Page 1

www.thelegalcenter.org

Fall 2012

Helping individuals with disabilities live and work in the community, enjoying independent and productive lives.

Disability Vote Colorado, Feel the Power! By Faith Gross, VOTE! Coordinator Early this year, I was contacted by Jim Dickson, vice president of organizing and civic engagement for the American Association of Americans with Disabilities (AAPD), and asked to organize a Disability Vote Coalition in Colorado. The overarching goal of the coalition is to build civic engagement in the disability community throughout our state to increase our political influence. The Legal Center agreed to get on board, and we have targeted our activities toward empowering people with disabilities to actively participate in the electoral process. This project is modeled after similar coalitions in Wisconsin, Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Arizona. Our outreach to other disability advocacy organizations in Colorado has been met with enthusiasm. The coalition organizes and supports voter registration, voter education, and get out the vote campaigns. The Legal Center is approved by the Secretary of State’s Office for voter registration drives. Several of our staff members have been trained to offer voter registration and we extended training opportunities to representatives of other disability advocacy organizations. The Colorado Cross

Disability Coalition joined us in a leadership role. The Arc of Colorado and many local Arc organizations are working with us. We met with centers for independent living, self advocacy groups, and state boards and commissions. All have been excited about this project. VOTE! Program staff met with the Fatherhood Group at Bayaud Industries to discuss options for providing voter registration. As a result, the group is now an approved voter registration drive, busy reaching out to citizens who are homeless, dealing with mental health issues, and other barriers to civic participation. All of our activities are non-partisan. We do not endorse candidates or political parties. Instead, we focus on the issues that affect people with disabilities and their families. The coalition is educating voters with disabilities and their families, friends and allies on how to be informed about the issues that matter most to them. Like other “special interest groups” we are helping voters to research and consider candidates’ positions and policies on issues that are most important for the disability community when making voting decisions. Local disability advocacy organizations have been encouraged to host candidate forums and attend forums hosted

Beth Will, a voice for community living

By Jennifer Shook, Advocate In Beth Will’s 51 years, she has been a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a selfadvocate, a person with an intellectual disability, a friend and a trail blazer for others. In the past 30 years she has received services through the local community centered board, living and working in her beloved community with as much independence as possible. She lived in her own apartment with her long-term boyfriend for six years until she became ill. Beth was hospitalized in June 2011, diagnosed with renal failure and severe cellulitis. With care, her health improved and her physician placed her in Grace Health Care of Glenwood Springs, a nursing facility, to continue occupational and physical therapy to regain her strength. In August of that year, her physician documented that Beth was able to receive services in a group home setting. Beth continued to work on independent living skills with restorative therapy through the fall and

By Randy Chapman & Alison Daniels The Legal Center has participated as amicus curiae in three recent cases on behalf of people with disabilities. An amicus curiae, or “friend to the court,” is not a party to the case, but provides information to assist the court in deciding the case. This is a key way in which we can make an impact on public policy, while helping large numbers of people with disabilities. In May 2011, we filed a brief in the Colorado Court of Appeals supporting the position of parents of children with disabilities in Colorado Board of Education, Douglas County School District, et al v James Larue, Taxpayers for Public Education, et al., the lawsuit regarding the Douglas County School District (DCSD) “Choice Scholarship Program.” The school district had been sued by the Colorado ACLU and others for violating the Colorado Constitution Continued page 2

Randy Chapman Celebrates 35 Years at The Legal Center

winter while waiting for an opening in one of the community centered board group homes. In February 2012, Mountain Valley Developmental Services had an opening and requested home and community based services (HCBS) from the Colorado Division for Developmental Disabilities. The request was denied.

Jennifer Shook (left) and Beth Will celebrate her return to a home in the community.

by other groups. Arc of Colorado developed an excellent brochure, “Disability Issues Election 2012,” which contains sample questions for candidates for the Colorado General Assembly and for the U.S. Congress. Topics include Medicaid, employment, education, access to health care, community living and revenue and tax policy. You can obtain this brochure by contacting The Arc of Colorado, www.thearcofco. org or 303-864-9334. We urge you to attend candidate forums and events and ask these questions. We also hope that members of the disability community will give serious consideration to running for office themselves! As this important election year has progressed we have realized that this is a long-term project. We will continue our organizing efforts after November 6, 2012. We recognize the wisdom in former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O’Neil’s saying, “All politics is local!” and plan to continue to encourage Coloradans with disabilities to vote in every election and to develop a life-long habit of voting and civic engagement. For more information on voting issues, contact VOTE! Program Coordinator Faith Gross at fgross@thelegalcenter. org or (303) 862-3523. n

The Legal Center as a friend to the court

Beth was broken hearted. She was adamant that she wanted to live outside of the nursing facility and back in the community she so loved. The Legal Center staff attended meetings with the local community centered board and wrote letters in support of Beth receiving the resources she needed to leave the nursing home. Our letter to the Colorado Division for Developmental Disabilities stated that Ms. Will’s situation was a clear violation of the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She met all the criteria of the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Olmstead” decision that requires states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities and to ensure that they receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. Continued page 2

by Mary Anne Harvey, Executive Director After Randy Chapman graduated from law school at the University of Texas at Austin, he came to The Legal Center as a VISTA volunteer in August 1977. At the time, The Legal Center had just been designated as Colorado’s Protection and Advocacy System, and recent historic changes in federal law promised new opportunities for people with disabilities. The Colorado Board of Education was debating whether to accept federal funds and implement the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. The U.S Department of Health, Education and Welfare had just issued regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibiting disability discrimination in federally funded programs. However, the new laws still needed to be implemented, the conditions in Colorado’s institutions were deplorable, and children and adults with disabilities were being denied access to services, employment and independent living. Randy found the opportunity for social change to be exhilarating. The application of law and reason to emotionally

