FA Olmstead Session (GA and IA UCEDD)

December 30, 2016

Earlier this fall Sue Jamieson, prominent civil rights lawyer and lead attorney in Olmstead v. L.C., travelled to Iowa to speak at the HousingIowa Conference about the history of the landmark Supreme Court decision and the importance of housing in community integration. The session also featured Iowa's Money Follows the Person coordinator Brooke Lovelace and program participant Monnie Hall, and was moderated by Caitlin Owens, who along with Brooke works for Iowa's UCEDD at the Center for Disabilities and Development. Sue is the Disability Law Project Co-Director at the University of Georgia's Institute on Human Development and Disability (one of Georgia's two UCEDDs).

The session provided audience members, most of whom were housing developers and related professionals, with a full picture of the Olmstead decision. The goal of the session was to move the audience's understanding of the Olmstead decision beyond technical accessibility requirements and building codes by putting a human face to the decision and providing the audience with tangible examples of the impact it has had, and continues to have, on individuals, families, and communities.

Sue spoke about her early career and how a visit to a state psychiatric hospital in Florida changed her career path after she observed shocking lack of regard for basic human rights, and was deeply concerned by how isolated this population was from the rest of society and access to legal advocacy. Sue shared the history of the Olmstead decision, focusing heavily on community integration as a fundamental civil right and emphasizing that there is still much work to be done to fulfill the promise of Olmstead.

Brooke shared an overview of the Money Follows the Person program, including the impact it has had in Iowa. Monnie shared his experience transitioning from an institution to the community with support from Money Follows the Person including how he worked with a landlord to make necessary accommodations to the home he now rents, and the many freedoms of everyday life he now enjoys in the community. Brooke and Monnie effectively tied the history and legal precedent provided by Sue to actual work being done in Iowa to support the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the community, the impact it has on individuals who can thrive in the community with the right supports, and the crucial role affordable and accessible housing plays.

The conference was sponsored by the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA), a state agency that administers programs to assist low- and moderate-income Iowans attain housing. In addition to working closely with the Money Follows the Person, IFA has been an active state agency partner to Iowa's Olmstead Consumer Taskforce, which was created by Executive Order in 2000 to promote implementation of the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision in public policies and programs and advise the Governor's Office on strategies for addressing barriers to community integration.