Disability Rights South Carolina began a new priority cycle in the fiscal year starting October 1, 2021. These goals and priorities set the direction for our work. In preparation for the development of new priorities, DRSC distributed surveys and conducted focus groups of people with disabilities, their families, professionals, and service providers and others about the needs of people with disabilities and the barriers to addressing those needs. The data collected was shared with our Board, advisory groups and staff for development into priorities, goals and objectives, and finally approved by the DRSC Board of Directors at its September 2021 meeting. We will review our three-year plan annually to update it and make revisions as needed.
Abuse and Neglect
Vision: People with disabilities are safe, healthy, respected, treated with dignity, and supported to lead meaningful lives.
Goal: Monitor facilities and programs that serve people with disabilities, and investigate claims of abuse, neglect, exploitation or other mistreatment by a service provider, in keeping with the law and best practices.
Reasoning: As the Protection & Advocacy organization for South Carolina, DRSC is federally mandated and empowered to conduct monitoring and investigations where people with disabilities, particularly those in facilities, live and receive services. We work to keep them free from abuse and neglect. This has been and always will be a critical part of DRSC’s efforts.
- Monitor facilities and programs to identify, prevent and remedy instances of abuse and neglect against people with disabilities, and keep them safe;
- Ensure legal compliance, safe conditions, and appropriate services;
- Investigate deaths and allegations of abuse, neglect, restraint or seclusion, particularly in facilities or where the cause is systemic;
- Ensure that representative payees do not exploit, abuse or neglect beneficiaries of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income;
- Monitor Community Residential Care Facilities, under a contract with Department of Mental Health.
Vision: People with disabilities live in the community and receive appropriate community-based services.
Goal: Reduce unnecessary institutionalization of individuals with disabilities and advance home and community-based services and supports.
Reasoning: The current health and human services system is biased towards institutionalization over home and community-based services. Often, people with disabilities who could successfully live in the community with sufficient services and supports, are stuck in institutional settings. Others, currently living in the community are at risk of unnecessary institutionalization and segregation due to cost-cutting measures and a flawed implementation of the service systems.
- People with disabilities in institutions have home and community-based services available to facilitate their transition to the community;
- People with disabilities do not face increased risk of institutionalization or re–institutionalization due to lack of adequate, timely home and community-based services;
- People with disabilities are not placed in guardianships which restrict their ability to make independent or supported decisions about their lives.
Vision: South Carolina offers coordinated, timely, community-based services for people with disabilities.
Goal: Advocate for a South Carolina Olmstead Plan, to ensure there are coordinated, timely, community-based services for people with disabilities.
Reasoning: The U.S. Supreme Court 1999 landmark decision in Olmstead v. L.C. found the unjustified segregation of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). States are required to place persons with disabilities in community settings rather than institutions, when appropriate, when persons request to live in the community, and when community-based services can be reasonably accommodated. South Carolina does not currently have an Olmstead Plan that offers coordinated, timely, community-based services.
- Identify key components of an Olmstead Plan, and recruit policymakers and stakeholders, such as community-based organizations;
- Work with partners like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide guidance.
Decriminalize Mental Illness
Vision: People with mental illness and other disabilities receive appropriate services and placements, versus placements in jails, prisons, detention centers and juvenile facilities, due to lack of appropriate services.
Goal: Reduce inappropriate placement for people with mental illness and other disabilities in correction facilities, due to the lack of appropriate and timely community-based services and placements.
Reasoning: People with mental illness and other disabilities may not receive appropriate services in their communities, leading to inappropriate incarceration.
- Children with serious mental illness and other disabilities are diverted from the juvenile justice system, and receive appropriate and timely services;
- Children in the juvenile justice system, with a serious mental illness and other disabilities, receive appropriate and timely services;
- Adults with mental illness and other disabilities receive timely competency evaluations;
- Adults with mental illness and other disabilities who need restoration, or who cannot be restored, receive timely and appropriate services.
Educational and Behavioral Services
Vision: Students with disabilities receive positive behavioral planning and supports when needed to address behaviors at school. Students in alternative settings have access to a free and appropriate public education.
Goal: Advocate so students with disabilities receive appropriate educational and behavioral services and supports at school. Monitor access to FAPE for students with disabilities who are in alternative school placement.
Reasoning: Schools exclude students with disabilities when they exhibit challenging behaviors, even when those behaviors are related to their disabilities. Schools are excluding students with disabilities through restraint and seclusion, suspension, expulsion, restrictive placements, alternative school placement, and juvenile court involvement.
- Students with disabilities, and their families, understand and request appropriate behavioral supports and services in the school setting;
- Students with disabilities, and their families advocating for inclusive placements are supported;
- School districts using negative responses to behaviors of students with disabilities are identified and reported;
- Students with disabilities who are in an alternative school placement have access to FAPE.
Vision: Students with disabilities leave school prepared for life as adults in the community.
Goal: Advocate so students with disabilities receive transition evaluations, planning, and services that meet state and federal laws for appropriate transition planning.
Reasoning: Students with disabilities are at risk of not being prepared to leave school and enter to appropriate transition services, which includes employment, post-secondary education, community services and programs, self-advocacy and self-determination.
- Vocational rehabilitation programs are accountable for ensuring employment transition services for students and vocational rehabilitation clients transitioning from school to adult life;
- Students with disabilities and their families understand their rights to transition evaluation, planning and services, and request those services when the student turns 13.
Expanding Options to Obtain a High School Diploma
Vision: Students with disabilities have more options to obtain a high school diploma.