The Legal Center salutes Director of Legal Services Randy Chapman for 35 years of leadership and advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities charged conflicts in human services and school settings were rewarded with positive outcomes, legal victories and The Legal Center’s growing reputation. During his career, Randy has represented people of all ages with all types of disabilities. Early on he represented people with mental illness in employment cases and challenged the hiring practices of Continued page 3

he Legal Center is a nonprofit organization protecting the human, civil and legal rights of people with disabilities and older people. As Colorado’s Protection and Advocacy System, The Legal Center has authority under federal law to gain access to facilities and records in order to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect. The organization also helps people obtain state and federally funded services, such as special education, mental health services, developmental disabilities services, and vocational rehabilitation. The Legal Center specializes in civil rights and discrimination issues. The Legal Center promotes systemic change to sustain or improve the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities and older adults. The Legal Center provides direct legal representation, education, advocacy, and legislative analysis to promote the independence, self-determination, empowerment and community participation of its clients. Similar organizations exist in every state and territory as part of a national protection and advocacy network. The Legal Center has played a pivotal role in advancing disability law in Colorado and nationally. We are proud of our success in breaking new legal ground. However, we usually resolve our clients’ objectives without litigation. Some of our most satisfying legal advances have come through empowering people to advocate for themselves. n


Board of Directors 2012-2013 President Peter Lindquist, Esq., First Citizens Bank Vice President John R. Posthumus, Esq., Sheridan Ross P.C. Secretary Nancy Tucker Treasurer John Paul Anderson, Alvarez & Marsal Dispute Analysis & Forensic Services, LLC Past President Todd Blakely, Esq., Sheridan Ross, PC Ian Bird, Esq., Wheelabrator Group Walter Houghtaling, Esq., McConnell Fleischner Houghtaling, LLC Vance O. Knapp, Esq., Sherman & Howard, L.L.C. Rebecca Lefebvre, RN Timothy J. Parsons, Esq., Pendleton, Friedberg, Wilson & Hennessey P.C. Amy Quiñones, FNP-BC, Denver Health Stephen P. Rickles, Esq., Berenbaum Weinshienk PC KimNichelle Rivera, Empower Colorado Leonard Segreti, Esq., CenturyLink Cleone J. Smith Michele Suriano, Castle Rock Investment Company

The Legal Center Staff Denver Office Mary Anne Harvey, Executive Director Randy Chapman, Esq., Director of Legal Services Mark Ivandick, Esq., Managing Attorney, Coordinator, Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Program Joshua Anderson, Director of Development Julie Z. Busby, Office Manager Elizabeth Collard, Esq., Attorney, Coordinator, Protection & Advocacy for Assistive Technology Program Valerie Corzine, Esq., Senior Attorney, Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Program Alison Butler Daniels, Esq., Senior Attorney, Coordinator, Protection & Advocacy for Individual Rights Program Patricia Doyle, Rights Advocate/Investigator, Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Program Anna Dubnikov, Administrative Assistant Vinni Ferrara, Older Americans Program Assistant Anna French, Rights Advocate, Client Assistance Program and Beneficiaries of Social Security Program Elizabeth Cooper Fuselier, Esq., Senior Attorney, Coordinator, Developmental Disabilities Program Angela Garberding, Intake Specialist and Rights Advocate Barry Glass, Civil Rights Advocate, HIV Legal Rights Network, Protection & Advocacy for Individual Rights Program Faith Gross, Coordinator, VOTE! Program Shelley Hitt, Esq., Colorado Long-Term Care Ombudsman Jennifer Levin, Esq., Attorney, Client Assistance Program and Beneficiaries of Social Security Program Michele Manning, Office Assistant Jim McBride, Director of Administrative Services Jennifer Purrington, Advocate, Seclusion & Restraint Reporting Project Mary Catherine Rabbitt, Esq., Colorado Legal Assistance Developer for the Elderly Ann Stanton, Administrative Assistant/PAIMI Intake Specialist J. Fern Black, Esq., Volunteer Attorney Randy Parcel, Esq., Volunteer Attorney Kyleigh Vestal, PAIR/VOTE! Program Intern

Grand Junction Office Bill Higgins, Esq., Managing Attorney Geoffrey Peterson, Coordinator, Client Assistance Program and Beneficiaries of Social Security Program, Traumatic Brain Injury Program Jennifer Shook, Rights Advocate and Administrative Assistant

2

The Legal Center as a friend to the court Continued from front page

by using public funds to support private religious schools. In August of 2011, Denver District Judge Martinez issued a permanent injunction against the scholarship program. DCSD appealed Judge Martinez’s ruling to the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Choice Scholarship Program is on “hold” pending a decision by the Court of Appeals. In the meantime, attorneys on both sides have filed briefs with the court. In July of 2011, The Legal Center filed a complaint with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) against DCSD for violating Section 504 and Title II of the ADA because the Choice Scholarship Program did not provide equal access to students with disabilities needing special education. Generally, the private schools participating in the voucher program did not serve students with disabilities, and had no experience with special education. Students with disabilities who wanted to join the “Choice” program were informed they would not be entitled to an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) or the free appropriate public education they are entitled to under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, or IDEA. Children with disabilities would have to relinquish their rights under the IDEA to participate, while children without disabilities were not required to give up any of their legal rights. While the Department of Justice has accepted our complaint, and since the Choice Scholarship Program is on “hold” pending the outcome of the litigation, DOJ has not initiated an investigation. The Legal Center has not taken a position on the broader issue of diverting public funds to private religious schools; however, we do believe the program discriminates against students with disabilities. In fact, Judge Martinez found that: “The Scholarship Program permits participating private schools to discriminate against students with disabilities.” (Findings of Fact, paragraph 49, page 13). In May 2012, The Legal Center filed a brief as Amicus Curiae in the Colorado Court of Appeals supporting Judge Martinez’s finding that the Choice Scholarship Program permits the participating private schools to discriminate against

