CPR Highlights the Critical Need for Department of Justice Efforts for People with Disabilities

July 18, 2023

At two sessions with the senior leadership of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, including Assistant Attorney General Kristin Clarke, CPR’s Legal Director, Steven Schwartz, discussed several key ADA enforcement priorities for people with disabilities.  During the first session on May 19, 2023, he acknowledged the important work of DOJ in its challenges to police violence and discriminatory practices against people with mental illness by law enforcement programs in Louisville, Kentucky, Oklahoma County, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.  He noted that these entities, like police departments in most states, routinely and inappropriately dispatch law enforcement personnel, rather than mental health clinicians, to respond to non-violent emergency crisis calls.  He urged DOJ to expand its ADA investigations on this issue and establish national ADA standards on 911 dispatch programs. 

At the second session on July 17, 2023, Schwartz explained that prior DOJ investigations into segregated sheltered workshops for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities had created precedents that inspired voluntary compliance by several other States.  He urged DOJ to resume its investigations of segregated employment settings, particularly for people with psychiatric disabilities, in order to challenge ongoing ADA violations. 

Finally, he stated that nursing facilities remain the primary segregated setting for people with disabilities.  ADA challenges to these institutions are particularly urgent, given the devastating impact of the pandemic in nursing facilities, and its disproportionate impact on communities of color.  While DOJ has previously focused its work on specific categories of disabilities, he noted that nursing facilities in general, and COVID in particular, do not distinguish between disabilities.  Schwartz urged DOJ to undertake cross-disability investigations of nursing facilities, and seek a comprehensive informed choice process as part of its remedial reforms.