News From Idaho SILC
Promoting Independent Living for all Idahoans
According to a report released last year from the ANCOR Foundation, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities want and deserve the same opportunities and quality of life as all Americans. Yet the report indicates that some states do much better than others in demonstrating the needed political will and implementing the sound policies and focused funding necessary to achieve this ideal.
Idaho was ranked 28th among all states in efforts to serve individuals with such disabilities. One area not scored by the ANCOR report but which needs the attention of officials and disability rights advocates in Idaho is the right of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to mental health therapy services.
The constitution protects the right of adults to make their own medical decisions. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects the right of people with developmental disabilities to full participation in society and to equal access to health care services.
A considerable number of adults with developmental disabilities are living under an order
of guardianship. Their safety and well-being is largely dependent on how their guardians take care of them.
When courts give the power to make health care decisions to guardians, these fiduciaries must be pro-active. They must become aware of the need for and arrange for appropriate mental health treatment for adults under their care. For adults with disabilities not living under an order of guardianship, their care providers have a similar duty.
Many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities experience chronic trauma and may also have trauma-related medical conditions as a result of abuses they have experienced. They need trauma-informed therapy. Many also have a dual diagnosis due to mental health conditions arising from other causes. They, too, need appropriate and effective mental health therapy.
There are a wide range of mental health therapy options available for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including therapies to treat trauma, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Many mental health professionals provide counseling and therapy for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a right to prompt and
appropriate medical care and treatment. As the Adult Protective Services agency in Idaho is well aware, the failure to provide such care is neglect.
Care providers who deprive necessary health care services to dependent adults in their custody or care commit dependent adult abuse. Medical care includes mental health therapy. Deliberate indifference to medical and mental health needs is unconstitutional.
People without disabilities have access to a full range of mental health therapies. It is disability discrimination for guardians or other care providers to deprive individuals with disabilities access to a full range of mental health therapy options.
Many state and national organizations have endorsed a Civil Rights Declaration acknowledging that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a legal right to mental health therapy. It is time for organizations and officials in Idaho to do the same. Once such a declaration is endorsed, steps should be taken to make sure it is implemented.
For a copy of the declaration and list of endorsers, go to: https://spectruminstitute.org/declaration.pdf
Thomas F. Coleman is the legal director of Spectrum Institute, a nonprofit organization advocating for the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Email him