DOJ Report: South Dakota Treatment of People with Disabilities Violates ADA

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has informed South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard that the state’s treatment of people with disabilities is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as the Olmstead Decision.

In a May 2 announcement, the DOJ said it had completed a “comprehensive investigation” that found the state of South Dakota “unnecessarily relies on nursing facilities to provide services to people with disabilities, in violation of the community integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C.”

While people with disabilities are supposed to be able to decide whether to receive support services in their own private homes or in medical facilities, the DOJ found that too often in South Dakota, people “must live in nursing facilities to receive those services, isolated from their communities. With access to adequate home- and community-based services, these individuals could instead live in their homes and communities.”

The report added that South Dakota currently has “one of the highest nursing facility utilization rates in the country,” and that supporting people in their homes and communities may save the state money.

Nursing home residents in South Dakota include older adults and younger residents with disabilities or mobility-related conditions including cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or amputations, the report said. It noted that some nursing home patients remain in those facilities not out of choice, but because the state does not arrange for patients to return home and be appropriately supported there. Other nursing home residents are not aware that they could choose to return home, because the state hasn’t informed them of that option.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said, “People with disabilities deserve privacy, autonomy and dignity in their everyday lives. Our findings reveal how South Dakota’s current system of long-term care violates federal law and fails to give people with disabilities the choice to live in their own homes and their own communities.”

Gupta added, “South Dakota officials have expressed their desire to provide meaningful opportunities for people with disabilities to receive home- and community-based care, and we look forward to working with South Dakota to build a more effective, more efficient and more just service system for all.”

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

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