Beth Will

Continued from front page Several months later, Beth was finally awarded a resource slot by the Colorado Division of Developmental Disabilities. Nearly 14 months after moving into the nursing facility, she was finally going to be able to move back into the community. Beth’s story is one of many. Individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental illness find themselves institutionalized in nursing facilities, often alone and away from their support system. Beth had a voice and made it clear to people she wanted to be in her community. However, so many individuals don’t have a voice and no one has advocated for them until now. The Legal Center’s research has uncovered the disturbing fact that there are more individuals with mental illness or intellectual/developmental disabilities institutionalized in Colorado nursing homes than on the main campuses of the Regional Centers, the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan, and the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, combined. The Legal Center has initiated projects to identify these nursing home residents and determine if they wish to leave and live in the community. Reviewing data obtained from state agencies, we have found a total of 2,055 residents of whom 1,742 are diagnosed with a

students with disabilities and that discrimination violates Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. In another case, EEOC v The Picture People, The Legal Center co-signed an amicus curiae brief to the Tenth Circuit court of appeals for an en banc review of an employment case filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (En banc refers to a session where the entire court participates in the decision rather than just a panel of judges, typically because the case is considered to be very complex or of particular importance.) This case involved a woman who was hired as a photographer at The Picture People – a photography studio specializing in photos of infants and children. The woman was deaf, but her hiring manager felt that she would be able to effectively communicate with customers using other methods. In fact, there was evidence that she performed well as both a photographer working with customers, and in the lab. Unfortunately, other managers in the company disagreed, believing that since she did not read lips and talk effectively, she was unable to perform an “essential function” of her job – verbally communicating with customers. The employee tried to plead her case to her managers, but to no avail. She felt she had no choice left but to file an employment discrimination complaint and her employment was terminated. Believing the woman was discriminated against, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) agreed to litigate the case in the United States District Court of Colorado on behalf of the employee. However, in a surprising decision, the district court agreed with the employer. The court found that the former employee was not able to establish that she was “qualified” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, they found that she did not present evidence that she could – with or without a reasonable accommodation – perform the essential functions of her job. Accordingly, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer. The employee appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the district court’s ruling

major mental illness, 275 with developmental disabilities, and 38 with both a major mental illness and a developmental disability. Of the individuals identified, 33 percent are 65 years old or younger. In the past year, The Legal Center’s Protection and Advocacy for People with Developmental Disabilities (PADD) program identified 51 residents ages 50 and under and began the huge task of visiting each one. That required visiting 33 nursing homes across the state and meeting with each individual on our list. In the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) program, staff began by targeting two nursing homes: Park Forrest in Westminster and Spearly Care Center in Denver. Through that process we have talked with eight individuals with developmental disabilities who clearly wish to move to a community setting (it was nine, but Beth was successful in moving) and seven individuals with mental illness who desire to live within their communities. While Beth Will is enjoying her refound life within her beloved community, she has blazed another trail for others who are institutionalized: “I want to help all the other people that are still in the nursing homes” she says. The Legal Center is very proud to have helped Beth and we look forward to giving a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. n

was affirmed. The Legal Center was contacted when the employee, through the EEOC, sought to have a full panel of the Tenth Circuit review the decision en banc. The Legal Center agreed, along with the National Association of the Deaf, and the Legal Aid Society’s Employment Law Center, to sign on as an amicus curiae, hoping the full court will reach a different conclusion and allow the case to proceed to trial in the district court. The Legal Center has also joined as an amicus with the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition (CCDC) and the Arc of Colorado in filing a brief supporting the families, students, and school districts that sued the state seeking adequate funding of public education in Colorado. The case, Lobato v Colorado, is on appeal before the Colorado Supreme Court. The district court had determined that Colorado’s system of public school funding violated our state constitutional requirement that the public school system must be funded to provide a thorough and uniform system of public education to all residents of the state. The amicus brief of The Legal Center, CCDC, and the Arc addresses the inadequacy of funding for students with disabilities. Our brief argues that the Colorado Constitution requires schools to provide a “thorough and uniform” education for all students, including those with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Colorado’s Exceptional Children’s Education Act (ECEA) support that constitutional requirement. The state’s current public school system is not designed or funded, nor are its resources allocated, to meet the state’s obligation to students with disabilities. Thus, Colorado is systematically failing to meet the educational and transitional needs of our children with disabilities. The brief provides specific examples regarding how the lack of funding has negatively affected children with disabilities. n

Helping a student with autism succeed in college By Jennifer Levin

The Legal Center recently had a client with autism who requested a reasonable accommodation for early lease termination while living in a student housing complex. He was attending college in the Denver Metro area and was living in student housing so that he could be close to school and interact with his peers as much as possible. Unfortunately, our client witnessed a friend of his that he knew from high school being attacked by another student at the housing complex. Seeing his friend from home get attacked by another student caused our client to experience severe anxiety and depression. He began having night terrors, he lost weight, and he couldn’t focus in school. All of these symptoms greatly affected his ability to succeed in school, so in August of 2011, he asked the property manager of the housing complex to let him out of his lease early so he could move to a less stressful environment and focus on school. The manager denied his request, so the student and his mom contacted The Legal Center for help. The Legal Center contacted the housing complex’s attorney, who said he would speak with his client about our request. After several phone calls and letters to the attorney that went unanswered, we advised our Continued page 6


PROTECTING THE VOTE: BE A VOTING HERO!!

