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Help Educate Members of Congress about a Bill that Limits Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Disabilities

Summary:
On March 3, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) reintroduced a bill
(H.R. 1255) that would limit the ability of protection and advocacy
systems to protect individuals with developmental disabilities in
institutions.  The bill was introduced and referred to the Judiciary
Committee.  The Voice of the Retarded (VOR), a parent group strongly
supporting this legislation, is making a strong push to get cosponsors
for the legislation.  We need to help educate members of Congress about
the true nature of this bill and urge other members of Congress to NOT
co-sponsor or in any way support this bill.
 
Background:
This billl was introduced in the 110th Congress but no other action was
taken.  There is no corresponding Senate bill.  H.R. 1255 is harmful to
people with disabilities because it limits the ability of advocates to
protect people in ICF/MRs from abuse and neglect.  
 
Specifically
the bill says that: "no entity that receives funds from the Federal
Government may use such funds to file a class action lawsuit against an
intermediate care facility for the mentally retarded on behalf of any
resident of such facility unless the resident (or, if there is a legal
representative of the resident, such legal representative), after
receiving notice of the proposed class action lawsuit, has the
opportunity to elect not to have the action apply to the resident."
 
HR 1255  breaks new and dangerous ground by allowing class representatives
to opt out of cases seeking injunctive relief. For example, an
individual whose guardian opts them out of a class action seeking to
end the use of harmful restraints and seclusion could be denied the
benefit of banning these harmful techniques if the class action is
successful.
 
It is essential that Protection and Advocacy
systems continue to have the broadest authority possible to ensure the
protection of the rights of people with disabilities to be free from
abuse and neglect and fulfillment of their desire to live in the
community. Current Federal Rules of Civil Procedure already provide
class members with a number of protections including appropriate
notice, class certification requirements, the right to intervene, and a
fairness hearing on the final outcome. This legislation is not needed.
 
Finally, society, the courts, and the Congress have been moving away from
institutionalizing individuals with developmental disabilities to
creating supports and services to allow these individuals to live full
and productive lives in the community. This bill not only does not
support community living, but also restricts the rights of individuals
with developmental disabilities by allowing those that would prefer to
speak on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities to have
the final say, even if different than the individual's own desires.

Action Needed:  
Contact your representative and ask him/her NOT to cosponsor or in any way
support H.R. 1255.  Your representative's contact information is
available at http://www.house.gov

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