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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498
Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov

Date: October 11, 2016


WILMINGTON (Oct. 11, 2016) - Chief Judge Leonard B. Stark, U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, today signed an order to release the State of Delaware from the Settlement Agreement entered in 2011 between the United States Department of Justice and the State, a decision that affirms that the State has successfully met the terms of the agreement and effectively reformed its public mental health system.

The dismissal was jointly sought by the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Delaware, signaling the cooperation and mutual agreement of the parties. In filing a joint motion to dismiss, the U.S. Department of Justice and the State wrote to the Court that "the State has implemented reforms that have transformed its service-delivery system for people with serious and persistent mental illness (SPMI), greatly expanded and enhanced capacity to deliver community-based services, minimized reliance on segregated institutional services, and generally improved outcomes for people with SPMI in Delaware."

"Implementing the critical reforms to the State's treatment of individuals with serious and persistent mental illness has been a very high priority of my Administration for the past five years, and one in which we have invested a great deal of resources," Gov. Jack Markell said. "Secretary Landgraf has spent hundreds of hours personally overseeing the implementation of these reforms, and her tireless efforts and exemplary leadership are reflected in this outcome. I am happy that the Court agrees with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Court Monitor and my Administration that our adult behavioral health treatment system is far better equipped to meet the needs of this population than it was when we began this journey five years ago.

"I would also like to thank Dr. Robert Bernstein for his dedicated service as the Court Monitor, and the U.S. Department of Justice attorneys, including current Labor Secretary and former Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Tom Perez, for their willingness to work collaboratively with the State throughout the course of the Agreement," Governor Markell said.

"The robust community-based system of care we have built is not perfect; no system is," Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Rita Landgraf said. "But we have built a strong foundation to support individuals with serious and persistent mental illness as fully engaged members of the community. I believe we will sustain these improvements and continue to evolve the public mental health system because of the ongoing involvement of individuals, their families, peers, advocates, behavioral health professionals, legislators and government officials."

Chief Judge Stark's Order follows on the heels of the September 2016 report filed with the Court by Robert Bernstein, who was appointed Court Monitor for the Settlement Agreement, finding that the State was in "substantial compliance" with the requirements of the agreement

The Settlement Agreement grew out of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into allegations of unnecessary institutionalization of individuals at the Delaware Psychiatric Center (DPC) in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The landmark Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C., held that the ADA ensures that people with disabilities the right to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. On July 15, 2011, the State and the Justice Department signed the Settlement Agreement, creating benchmarks for the State over the agreement's five years in building a more robust community-based system of mental health care for Delawareans with serious and persistent mental illness, including schizophrenia, clinical depression and bipolar disorder.

Over those five years, the accomplishments of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) include:

A Delawarean with serious and persistent mental illness, who wrote to the United States and Court Monitor Robert Bernstein, described what the improvements in the mental health system have meant on the path to recovery. The individual was chronically homeless for decades, hospitalized dozens of times, and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. "This letter is being typed to you to tell you how much I appreciate what you all have done to make it possible for me to live in a safe neighborhood and have my own home! In my spare time I can do pretty much what I want to. I don't have to worry about threats from outside sources. It is pretty quiet here, and people don't bother you. Well, I don't know what else to say; but I just had to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your mercy and help."

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.