Randy Chapman Continued from front page the U.S. Postal Service. He represented individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in obtaining appropriate housing in the community and fighting discriminatory zoning laws. He represented former policewoman Dale Coski from 1982 to 1985 in an employment discrimination case against the City of Denver requesting that the City make reasonable accommodations to continue her employment in the Police Department after she was severely injured while on duty. The Legal Center won the case at the initial hearing but ultimately lost in the Colorado Court of Appeals. Ironically, a similar case was won in Federal District Court after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. His influence is reflected in state statute and policy. In the developmental disabilities arena, he established Human Rights Committees in legislation to review medications, behavioral programs, and insure investigation of abuse and neglect. He added the requirement that people with developmental disabilities be represented on the boards of directors of the organizations serving them. He also drafted the due process language in the developmental disabilities statute and had significant input in the development of the Colorado Department of Education’s complaint process for children in special education. In 1980, The Legal Center and the Association for Retarded Citizens in Colorado (now the Arc) sued the Colorado Department of Education because children living in the institution for people with developmental disabilities in Wheat Ridge were not receiving an education, despite the passage of federal law in 1976 which entitled children with disabilities to a “free, appropriate public education.” The Legal Center prevailed in this lawsuit, and the impact of Randy’s work on this case laid the foundation of his advocacy in special education throughout his career. His outrage at the circumstances of these children and his pride in the outcome of the case—that for the first time, children with severe disabilities attended public school in Colorado—are highlighted in the Introduction to The Everyday Guide to Special Education Law which he wrote in 2005. He dedicated the book “to all of the graduates of the Wheat Ridge State Home and Training School.” Randy’s work in implementing special education law in Colorado is legendary, and he is widely respected by parents and educators. In the past few years, his expertise is reaching a national audience through the distribution of Guía de la

Ley de Educación Especial, the Spanish translation of the book published in 2007, and the Preventing Litigation in Special Education Workbook published in 2011—not to mention the more than 85,000 hits on his blog or the 128 articles he’s posted.

• Include JVCEP materials, including the website and hotline, in your election communications • Attend trainings with your staff • Host trainings with your activists, members, etc.

VOTING HEROES will work in our communities to:

• Many more opportunities to come…

• Be informed on key voting rights issues • Make sure your neighbors know their rights • Serve as an Election Judge • Be a Poll Monitor

d a r lo

o

Just Vote! Colorado Election Protection works with organizations representing a wide range of constituencies and populations. We assist organizations engaging in civic engagement work by providing the necessary resources about the mechanics of voting. JVCEP provides accurate and user-friendly information for voters so they have the information they need about where, when and how to vote. Through our website and toll-free call center Colorado voters can get the information they need to participate in election activities. The toll-free bilingual hotline, staffed by volunteer attorneys, operates for two weeks leading up to the November election and on Election Day.

• Recruit activists from your network to become VOTING HEROES!!

VOTING HEROES is JVCEP’s effort to recruit activists in the community to become part of voter protection efforts.

te! C

The 2012 election, in which Colorado will be a top swing state, will create an environment where nonpartisan election protection efforts will be critically important. This environment will require great attention to every detail to ensure voters know their rights and are empowered to exercise them.

There are plenty of opportunities for your organization to help.

Voting is the right our democracy is built on. Blood has been shed and lives have been lost to protect this right, more than any other. Every generation of Americans has stepped up and fought to protect and expand this fundamental right. Now it’s our turn.

Just Vo

JUST VOTE! COLORADO ELECTION PROTECTION (JVCEP)

is a nonpartisan election protection program created in collaboration with Colorado Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, Mi Familia Vota, the Colorado Lawyers’ Committee and The Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People to assist voters with election activities, expand access to information about the voting process, and to monitor and document the electoral process across the state.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

o

ro t e c t i o n P n o i t c Ele www.JustVoteColorado.org 866-OUR-VOTE 888-VE-Y-VOTA (303)292-2163

cschneider@commoncause.org

The Legal Center welcomes two new board members

Following his 20th Anniversary at The Legal Center, he received the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award for his contribution to civil rights in our community. Through his personal representation, and by extension through The Legal Center’s staff, he has educated thousands of people, helped them get services, given them courage to fight injustice, or been the force to be reckoned with on behalf of those who couldn’t speak for themselves. In the past few years, his attention has focused once again on the plight of individuals in institutions. When plans were announced to close the skilled nursing facility at the Grand Junction Regional Center in 2010, Randy made sure that either he or another Legal Center staff member attended every planning meeting with every parent or guardian who wanted our assistance. They visited potential residential settings around the state and helped plan moves into group homes in Grand Junction. This process was an extraordinary achievement for the individuals, for the Regional Center, Mesa Developmental Services, the Arc and The Legal Center. The State of Colorado reported in July of 2010 that there were more than 2,000 individuals with developmental disabilities and mental illness residing in nursing homes. The revelation that more people with disabilities were institutionalized in nursing homes in Colorado than in the Regional Centers and state hospitals combined galvanized Randy to prioritize identifying them, visiting them, and creating plans to help them move if they wanted to. Initially he prioritized people with developmental disabilities under the age of 50 and then began a strategy to do the same for people with mental illness.

Cleone J. Smith has been a public relations and marketing consultant in the accounting and legal fields, and she is using her public relations and marketing expertise to help us with our “Branding Project” to further develop and define The Legal Center’s brand. Her marketing experience has also been invaluable in other ways, such as the creation of buttons and t-shirts to promote The Legal Center at community events. Before turning to a career in marketing and business administration, Cleone was a licensed practical nurse. In addition to The Legal Center, Cleone’s volunteer commitments include Sewall Child Development Center, Park Hill United Methodist Church, and Park Hill Elementary School.

Celebrating three ten-year milestones The Legal Center salutes three incredible staff members who are each celebrating their ten-year anniversaries. Here, in their own words, they describe why they came, why they stay, and why the mission is so important to them.

