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Membership Emails

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Our brief update on some things we''re working on and what''s coming up this month.
The Monthly Briefing
September 2020
In September, we celebrated a win for children with disabilities in Oregon and settled a longstanding lawsuit to provide foster youth with vital mental health services in Los Angeles County. We applauded the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report recommending a phaseout of subminimum wages for people with disabilities, and contributed to “Plan Your Vote 2020” resources. We mourned the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We’re presenting at three webinars in October, and had press mentions in City and State New York magazine, in the Washington Post, and in Teen Vogue. We''re also looking forward to our 2020 Virtual Awards Reception celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on Tuesday, November 17 at 7 PM - more details to come! Thank you for your ongoing support, especially right now.
Visit Our Website
Win for Children with Disabilities: Judge Rules Oregon Systemic Federal Lawsuit Can Move Forward
On September 2, 2020, a federal judge denied a motion by the State of Oregon to dismiss a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of a class of children throughout the state by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), and by parents of children who have been deprived of the opportunity to attend a full day of school because of their disabilities. In the lawsuit, J.N. v. Oregon Department of Education, the plaintiffs allege that public schools throughout Oregon systematically and unnecessarily shorten the school day of children whose disabilities lead to challenging classroom behaviors, and that the state violates federal law by failing to take the steps necessary to ensure that these students receive the education to which they are entitled. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon on January 22, 2019.

The suit was filed by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), Disability Rights Oregon (DRO), and pro bono attorneys. In response to the judge’s ruling, Bazelon, DRO, NCYL, and COPAA released the following statement:

“We are heartened that the court’s ruling will bring us a step closer toward achieving a measure of equality for those Oregon students with disabilities who are consistently denied the opportunity to attend a full day of school. Every child deserves the chance to learn and reach their full potential. Being needlessly separated from other students and excluded from school while their classmates are learning sends an unmistakable message to children that they do not belong. This is no small thing in the life of a child.

With the right supports for teachers and students, virtually all children can learn in school alongside their classmates. Students whose disabilities impact their behaviors are no exception. Ensuring that students with disabilities are included in school will give them the foundation that they need to thrive in their classrooms and communities for years to come.

The judge’s decision means that these students—and the hundreds more that they represent—will have their day in court. We’re confident that we’ll prove that the State must do more to assure that all children with disabilities are provided access to the same education that is provided to their peers.

Read the press release here (PDF).

Read the Opinion and Order: Denial of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss - JN v OR Dept of Education here (PDF).

Read about J.N. v. Oregon Department of Education here.
Bazelon Center and Partners Reach Settlement with Los Angeles County to Provide Foster Youth with Vital Mental Health Services
On September 23, 2020, the County of Los Angeles entered into a new settlement of a longstanding lawsuit, Katie A v. Bontá, where it has made a number of commitments to significantly increase intensive home and community based mental health services for thousands of children and youth involved with the County''s foster care system.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2002, is a federal class action lawsuit against Los Angeles County and its Department of Children and Family Services, as well as California''s Department of Social Services and Department of Health Care Services. The suit challenged the County and state agencies for failing to provide necessary and legally mandated health care services to treat the mental health conditions of children. Separate settlement agreements were reached with both the state and LA County in the case.

Because of the lawsuit, the County has implemented a number of reforms since 2003 in the delivery of child welfare and mental health services. This week''s settlement focuses on foster youth who have more intensive but unmet mental health needs, such as those who have experienced placement disruptions, psychiatric hospitalizations, or have been placed in group homes, such as Short Term Residential Treatment Programs.

The County has agreed to implement new measures to provide intensive mental health services, including Intensive Care Coordination and Intensive Home Based Services, over the next nine months. As this is a class action lawsuit, the settlement will require court approval.

“The Katie A. case has led to tremendous reforms,” said Ira Burnim, Legal Director at Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. “We are pleased that additional progress will be made before the case ends.”

Read about case, Katie A v. Bontá, here.

Read the full press release online (PDF).

Read the settlement agreement (PDF).
Bazelon Center Applauds U.S. Civil Rights Commission for Recommending Phaseout of Subminimum Wage Employment for People with Disabilities
On September 17, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law hailed the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report issued today that recommends the phaseout of the Fair Labor Standards Act''s subminimum wage program for people with disabilities and expansion of the services needed to ensure that people currently receiving subminimum wages are supported to work in real jobs paying real wages.
"The subminimum wage program is based on antiquated assumptions about people with disabilities and it is past time to phase it out," said Jennifer Mathis, Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy at the Bazelon Center. "People with disabilities can and want to work, and we should support them in that endeavor rather than perpetuating a program that exploits their labor for pennies per hour. We hope that Congress will act on the Commission''s recommendations and end this outdated program." Mathis testified at the Commission''s hearing on November 15, 2019 that led to this report.
The program, developed in 1938, reflects a time when society had very different expectations for people with disabilities and opportunities for them to work were few and far between. For several decades now, supported employment services have proven highly successful in helping people with the most significant disabilities secure and maintain competitive, integrated employment. The subminimum wage program no longer makes sense in 2020, and instead serves as a dead-end for people with disabilities. The assumptions behind the subminimum wage program have been repeatedly proven false as hundreds of people with disabilities served by these programs succeeded in securing competitive integrated employment when given an opportunity to do so.
Download the report here.
Bazelon Center Statement on the Passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
We mourn the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pioneer for justice and a giant in the law. Justice Ginsburg changed the lives of American women and all Americans, particularly those without power. Most notably for people with disabilities, she authored the Supreme Court''s 1999 opinion in Olmstead v. L.C., concluding that needless institutionalization is a form of discrimination prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act. We honor the tremendous legacy left by Justice Ginsburg and will continue to use the law to fight for justice. 
Bazelon Center Contributes Voting Rights Guide to "Plan Your Vote 2020" Resources
The National Coalition for Accessible Voting (NCAV), comprised of the nation’s leading disability, veterans, and civil rights organizations, advocates for accessible, remote voting for all citizens and to preserve and expand the options granted under law for accessible, in-person voting. The Bazelon Center contributed to the drafting of NCAV''s "Plan Your Vote 2020" guide, a plain language guide for people with all types of disabilities. Our voting rights resources voting rights resources are also referenced in the guide. Plan Your Vote 2020 will help readers:

