Landmark Class Action Lawsuit That Led to Over 1,000 Ohioans with Developmental Disabilities Moving Out of Institutions Resolved

January 6, 2022

More than five years after the class action lawsuit Ball v. DeWine, 2:16-cv-28, was filed in federal court, the Honorable Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio has issued an order ending the case as part of the parties’ settlement agreement. Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) and its partners, the Center for Public Representation and Sidley Austin LLP, brought the class action lawsuit in March 2016 on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, and The Ability Center of Greater Toledo. The parties, including the Governor of Ohio, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD), the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM), Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD), and the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities (OACBDD), reached a comprehensive settlement agreement that was approved by the court in April 2020, agreeing to continue and expand programs that would allow more people with developmental disabilities the option to live and work in their communities with the supports they need instead of in segregated facilities. To date, over 1,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have transitioned from institutional settings to their own homes and communities.

The state must continue its implementation of the settlement agreement until January 2023 explained Kevin Truitt, DRO’s Legal Advocacy Director. “Prior to our taking legal action, the median wait time for people with developmental disabilities to transition from a facility into their own home in the community was over 13 years. This lawsuit has changed that for many people across the state, and we are very proud of this accomplishment.”

The lawsuit was based on allegations of systemic, statewide violations of the Americans with Disabilities and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, which requires states to operate programs and services for people with disabilities in the most integrated, least restrictive settings appropriate to their individual needs. As part of the settlement, options counseling programs were expanded by the state to inform people about waiver programs and opportunities to live in the community. In addition, the state also substantially increased the capacity of the system to serve people in community settings instead of facilities.

“This has always been a case centered not only on freedom of choice, but also ensuring the services and supports are there so people’s choices could be realized” said Kerstin Sjoberg, DRO’s Executive Director. “When we provide individuals with community service options and alternatives to institutional care we ensure true community integration.”

Disability Rights Ohio is the federally and state designated Protection and Advocacy System and Client Assistance Program for the State of Ohio. The mission of Disability Rights Ohio is to advocate for the human, civil and legal rights of people with disabilities in Ohio. Disability Rights Ohio provides legal advocacy and rights protection to a wide range of people with disabilities. 

The Center for Public Representation is a non-profit, public interest law firm that seeks to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities - especially those who are institutionalized and discriminated against - and to enforce their legal rights to exercise choice and self-determination in all aspects of their lives.

About The Ability Center: The northwest Ohio agency strives to make our community the most disability friendly in the country through advocating, educating, partnering, and providing services supporting people with disabilities. The Ability Center has served the seven counties of Lucas, Ottawa, Wood, Fulton, Henry, Defiance, and Williams since 1920.

About Sidley Austin LLP: With 2000 lawyers in 20 offices around the globe, Sidley is a premier legal adviser for clients across the spectrum of industries. Since our founding in 1866, Sidley has cultivated a tradition of, and commitment to, pro bono service. Sidley's lawyers and staff devote more than 100,000 hours annually to serving those most in need.

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