R

He reminds us that these are people who may have been forgotten—some of them living in places and conditions which they didn’t choose. He reminds us that the proud history of our organization has been anchored in moving people from institutions into the community, to making sure they are safe and can live as independently as possible. It is work that touches his very soul. It may be the most important work we will ever do, and no one else is doing it. He is very proud of it, and as passionate about it as he was when he came here 35 years ago. At this milestone, we express our deepest thanks for his extraordinary leadership throughout these years. n

Amy Quiñones is a nurse practitioner at Denver Health Medical Center’s Adult Urgent Care Walk-in Clinic where she is involved in the diagnosis and management of acute diseases. Amy is currently collaborating on a major research project on genes in Pneumonia and Tuberculosis. The Legal Center is the beneficiary of Amy’s fluency in Spanish, and her extensive experience in the provision of culturally sensitive medical care. Cultural competency and improved ability to meet the needs of our Spanish-speaking clients is a key focus at The Legal Center, and Amy’s expertise in this area is invaluable. n

Valerie Corzine, Esq., Senior Attorney, Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Program

VALERIE: I moved to Denver in 1998 with my husband Rick and baby boy Michael. I’d had my own law practice in Oklahoma, handling mostly domestic law with the occasional DUI or probate matter. I was very happy and expected to stay there, until one day Rick announced he’d been offered a great job in Denver in his field of neurophysiology. I’d always wanted to be more involved in public interest law, so I immediately started researching nonprofit law centers. The Legal Center just stood out as the most stable and well-run and I began volunteering with Jan Meyers, the legal assistance developer for the elderly in the Older Americans Act Programs. I’d also visited Atlantis and I was fascinated by what I learned about the “underground railroad” to get people with disabilities out of nursing homes. Four years later in 2002, I was offered the job of legal assistance developer. I Continued page 4

3


Celebrating three ten-year milestones Continued from page 3

concentrated on both quality of care issues in nursing homes, as well as ways to foster nursing home transition. This work was so incredibly satisfying to me. My maternal grandmother contracted polio as a child, and managed to raise two children alone during the Depression. She was tough, smart, and very poised, but I remember how angry my mother would get when people would stare at my grandmother’s legs because of the polio. Nursing homes were dirty words in my family and both sides of my family made clear they would rather die than go to a nursing home. I realize other families make different choices and both my mother and father-in-law preferred nursing homes. The important thing is choice. In 2007, I moved to the PAIMI Program. PAIMI stands for Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness. As senior attorney of the PAIMI program, I concentrated on adequate staffing at the state’s mental health institutes as well as discharge planning to the community in “the least restrictive environment.” I certainly did not see myself as a person with a mental illness. It took my own hospitalization for bipolar disorder six years ago to do that. My diagnosis gave me a whole new perspective on the work we do at The Legal Center. Through my personal experiences, and the personal experience of the clients I work with every day, the most important thing I see is that we are all different and have different needs. I love that The Legal Center helps people with disabilities to live the best life they can whatever their needs. I can’t think of anywhere I would rather be, or any other work that matters so much.

whose complaints involve the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), independent living centers and employment networks. I enjoy working on appeals and grievances, and I strive to be well prepared. It is satisfying to win cases because it means individuals get to move on with that part of their lives. It means they can obtain needed training, services, or accommodations as they seek employment. I enjoy talking to clients about their difficulties and am mindful that they’ve heard “no” so often. They may be frustrated, losing hope, or at the end of their rope. While I may not always be able to say “yes,” I do try to open doors for them. Another aspect of my work is to represent The Legal Center on the State Independent Living Council (SILC). Currently I am chair-elect and working on the State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL). In addition to looking at the progress and problems for people with disabilities throughout Colorado, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting SILC members from across the United States. Being part of The Legal Center is wonderful and satisfying. The Legal Center’s culture supports the selfactualization and dedication of its staff. It’s incredibly rewarding to work with so many people who are committed to changing the world for people with disabilities.

completely rotted in a mouth filled with abscesses. She wanted to leave and live independently, but the funding for independent living services had been delayed again and again. I was able to work with her case manager to prod the state into action, find her space in a supportive group home, and help her secure employment. Today, she is healthy and very happy to have new dentures after her teeth were removed. She enjoys her job working three days a week at a recycling center, and from being sad and withdrawn, she is now playing an active role in the social life of her new home.

Thanks to our interns, Kyleigh and Laura The Legal Center relies on the contributions of interns and volunteers to carry out its mission. This year, we have benefited from the skills and commitment of two wonderful interns, Kyleigh Vestal and Laura Jones.

R Kyleigh Vestal

ELIZABETH: I am an East Coast transplant living in central Denver since 1993. I have been married to my husband going on 20 years and have two active children, 14 and 10 years old. Anna French, Rights Advocate, Client Assistance Program and Beneficiaries of Social Security Program ANNA: I came to The Legal Center in 2002 after completing an Advanced Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) from the University of Denver. My history included a number of years as vice-president-chief financial officer and liaison to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a small biotechnology company. The company held a number of patents and was developing applications for in vitro medical research. One application involved refining fluorescing cell markers for AIDS research. I loved bio-tech. I also observed how unfortunate communications among colleagues damaged relationships and shared scientific goals. Studying ADR was a path to gain skills that could lead to better communication solutions.

