A federal judge has taken a Minnesota state agency to task over its plan to integrate people with disabilities into the broader community.
In his ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank said Minnesota's proposed "Olmstead Plan" was too vague and lacks "concrete, reliable and realistic commitments" on firm timelines and deadlines for implementation.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services is required to say how it will provide the means for people with disabilities to live as independently as possible, which it agreed to do in a 2011 court settlement. The state had been sued over use of restraints in an institution.
Olmstead Plan refers to a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Olmstead v. L.C., that made it unlawful to keep people with disabilities in institutions when they could live in the community.
Frank said the state's plan doesn't show the same "passion and care" for people with disabilities as it did in the settlement.
"Nearly three years have passed since the court approved the settlement agreement, and yet the record before the court indicates that many of the improvements heralded by the state have yet to be realized," he wrote.
The judge's ruling sets back a process that Gov. Mark Dayton tried to push forward by forming a group, the Olmstead Sub-Cabinet, to focus on securing federal court approval. Frank ordered a revised Olmstead Plan by July 10.
The state first submitted a plan in November 2013.
Olmstead Sub-Cabinet Chairwoman Mary Tingerthal says she's disappointed by Wednesday's ruling because the state has already made progress in its implementation efforts, including obtaining federal grants for housing assistance vouchers for people with disabilities.
"The court has been disappointed in the magnitude of the number of people that we've indicated we think can move into the community," she said. "So we've included the measurable goals but the court is not convinced that they're large enough."
The 159-page plan includes data on the number of people with disabilities living or working in segregated settings and estimates how many of them may want to move into a community setting, per year over the next five years.
The Minnesota Disability Law Center shared opinions with the court about the plan.
The center's legal director Pamela Hoopes said the state's Olmstead Plan lacks concrete data about various services offered to people with disabilities, from housing and education to transportation and employment opportunities.
But she added that it's a challenge to navigate such a broad, statewide plan. The state must work with various parties to establish "aggressive but reasonable outcomes."
"Minnesota has a lot of services that aren't in big institutions," she said, "but there are still many services where people are separated out from mainstream society." Many people with disabilities still participate in segregated day programming, center-based employment and group homes, she said.
According to the Olmstead Plan, people with disabilities were 10 percent of the state's population in 2011, the fourth lowest in the nation.