She was a champion for the most vulnerable. Thanks to Justice Ginsburg, the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. stated that mental illness was a disability and covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. All governmental agencies, not just the state hospitals, were be required thereafter to make “reasonable accommodations” to move people with mental illness into community-based treatment to end unnecessary institutionalization.
This court decision limited the ability of state facilities to confine people in hospitals against their will by preserving the rights of people with severe mental illness to be treated in the least restrictive settings. In the case, two women with mental disabilities were ordered to remain in a psychiatric facility involuntarily even though some medical professionals believed they could live healthy lives in a community-based program.
States are required to place persons with mental disabilities in community settings rather than in institutions when the State’s treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate, the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated.