News from Northwest ADA Center – Idaho


Involuntary Institutionalization during and after disasters

A week before the official start of 2019 hurricane/tornado season (and what a season it has been!) the National Council on Disability reported that data from several major storms and disasters found people with disabilities are frequently institutionalized during and after disasters due to conflicting federal guidance; a lack of equal access to emergency services; and a lack of compliance with federal law.
    Over 47 million people were impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and based on statistics, nearly 12 million may have been people with disabilities.
    The conflicting guidance states that “people should receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate, and only persons who require the level of medical care provided by trained personnel should be placed in more restrictive settings like a nursing home or hospital (DOJ). In contrast HHS CMS repeatedly issues waivers to this rule allowing states to place disaster-impacted people with disabilities in nursing homes and institutional settings.
    The report finds that recipients of federal funds do not have training on how to comply with federal requirements to provide equal access to emergency programs and services nor do they have the cultural competence to interact with people with disabilities and adhere to myths and stereotypes that results in institutional placement. As a result people with disabilities often go unaccounted for, families are separated from loved ones, working individuals with disabilities often become unemployed and students with disabilities are often excused from returning to school with their peers.
    The recommendations are Congress require Medicaid portability among states during disasters to ensure uninterrupted health care in the least restrictive environment. Congress should set aside funds to provide individual disaster case management focused on transition and permanent housing needs for disaster impacted people with disabilities. Congress should require data collection immediately after the next federal disaster. This can identify individuals moved to an institutional setting. The Department of Education should have a policy to require school systems to include an emergency plan for uninterrupted delivery of a students IEP or 504 plan.
    In the meantime, be your own best advocate should you face a disaster.



Dana Gover, MPA, and ACTCP Certification, ADA Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator 

For more information about ADA Technical Assistance visit the NW ADA Center Idaho website:
Phone: Voice and Text 208-841-9422
Idaho Relay Service: 7