  • Register to vote or check their registration   
  • Decide how they will vote
  • Cast their vote by mail, early voting, or on Election Day
  • Find help if they have a problem casting their ballot
  • Answer questions about voting

Download “Plan Your Vote” here.

Access the Bazelon Center’s Voting Rights Guide and other resources directly here.
Bazelon Staff in the Virtual Field
  • On Thursday, September 17, Jennifer Mathis, the Bazelon Center''s Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy and Deputy Legal Director, co-presented a workshop, "The Importance of Olmstead for Effective Mental Health Systems," with Kathy Flaherty, Executive Director of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project. This presentation was part of Disability Rights Montana''s Virtual Conference, "Shifting the Narrative: An Intersectional Approach to Mental Health," held September 14 -18, 2020.

  • On Monday, September 21, Jennifer Mathis presented an in-service training to advocates across the county for the Young Center for Immigrant Children''s Rights. Her presentation was on federal disability rights laws, their integration mandate, and home and community-based services for children with mental health disabilities.

  • On Tuesday, September 22, Jennifer Mathis co-presented a "Federal Policy and National Advocacy Update," with Chuck Ingoglia of National Council for Behavioral Health and Ron Manderscheid of National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors, with Harvey Rosenthal of NYAPRS moderating. This presentation was part of NYAPRS Virtual 2020 Annual Conference, "Rise Up! Community, Connection, Culture," held during the days of September 22 and October 1, and the days and evenings of September 24 and September 29, 2020.

  • On Thursday, October 1, 2020 at 1:30 PM ET, the Bazelon Center Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Jennifer Mathis will join the Connecticut Legal Rights Project Executive Director Kathy Flaherty in presenting the webinar, “Olmsted in the Age of COVID.” The webinar, as part of a National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA) webinar series, is free. Read the full webinar description and register here.

  • On Friday October 2, 2020, 8:30 AM - 3:30 PM ET, Bazelon Center Senior Staff Attorney Lewis Bossing will be a presenter at the Drexel Law Review Symposium, ”Impactful Interactions: Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Legal System.” Lewis will present during the 11:15 AM - 12:30 PM panel, “Unequal Equality: How our Education System is Failing Americans with ASD.” The panel moderator will be Daniel M. Filler, Dean, Drexel University’s Kline School of Law, and his co-panelists will be Darlene Hemerka, Staff Attorney, The Public Interest Law Center; Terry Jean Seligmann, JD, Emerita Professor of Law, Drexel University’s Kline School of Law; and Jasmine E. Harris, Professor of Law, University of California – Davis, School of Law. Get full symposium details and register here.

  • On October 21, 2020, 11 AM – 2 PM ET, Jennifer Mathis will present at the National Business & Disability Council (NBDC) at The Viscardi Center’s “Virtual Disability Inclusion Summit: Moving from Awareness to Action in Celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).” Get details about the schedule as it develops and register hereNote: CART services will be provided.

Bazelon in the Media
  • Bazelon Center’s Legal Director Ira Burnim is quoted in this September 10, 2020 City & State New York magazine article, Should police respond to mental health calls? The death of Daniel Prude in Rochester has prompted calls to reimagine mental health crisis response.

  • Lewis Bossing, Bazelon Center Senior Staff Attorney, is quoted in the September 15, 2020 Washington Post article, “St. Elizabeth''s has increased usage of restraints on patients, report says.

  • The Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project® (DVP) Alice Wong mentions the Bazelon Center’s disability voting rights resources in the September 16, 2020 Teen Vogue article, “Voters With Disabilities Face Barriers in 2020 From COVID-19.
REMINDER: Save the Date for Bazelon Center 2020 Virtual Awards Reception: Tuesday, November 17
We have rescheduled our event celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 7 PM EST. The Honorable Tony Coelho will receive our Lifetime Achievement Award. Tickets will be FREE. We are grateful to our current sponsors for their flexibility and support:

Akin Gump, Anthem, AudioEye, Bank of America, Bender Consulting Group, Esquire Bank, Fox Kiser, Goldin Group, Microsoft,
PNC, Prudential and SCI.

Watch this space for details! Get information about sponsorship opportunities here.
Your Support Is Needed
The Bazelon Center relies on contributions from our allies to ensure that our staff can fight for protections and services for people with mental disabilities. Please consider making a gift today.
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