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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jay Lynch, Communications Director
(302) 540-4979, Cell

Date: July 6, 2011


Agreement Will Expand Community-Based Care For Persons with Mental Illness

New Castle, Del. - Secretary Rita Landgraf of the Department of Health and Social Services, announced today that the State has entered an agreement with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice ("USDOJ") that will promote the delivery of community-based care to Delawareans with severe and persistent mental illness. The agreement resolves the USDOJ's investigation of the services at the Delaware Psychiatric Center that began in 2007. Secretary Landgraf was joined at the announcement by Governor Jack Markell and Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

"This agreement confirms our commitment to serving individuals with serious mental conditions in the most community-integrated setting possible," said Secretary Landgraf. "In the last two years, in areas where we could make an immediate impact, I believe we have. For example, by bringing in Kevin Ann Huckshorn, a recognized national leader in mental health, we have been able to begin to change the culture and increase compliance with medical and psychiatric protocols at the Psychiatric Center. But there is a lot of work ahead of us, and we must continue to build a strong mental health support system in the community."

"Secretary Landgraf and her team have been devoted to improving conditions at the Psychiatric Center from day one of this Administration," said Governor Markell. "It has not been easy, but conditions at the Center have improved significantly. As this Agreement makes clear, the next step is addressing the historical overreliance on institutional care. The Secretary and her team have already begun laying the foundation to build a strong community-based mental health system in Delaware. The Agreement demonstrates the State's commitment to ensuring that individuals with severe and persistent mental illness are treated with compassion in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs."

"Across the country we are enforcing the rights of people with disabilities, affirmed by the Supreme Court more than a decade ago, to live and receive services in their communities," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez. "The services that the state of Delaware has agreed to provide under this agreement will enable people with mental illnesses living in Delaware to reside successfully in their homes and communities, rather than entering costly segregated facilities. As states around the country work to breathe life into the rights established promised by the ADA and Olmstead, this agreement demonstrates Governor Markell and Attorney General Biden's vision and leadership."

The 32-page agreement between the State and the USDOJ is the result of a three year investigation conducted by the Civil Rights Division. That investigation began in November of 2007, and culminated in a November 2010 letter in which the USDOJ concluded that the State's "current mental health system fails to provide services to individuals with mental illness in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs," as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The agreement commits the State to improve the delivery of mental health services in the following four respects:

The agreement will be enforced by a monitor agreed to by the parties. The final agreement will be jointly filed with the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. The agreement is expected to remain in force until at least July 2016.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.