4

At The Legal Center I hoped to apply ADR and other skills. It was an organization that genuinely sought to assist a population too often left voiceless in society. As an administrative assistant, I learned about the various programs. In 2009, I became an advocate in the Client Assistance Program and the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security. My role includes advocating for clients with disabilities

As a college and graduate student I had the privilege of being taught by professors at the forefront of the de-institutionalization movement. Their advocacy for people with disabilities was unwavering in commitment and of course, had a huge impact upon me. I graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s in emotional disturbance and autism. After a few years teaching special education, I attended law school to fulfill my desire to represent people who are routinely marginalized in our society. I have clerked for legal services in Omaha, was in private practice for a small firm in metropolitan New York and was a deputy district attorney in Colorado before finding my way to The Legal Center in 2002. As coordinator of the program for people with developmental disabilities, my work at The Legal Center allows me to satisfy my desire to seek a level of fairness for my clients who are often the overlooked citizens in our communities. I gain great satisfaction in “doing the right thing” each day. A recent case has confirmed my belief that what we do here truly makes a difference: A woman with developmental disabilities was living in the basement of her parents’ home in conditions that bordered on neglect. She was receiving no medical care, and her teeth were

Kyleigh says that one of her greatest joys has been registering people with developmental disabilities. “Several people have told me that their guardian insists they aren’t allowed to vote. When I explain the law, they are thrilled that they can participate in an election for the first time in their lives.”

My clients give me perspective and The Legal Center continues to give me hope that inclusiveness is possible around the world. n

R

Elizabeth Cooper Fuselier, Esq., Senior Attorney, Coordinator, Developmental Disabilities Program

fabulous,” is Kyleigh’s assessment of her summer spent working on the VOTE! Program. “I’ve been visiting polling places to make sure they’re accessible, I get to help make presentations to groups about voter registration, and I’ve helped a lot of people register to vote.”

Kyleigh came to The Legal Center after meeting with her career counselor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. “I seemed to be the only person in my class who had any interest in public policy and civil rights,” Kyleigh said. “Everyone wanted to be a corporate lawyer. I really don’t care about the money. I just want to help people get their voices heard and change things that aren’t right.” Luckily for us, Kyleigh’s counselor introduced her to The Legal Center and she was hired on the spot. “It’s been

Feel the Power By Kyleigh Vestal We have a great obligation to vote, and a right that we should not take lightly. In these uncertain times, most families are facing difficult battles and hard decisions every single day. When you do not vote, the only person being silenced is yourself. When we shield ourselves away from society there is no pathway to being heard and having our opinions and values matter. Growing up as a deaf child, I knew that unless I demanded accommodations and required others to treat me equally I would not get what I needed. My mother showed me how to advocate for myself and as a result, I never took no for an answer. Today I am entering my second year at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. I spent my summer working for The Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People in the VOTE! Program advocating for accessible polling places. Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act being passed 22 years ago, we are still fighting for people with disabilities to

Laura Jones Kyleigh will be staying at The Legal Center until after the election, but Laura has already returned to Michigan State University College of Law. “I had a wonderful opportunity to learn about different aspects of The Legal Center’s work,” said Laura. “I got to conduct research on state and federal disability law, Medicaid, and special education law. I learned how to do client intake interviews, and was always invited to participate in discussions and to observe legal proceedings.” Before heading off to law school, Laura lived in Colorado and worked for two years at Denver Options (now Rocky Mountain Human Services), which serves people with developmental disabilities. “That’s when I became interested in disability law,” Laura said. “When I graduate, I want to work for a nonprofit that changes lives like The Legal Center does.” Laura’s supervisor was Liz Fuselier, coordinator of the Developmental Disabilities Program. “Laura was remarkable,” says Liz. “She’s an exceptional writer and totally immersed in learning more about civil rights and disability law. We’re looking for opportunities for her to make sure she comes back to Colorado after law school.” Our thanks to both of these incredible women for their work on behalf of people with disabilities. n be taken seriously. When we put our passion in action and demand what is rightfully ours there will be a day where no matter how hard anyone tries they will not tune us out. In the volatile society that we live in we can no longer risk being swept away in the chaos. Four decades ago someone like me would have been shut away in an institution and forgotten. We did not get here today without blood, sweat, and struggle. Without that, I would not be two years from fulfilling my life-long dream of being an attorney and demanding that it is time for the world to change. I'm asking that you join me on this journey and prove to politicians and the government that we are a legitimate voting bloc and we care about education, jobs, and communities. The Legal Center has partnered with Colorado Cross Disability Coalition to form the Disability Vote Colorado (DVC) Feel the Power outreach group. Our goal is to work alongside and join allies, friends, and families of those with disabilities in encouraging our community to exercise their fundamental right to vote. To get more information, go to www.govotecolorado.com. n


Frequently asked questions – and answers – about voting for people with disabilities What if my polling place is not accessible? Every polling place in Colorado is required to be fully accessible for voters with disabilities. If you find that your polling place is not accessible, please contact The Legal Center so that we can address the issue with your county clerk and recorder and the Secretary of State’s Office. You may also file a HAVA (Help America Vote Act) complaint with the Secretary of State. The Legal Center can provide advocacy assistance and help with filing your complaint. Am I required to show a photo ID? Colorado voters must provide acceptable identification when voting at a polling place. However, your form of identification does NOT have to be a photo ID. If it shows your address, that address must be in the state of Colorado. Acceptable forms of identification are: • a valid Colorado driver's license • a valid identification card issued by the Department of Revenue • a valid U.S. passport • a valid Medicare or Medicaid card • a valid employee identification card with your picture issued by any branch, department, agency, or entity of the United States government or of Colorado State Government, or by any county, municipality, board, authority, or other political subdivision of Colorado • a valid pilot's license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration or other authorized agency of the United States • a valid U.S. military identification card with your photo • a copy of a current utility bill, bank

statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows your address • a cable bill or telephone bill • documentation from a public institution of higher education in Colorado containing at least the name, date of birth, and legal residence address of the student • a paycheck from a government institution or private company • a certificate of degree of Indian or Alaskan Native blood • a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate for the elector issued in the United States • certified documentation of naturalization • a valid student identification card with a photograph of the eligible elector issued by an institute of higher education in Colorado, as defined in section 23-3.1-102(5), C.R.S. • a valid veteran identification card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Health Administration with your photo • a valid identification card issued by a federally recognized tribal government certifying tribal membership Voters who live in some group residential facilities may not be required to provide identification at the polling place since proof of such residence may be acceptable as identification. Please contact The Legal Center for more information. Can I have assistance if I need it to vote? Yes, you may request assistance if you need help with voting due to a disability or the inability to read or write.

