Consent Decree

The State of Rhode Island entered into a Settlement Agreement and Consent Decree with the United States Department of Justice in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The agreements address findings that the State violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in integrated settings, and by placing youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities at serious risk of segregation. Under the terms of these agreements, the State is committed to transform its service system over a 10-year period of time. The State is required to achieve certain goals each year. The ultimate goal is to provide integrated employment and day services for Rhode Islanders living with developmental disabilities.

Consent Decree Workgroups 

Consent Decree Workgroups were developed to address issues designated as Administrative Barriers.  These groups completed their work in March 2022. The following materials from the workgroups are available for your review: 

Groups covered under the consent decree

Under the terms of the consent decree, the State is working to improve services for:

  • Youth in Transition – This group includes students who have not yet entered the adult services system. These are students who are ages 14-21, in secondary school, and eligible or likely to be eligible for developmental disabilities services as adults.
  • The “Youth Exit” Population – This group includes individuals who have left secondary school between September 1, 2013 and August 31, 2016 and are eligible for adult developmental disabilities services.
  • The Sheltered Workshop Population – This group includes individuals who received services in a sheltered workshop in 2013, the year before the consent decree took effect.
  • The Segregated Day Services Population- This group includes individuals who received services in a segregated day program in 2013.

Other changes underway

The consent decree applies to employment and day services for Rhode Islanders with developmental disabilities. But like states across the country, Rhode Island is making changes to our entire service system for people with developmental disabilities. These changes are helping to ensure equal opportunities and for all Rhode Islanders – at work, at home and in the community – regardless of disability status.

History of disability rights legislation

Over time, several key pieces of legislation have helped to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

  • 1975: Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act passed. This law secures the rights of students with disabilities to a free and appropriate education.
  • 1990: The Americans with Disabilities Act signed into law. This law prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else.
  • 1999: United States Supreme Court holds in Olmstead v. L.C. that segregation of individuals with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act in all aspects of public life.

What the consent decree means for individuals and families

The State is working to ensure that every person covered by the consent decree has a person-centered career development plan. “Person centered” means the plan matches that person’s unique needs, interests and goals. For students who will be leaving school, this plan must include a plan to transition from youth to adult services. Plans must also include vocational (employment) goals.