal and needs assistance in most tasks of daily living. His mother, Karen Staley, feels a sense of urgency to get him into a residential program. “We are both retired and we want to be here to see Jim transition and support the changes in his life instead of him having to deal with the crisis of our death and changes that would be forced upon him then.”

Diann Drummond needs intensive supports so she can continue to care for her daughter, Molly, also a litigant in the suit. Drummond, who is a single parent, would like to keep Molly at home as ong as possible. Molly is non-verbal and has no self care skills. Currently, Drummond is having to bear the cost for in-home respite care and a full day program in the community. After the suit was filed, state officials agreed to enter into settlement talks. The suit was put on hold for 45 days while the parties meet to negotiate an agreement. If a settlement  cannot be reached, the litigants will continue forward with the lawsuit.

Photo Description: Lawsuit families make statements at a news conference. From left around table, litigant Helen Healy and her mother Susan Schrepping, litigant John Duffield, litigant Molly Drummond and her mother Diann Drummond, Michael Bailey, Brena Flota (her daughter Brandie Evans behind her is a litigant), Karen Staley and litigant Jim Staley.

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