Thank You Donors! Legacy Society

The following donors notified The Legal Center that they included a gift in their estate plan.

Alexander R. Aitken Anonymous (2) J. Fern Black Randy Chapman Merle Greear Paul Hunter Mary Anne Harvey Thomas Stamm Louise Todd & Gerald Stoll The following donors have made contributions since our Fall 2011 issue of Mainstream.

Business, Foundation and Organization Support Anschutz Family Foundation Berenbaum Weinshienk PC Blake Street Tavern Bright Mountain Foundation Choquette & Hart, LLP Colorado Bar Foundation Community First Foundation Denver Foundation – Lowe Fund Dill Dill Carr Stonbraker & Hutchings, PC Dorsey & Whitney LLC Forte’ Human Resources Hale & Westfall, LLP Husch Blackwell LLP Virginia W. Hill Foundation McConnell Fleischner Houghtaling LLC Mile High United Way Most Precious Blood Church Organizational Options Herbert Parker Trust

Pepsi Co. Reilly Pozner LLP Harry W. Rabb Foundation Sheridan Ross PC Sherman & Howard LLC Spirit of Christ Catholic Church

The Legal Center has received a very generous gift from the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation in Memory of Justice Luis D. Rovira who passed away in October 2011. Justice Rovira served on the Board of the Buell Foundation for 17 years, and part of his legacy was to leave financial support for the many organizations he worked with during his lifetime.

Tribute Giving

* indicates gifts designated to The Legal Center Endowment fund In Honor of Julie Busby Jody Webb & Judy Wolfe In Honor of Miriam Hermann Allen & Leonora Hermann In Honor of Bill Higgins & Jennifer Shook Rayola & James Bagwell In Memory of Joseph D. Henry Anonymous William Alleman Janet Else Mary Henry Galphin Jane Heltne Aynne Henry Barbara & Geoffrey Koslov Anne Kylen Jim & Mary Ann Wingfield R. Alan Woodard

An election judge can help you, or you can choose any other person to assist you, except your employer or an agent of your employer or labor union. The person providing assistance must not try to influence your vote in any way. You should resist any effort by any other person to influence your vote. Each polling place is required to have at least one accessible voting machine. Voting on an accessible machine may allow you to vote privately and without assistance. You may need to request to vote on the accessible voting machine. What if I think my voting rights have been violated? You can contact The Legal Center’s VOTE! Program. We are available to assist you any time you have questions regarding your voting rights. We will also be available on Election Day to help you if you think your rights are being or have been violated. How to get help: You can call The Legal Center’s Denver Office at 303-722-0300 1-800-288-1376 (V/TTY) 303-722-3619 (TTY) You can reach the Grand Junction Office at 970-241-6371 1-800-531-2105 (V/TTY). You may file a complaint for violations of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office by calling 303-894-2200 or online at www.elections.colorado.gov. You may also file a complaint with the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division by calling 1-800293-3931.

Why we give – Todd & Christy Blakely “We appreciate the valuable guidance provided by The Legal Center attorneys and advocates. This assistance went a long way in helping us to maneuver the special education system, saw us through many IEP meetings and helped our daughter and our family. For this reason, and because of many other important legal services it provides, we have been long time donors and we support the work of The Legal Center for People with Disabilities & Older People.”

Reminder: Colorado Gives Day is December 4th! Please help us to exceed the $3,000 raised in 2011 and reach this year’s goal of $5,000 by making your gift on December 4th. The Community First Foundation will be contributing additional dollars (matching money) based on the actual amount raised by the various nonprofit organizations on that day. Visit www. givingfirst.org on December 4th and select “The Legal Center.”

Your vote counts! n

In Memory of Dalice Miller Hertzberg Anonymous In Memory of Dan Hoffman *John C. Hanley In Memory of Scott McVey *Harriet Aspegren

Individual Donors

* The Presidents’ Circle includes individuals making gifts of $500 or more in a year or annual gifts in any amount for over a decade. *Norman Aaronson *John Paul & Abigail Anderson Joshua Anderson Chris & Derrith Bartling *Thomas & Sallie Bernard *Gail Bernstein Heidi Blackman *Todd & Christiana Blakely Monica & Lance Bunch *Julie Busby Gordon Carpenter Bruce Cline Valerie Corzine *Dale Coski & Alice Fritz Pat Doyle Randy & Drenda Forrest Lori & Vance Franks *Liz & Chris Fuselier Angie Garberding *Roger & Sandy Garberding Carl Glatstein Barb Grebowich *Faith Gross John Hambright Diane Hartman *Mary Anne Harvey *David Henninger James Hertzel Shelley & Larry Hitt

Alice Ierley Larry Lee *David LeCompte Jennifer Levin Ariadne Lie Peter & Pam Lindquist Mary Mobley Edith & Bill Muth Henry Nelson *William & Grace Ormsby *Randy Parcel & Tracy Kovach *Tim Parsons & Nancy McMahon Jeremy Pfauth Jacque Phillips *Gary Polidori Amy Quiñones Mary Catherine Rabbitt Ken Ransford *Howard Rosenberg John & Judy Sandness *Helen Sanks Kathleen Schoen Len & Margaret Segreti Jill Schneider Fred Smokoski Darlene Steward *Ronald Sylling Kristi Sullivan *Louise Todd & Gerald Stoll Miriam Trudell Charles Turner *Steve & Valerie Veraldi *Edward & Judy Wells *Charles & Lola Wilcox n

5


The Legal Center

Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Permit No. 1204 Denver, CO

The Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People Colorado’s Protection & Advocacy System