Goals: Educate policy makers, stakeholders, and the public on current options available for a student with disabilities, and advocate for policy solutions in South Carolina.
Reasoning: The current diploma framework in South Carolina limits the ability of some students with disabilities to obtain a high school diploma, as compared to other states that offer more options. The lack of a high school diploma can affect a student’s ability to obtain competitive employment or pursue post-secondary education in the future.
- South Carolina public schools report if students with disabilities are earning certificates, credentials or high school diplomas;
- Other states share options to earning a diploma for students with disabilities and outcomes for these students;
- Stakeholders, policy makers and public learn what options are available to students with disabilities in South Carolina and discuss policy solutions that lead to more options for earning a high school diploma.
Vision: People with disabilities receive services needed to work in competitive and integrated employment.
Goal: Advocate for services people with disabilities need in order to work in competitive and integrated jobs.
Reasoning: People with disabilities struggle to find employment in integrated settings for competitive wages, do not receive timely and appropriate vocational rehabilitation services, do not receive needed postsecondary accommodations, and face other barriers to work.
- Policies and practices maximize employment potential in integrated settings for competitive wages;
- People with disabilities receive services on a timely basis consistent with the Rehabilitation Act;
- Post-secondary students with disabilities receive accommodations;
- Beneficiaries of Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income overcome barriers to work.
Vision: People with disabilities will have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in their communities.
Goal: Protect the legal rights of individuals with disabilities in areas including healthcare, housing, public accommodations, emergency preparation, and the voting process.
Reasoning: People with disabilities face discrimination in areas such as accessing housing, healthcare, public accommodations, emergency preparation, and voting access.
- People with disabilities receive appropriate auxiliary aids/services when needed for effective communication;
- People with disabilities are included in communication regarding access to housing;
- Barriers are removed so people with disabilities can vote;
- People with disabilities have access to emergency services;
- People with disabilities have equal access, including technological access, to public places, programs, or services.
Vision: People with disabilities and their caretakers are educated on laws that protect their rights, and are effective self-advocates.
Goal: Offer education and outreach to people with disabilities to educate them on laws that protect their rights. Outreach efforts will target minority and rural communities.
Reasoning: People with disabilities do not always understand how laws protect their legal rights to services and programs, and know how to effectively advocate for services. People from underserved communities (rural communities, urban communities, minorities) are especially vulnerable.
- People with disabilities learn about their rights and the services to which they are entitled, including education, community services and equal access;
- People with mental illness and other disabilities learn how they and their community interact with and are impacted by the criminal justice system;
- People with disabilities learn about the Rep Payee program and SSA;
- People with disabilities and their families understand options to guardianship, including supported decision making:
- People with disabilities from underserved urban, rural communities, and minority persons learn about their rights and the services to which they are entitled.
Vision: Policy makers and stakeholders understand the laws protecting the legal rights of people with disabilities.
Goal: Offer education and outreach to policy makers and other stakeholders.
Reasoning: Policy makers and other stakeholders may not understand the laws protecting individuals, which includes the ADA, Rehab Act, and Olmstead.
- Policy makers;
- State level partners;
- Private law firms;
- Stakeholders like educators, law enforcement and court officers.
Vision: People with disabilities have greater access to legal representation to protect their rights.
Goal: Broaden network of litigation partners to promote and defend the legal rights of people with disabilities.
Reasoning: DRSC has limited resources to devote to litigation.
- Current litigation partners;
- Private law firms;
- Public Interest Organizations;
- Local and National Legal Advocacy partners.
Case Selection Criteria for 2021-2024 Goals and Priorities
In deciding whether to agree to provide individual representation, DRSC will endeavor to use its limited resources in a manner that best promotes systemic change for the benefit of people with disabilities. To that end, DRSC will consider the following factors:
Case selection criteria to consider:
- Violation of an individual’s fundamental right to be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitations in institutions and community settings;
- Improper restriction of rights of individuals in institutions or community settings, including but not limited to: access to their records, freedom from restraint, seclusion or medications, and access to an internal process to address grievances;
- People with disabilities seeking to live or maintain living in the most integrated setting;
- People with mental illness or disabilities who incarcerated or institutionalized due to lack of appropriate services;
- Students with disabilities who are not receiving timely transition services and planning;
- Students with disabilities who are not receiving appropriate behavioral supports and services;
- Students being denied the option to receive a high school diploma;
- People with disabilities who are facing discrimination in accessing housing, healthcare, public accommodations, emergency preparation, and voting access;
- Whether DRSC has access to the resources necessary to provide high quality representation;
- Capacity of the individual for self-advocacy;
- Cases involving access to private entities that can be resolved through negotiation;
- Whether the client is willing to have the case used to educate and wants to be a part of this process.
- Legal merit and likelihood of success;
- Attractiveness to private attorneys or others who might provide representation;
- The case resolution is likely to benefit other people with disabilities by changing a policy, practice, law or physical environment;
- The case involves a fundamental right under the state or federal constitution or statute;
- The case is likely to enhance public understanding and support of the rights of people with disabilities;
- The case involves a challenge to our statutory access authority.
Grievance Policy and Procedures
As the Protection and Advocacy (P&A) system in South Carolina, we intend to operate in compliance with the federal laws regarding protection and advocacy systems. We strive to provide appropriate services to individuals with disabilities and to treat them with respect while we are assisting them. To assure that individuals have full access to our programs and that we are operating in compliance with federal protection and advocacy acts, we recognize the right of clients or prospective clients of the P&A system to grieve any action or decision relating to the services we may provide to them.