The DRVT history begins in the mid 1970's. The Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Developmental Disabilities Program (PADD) was created by the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975. The federal government provided funding to each State to pursue legal, administrative, and other appropriate remedies to protect and advocate for the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities. As a result, the Vermont Protection & Advocacy system was established under the name Vermont Protection & Advocacy in the fall of 1976. In order to carry out its federal mandate, it funded a special project of Vermont Legal Aid known as the VT Developmental Disabilities Law Project (now known as the Disability Law Project) to provide these services to Vermonters with developmental disabilities. This expanded in the late 70's to include a separate citizen advocacy component to complement the legal advocacy component. This component became an independent organization - Vermont Citizens Advocacy.
The Client Assistance Program (CAP) was established as a mandatory program by the 1984 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act. CAP services include assistance in pursuing administrative, legal and other appropriate remedies to ensure the protection of persons receiving or seeking services under the Rehabilitation Act such as the VT Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. The Client Assistance Program was previously carried out by Vermont Citizens Advocacy but is now administered through the Disability Law Project.
In 1986, Congress found that individuals with a mental illness were vulnerable to abuse and neglect, at which time, they passed the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with a Mental Illness Act of 1986. We refer to this federal mandate as PAIMI. The enactment of PAIMI resulted in additional funding to DRVT, the designated system in Vermont. The PAIMI Act authorized DRVT to protect and advocate for the rights of people with mental illness and to investigate and respond to reports of abuse, neglect and rights violations in facilities that care for or treat individuals with mental illness.
Following the enactment of PAIMI, an Advocacy Task Force was established in Vermont to design a collaborative advocacy layperson/lawyer model to provide services to the population of Vermonters labeled with a mental illness. This led to the creation of Vermont Advocacy Network (VAN). Basically, DRVT contracted with VAN to provide services to the population of Vermont eligible under the PAIMI mandate.
In 1993, the National Association of Protection & Advocacy (NAPAS) conducted a peer review of the DRVT’s system and made several recommendations for change. As a result of this technical assistance, VP&A made the decision to take over the PAIMI program which had been contracted to VAN and provide PAIMI services in-house. A new Executive Director was hired, an office was established in Montpelier, and most of the VAN staff went to work for DRVT.
Also noteworthy in 1993 was The Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights Program (PAIR), which was established by Congress as a national program under the Rehabilitation Act. PAIR programs were established to protect and advocate for the legal and human rights of persons with disabilities who don’t meet the PADD and PAIMI eligibility criteria.
In 1994, The Protection & Advocacy for Assistive Technology Program (PAAT) was created when Congress expanded the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (Tech Act). This provided funding for P & A’s to assist individuals with disabilities to increase their access to assistive technology devices and services. Originally these funds were sub-granted to DRVT through the state of Vermont’s Assistive Technology Project. As a result of the re-authorization of the Tech Act in 1998, DRVT receives a direct grant the federal government. Since the inception of the PAAT program, DRVT has contracted with the Disability Law Project to provide these services.
In 1998, DRVT secured funding from the state of Vermont’s Center for Crime Victim Services to provide advocacy and legal services to Vermonters with disabilities who have been victimized by abuse, neglect and exploitation. Also in 1998, DRVT received a demonstration grant from the Administration on Developmental Disabilities to pursue a three year education project on the criminal victimization of people with developmental disabilities.
In 2000, DRVT secured a state grant to support its advocacy efforts in mental health and correctional facilities. DRVT has also secured, in 2002, funds to assist individuals with traumatic brain injuries under the Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury program.
In 2004 DRVT secured funds from the Help Americans to Vote Act (HAVA) which enabled staff to spend time registering individuals with disabilities to vote, inspecting targeted polling places to assess accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and educating individuals on what their rights are regarding voting.
In 2009 consistent with a national trend among protection & advocacy agencies across the country, Vermont Protection & Advocacy changed its name to Disability Rights Vermont.