455 Sherman Street, Suite 130 Denver, Colorado 80203-4403

Helping a student with autism in college Continued from page 2 client to go ahead and move out of the apartment. The client moved out by the end of October. After that, the property manager proceeded to send several collection letters to our client demanding payment for the remainder of the year-long lease, adding up to about $6,000. We sent a demand letter to the attorney explaining that our client requested a reasonable accommodation that was denied in violation of the Colorado Fair Housing Act. The attorney continued to ignore us, so we filed a charge with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) in July of 2012. Soon after that, the property manager called our client and said that they had made a mistake by continuing to pursue the rent on the lease and as of today our client and his mother, co-signer on the lease, have a zero balance with the student housing complex. Our client is no longer receiving threatening letters. In the meantime, the charge of discrimination is still under investigation by the CCRD, but thanks to our legal team in the Individual Rights Program, our client can continue to pursue his college education while living in a stress free environment. He is once again doing very well. n

The Legal Center participates in the 2012 Colorado Colfax Marathon This year marked The Legal Center’s entry into Colorado’s largest charity partner event, the Kaiser Permanente Colfax Marathon over the May 19-20 weekend. Activities included 5K, halfmarathon, 10 mile urban run, and the full marathon. Congratulations to our team members who completed one of these four events: Alice WarrenGregory, Margaret Haywood, Joshua Anderson, Julie Busby, Amanda Hand, Robin Porter, Mollie Toth, Ariadne Lie, Justin Bult, Connor Chapman, Katherine Hinde, John Sherwood, Alexandra Harpp, Sarah Klein, Mary Anne Harvey, and Brad Zieg. A special congratulations to Julie Busby on her fundraising efforts! More than 70 nonprofits participated

in this fun weekend, and we increased our visibility by participating in the Charity Partner Village at City Park on both Saturday and Sunday. Please mark your calendar now for the May 18th/19th weekend and support The Legal Center by joining our team. Photo caption: From left to right, Joshua Anderson, Julie Busby, Anna Dubnikov, and Kay Conger represent The Legal Center at the Colfax Marathon in the Charity Partner Village. n

Keeping school children free of restraint and seclusion By Jenn Purrington, Advocate The Legal Center’s Restraint and Seclusion Project has taken a major step forward with a grant from the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council. Despite our legislative success with the 2008 law to prohibit the use of prone restraint for children with developmental disabilities (C.R.S. 2620-108) the practice still continues in too many schools. This summer, we began working with the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and the Developmental Disabilities Council on a Restraint and Seclusion study spanning the entire state of Colorado. CDE mandates an annual review of the use of restraints to be conducted by each school district. In addition to documenting each use

Attorneys’ Night Out, June 20th, 2012 Denver Office 455 Sherman Street, Suite 130 Denver, CO 80203-4403 303.722.0300 303.722.3619 TTY 303.722.0720 FAX Toll Free 1.800.288.1376 Grand Junction Office 322 North 8th Street Grand Junction, CO 81501-3406 970.241.6371 Voice/TTY 970.241.5324 FAX Toll Free 1.800.531.2105 Voice/TTY Email tlcmail@thelegalcenter.org www.thelegalcenter.org This publication was made possible by funding support from the US Department of Health and Human Services Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Administration for Community Living; Health Resources and Services Administration; US Dept. of Education/Rehabilitation Services Administration; Social Security Administration; State of Colorado; and Individuals, Foundations and Corporations. The contents of this newsletter are solely the responsibility of The Legal Center and do not necessarily represent the official views of these entities.

Thanks again to the Denver Bar Association -Young Lawyers Division that hosted our annual fundraiser. Additional thanks go out to our friends Chris & Liz Fuselier at the Blake Street Tavern for holding the event, to Dalmore and the Isle of Jura for providing the Scotch tasting, and for the record number of sponsors and ticket buyers that contributed to a very successful event, raising over $23,000 for The Legal Center.

These three young attorneys enjoying their evening are, left to right, Mel Panagakos, Holly DeJong and Kristi Disney.

of restraint or seclusion, the school district review also includes an analysis of training needs, data on staff to student ratios, and the use of positive behavior supports. With the grant from the DD Council, we are requesting this mandatory information from every school district. Peg Brown-Clark, assistant commissioner of the Exceptional Student Services Unit at CDE, began the process by sending an email to all of the special education directors in Colorado, asking for their assistance with our project by providing The Legal Center with their reports. So far, the response has been very positive. We have received reports from more than half of the school districts in Colorado. Over the next few months, we will begin analyzing the reports received. Our hope is to get a much clearer picture of the use of restraints and seclusions within school districts. The next step is to determine what training, if any, would help districts change their approach to create a more supportive learning environment for all children. Special education students cannot live up to their potential if their classroom is a place of fear and violence, and the inappropriate and dangerous use of restraint and seclusion as a disciplinary measure for children with disabilities negatively affects the entire student body. Overall, we believe the project has had a terrific start. With the help of the CDE and the school districts themselves, we believe this project will go a long way to reducing and eventually eliminating the use of restraint and seclusion in Colorado’s public schools. n Don’t forget to mark your calendar to attend our 8th Annual Attorneys’ Night Out and Auction on Thursday, June 27, 2013.

A Special Thanks to all of our 2012 sponsors – Title Sponsors Berenbaum Weinshienk PC Blake Street Tavern Sheridan Ross PC Major Sponsors Sherman & Howard LLC Community Sponsors Dill, Dill Carr Stonbraker & Hutchings, PC Husch Blackwell McConnell Fleischner Houghtaling LLC Supporting Sponsors Dorsey & Whitney LLP Reilly Pozner LLP Contributing Sponsors Choquette & Hart LLP Forte Human Resources Hale Westfall LLP King & Greisen, LLP Organizational Options

Fall 2012 Mainstream  

Mainstream Newsletter

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you