This past year DRVT and the DLP Disability Law Project were busy defending the rights of people with disabilities both in individual case work and in systemic change. Of course we can’t list everything here that we have done this year but following are a few of our important activities.
- DRVT believes that there is more progress to be made in reducing seclusion, restraint and emergency involuntary medication at the Vermont State Hospital. After pursuing a number of grievances on behalf of VSH clients we reached a settlement relating to the inappropriate use of emergency interventions in combination, that is, in cases where a situation is already controlled by a restraint or seclusion, but medication is then forced on the individual. In general, reliance on emergency involuntary interventions has been reduced at VSH and further protection should come from the enhanced documentation and clearer training in new de-escalation protocols.
- We have completed, with DLP, an evaluation of special education at the Woodside Juvenile Detention Facility and are working with the State to insure that children there receive the free and appropriate education to which the law entitles them.
- We continue to monitor our settlement agreement with the Department of Corrections (DOC) that requires an outside expert to evaluate the Department’s compliance with policies to protect prisoners who self-harm. DRVT had a hand in establishing a State Interagency Team to help people with serious disabilities reintegrate from prison into their home communities.
- We continue to monitor all the designated psychiatric hospitals in Vermont, as well as perform outreach to residential and community care homes. New areas of focus have included homeless shelters and contact with refugee communities.
- DRVT reaches out at events and recovery groups around the state and in this election year we increased our efforts at registering voters with disabilities and in doing accessibility surveys of polling places across the state.
- We have continued our work with beneficiaries of Social Security who face barriers to employment, resolving several cases of employment discrimination based on disability.
- Each of the DLP and DRVT staff has made real and positive differences in the lives of the many individuals who have contacted us and for whom we have provided information, referrals, short term assistance, investigations, and litigation.