Georgia and DOJ settle disability rights and mental health suit

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Mental health advocates cheered Tuesday. That was when the U.S. Justice Department and the state of Georgia agreed on a settlement allows individuals with certain mental illnesses and development disabilities to be moved from the state's psychiatric hospitals into community settings by July 1, 2015.

The settlement ended a suit brought by the Justice Department under the Americans With Disabilities Act, according to the LA Times. The settlement assures that psychiatric institutions—which are known in Georgia for being somewhat unsafe—will not admit patients with developmental issues, such as autism and Down syndrome. Instead, these patients will be transferred to local communities where they will face much lower rates of deaths, suicides and assaults than in hospitals.

Disability rights activists have said the settlement rivals Brown vs. Board of Education case in terms of its civil rights achievement. Advocates say this agreement can serve as a template for nationwide enforcement of the principles laid out in the Supreme Court disability rights case from 1999, Olmstead vs. L.C., according to the L.A. Times. In another major victor for mental health advocates, a judge in Illinois recently signed an order that makes it easier for residents in institutions for mental diseases to move into community settings.