Petition to Ohio Governor John Kasich,
Ohio House and Senate Members.
Ohioans Demand Protection for Sheltered Workshops, Developmental Centers. Ohio Adults with debilitating intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) will be irreparably harmed if some of the Kasich Administration’s Employment First sheltered workshop budget and
policy proposals are enacted.
We applaud the Administration’s Employment First’s goals to increase vocation training, funding, and community employment for Ohio’s Disabled Citizens.However, Employment First has four critical failures: 1) misapplication of the Olmstead Decision and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); 2) mistaken justification of replacement of sheltered
workshop proposals by citing recent Federal CMS Regulations; 3) not recognizing that a significant proportion of the disabled cannot work in the community; and 4) decreasing the choices and
increasing the isolation of Ohio’s most disabled citizens. We believe that Ohio should continue to promote the existing sheltered workshop model through policies, direct State funding, and through Ohio CMS Medicaid Waivers.
Employment First is enabling the Justice Department’s misapplication of the Olmstead Court’s
interpretation of the ADA. The Kasich Admiration’s proposed Ohio Medicaid Budget contains many
Employment First proposals. One stated budget goal is to “replace workshops and facility-based day
services with new service models that promote community employment and integrated day
services.” The Administration cites recent increased federal scrutiny for their goal. Specifically they
cite one interim settlement agreement and two “DOJ” lawsuits as support for their workshop
elimination proposals. These DOJ efforts are actually the working of Disability Rights, a “private”
organization funded in part with DOJ funding. This group’s Ohio Chapter, Disability Rights Ohio
(DRO), has threatened to sue Ohio if it does not close the sheltered workshops (among other
issues). Rather than ignore or resist the DRO, the Administration appears to be assisting the DRO’s
misguided goals. As the recent Ohio Transition Plan’s public comment period uncovered, the DRO
does not speak for all of Ohio’s disabled. DRO is misapplying Olmstead’s limited ruling that
individuals with mental disabilities have the right to live in the community rather than in
institutions if “the State’s treatment professionals have determined that community placement is
appropriate, the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the
affected individual, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the
resources available to the State and the needs of others with mental disabilities.” Olmstead v. L.C. ,
527 U.S. 581 (1999) DRO is attempting to use this narrow residential decision to force Ohio to shut down its non-residential sheltered workshops. This is the exact misapplication that the majority of
the Olmstead Court sought to prevent: “We emphasize that nothing in the ADA or its implementing regulations condones termination of institutional settings for persons unable to handle or benefit from community settings…Nor is there any federal requirement that community-based treatment be imposed on patients who do not desire it.” Id. at 601-602.
Second, the Administration is also mistaken in justifying its replacement of sheltered workshop,developmental centers proposals by citing recent Federal CMS Regulations that convey expectations regarding person-centered plans of care and to provide characteristics of settings that
are home and community-based. The Administration implies without support that sheltered workshops are not integrated in nor support full access of individuals receiving Medicaid HCBS to
the greater community, do not include opportunities to seek employment and work in competitive integrated settings, do not engage in community life, control personal resources, nor receive
services in the community, to the same degree of access as individuals not receiving Medicaid HCBS.
Absent in the Federal Regulations cited is a definite statement that sheltered workshops do not comply with these regulations. In fact, in its last “Exploratory Questions to Assist States in
Assessment of Non-Residential Home and Community-Based Service (HCBS) Settings,” the Federal CMS admits that; “(t)he manner in which each of these services meets the HCB settings requirements may vary.” The Administration seems to fudge this ambiguity by noting that “the CMS
is currently working with stakeholders to clarify expectations of this new rule for day activity services, and additional guidance will be forthcoming.” It also ignores that many Ohio Disabled
citizens choose to remain in sheltered works because it meets their unique needs as outlined in their person-centered plans. Statistics show many individuals with I/DD have not shown an interest
in supported/competitive employment, and the majority who have tried it, ultimately return to sheltered employment.
Third, the Kasich Administration’s Employment First policies and budget fail to recognize that a significant proportion of disabled Ohioans simply cannot work in the community. These Ohio citizens suffer from various debilitating intellectual or developmental disabilities including autism, moderate to severe mental retardation, and cerebral palsy. As a result, the Administration’s contention that mainstream employment opportunities exist for all or even a significant number of
developmentally disabled persons is largely wishful thinking. It’s hard for anyone to get a job these days. In many cases, the newly “employed” individual ends up leaving a 29-hour a week job in a sheltered workshop for one where the individual only works one or two days a week for four hours a day. Working eight hours a week washing dishes alone in a restaurant kitchen is hardly integration into the community. Many families of the participants maintain that the sheltered work
shop programs provide them with useful skills and meaningful activities, and that there is nothing about them that segregates or isolates people.
Fourth, the Administration’s Employment First policies and budget will actually decrease choice and increase the isolation of Ohio’s most disabled citizens. Sheltered workshops throughout the U. S. provide a safe environment for adults with I/DD to work, interact with their peers, and gain a sense of accomplishment. These facilities also provide transportation, off-site day habitation programs, and opportunities to for new experiences including taking a vacation or going on a camping trip. Individuals who choose to work in sheltered workshops are happy, safe, fulfilled, and are among their friends and peers. As the other disabled co-workers obtain or are forced to obtain “employment” in the community, the lower functioning disabled citizens that remain will become
more isolated. If sheltered workshops employing hundreds of developmentally disabled persons throughout the state are closed, most of those participants will end up in day-care nursing homes,
many of which offer few skill-based activities, much less any sort of wages for performing them. It is also about forcing people into a theoretical model of care, which, as usual, denies them and their families/legal guardians any say in that model. Community employment is not the answer for everyone. We need sheltered workshops! We should be creating more employment opportunities for people with disabilities – not eliminating options.
Olmstead and the ADA were not meant to take choice or any other kind of employment option away from persons with I/DD. Let your voice be heard and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. It is our responsibility to provide opportunities and support for individuals with
developmental disabilities. Do not deprive them of their choices and force them into settings which will diminish their quality of life. Help us protect sheltered workshops across Ohio and the nation!