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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois


Williams v. Pritzker Fact Sheet

 Versión en Español

Unnecessary institutionalization is against the law
In Olmstead v. L.C. (1999), the Supreme Court held that unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities is discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  People with disabilities are entitled to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

Background on the lawsuit
Williams v. Pritzker (originally Williams v. Blagojevich) is a lawsuit filed in 2005 by people with mental illness residing in large private State-funded facilities called Institutions for Mental Diseases (“IMDs”). The Judge certified the case as a class action, so the case could move forward on behalf of all of the 4,300 IMD residents across Illinois.  The parties reached an agreement called a Consent Decree.  The Judge then held a Fairness Hearing for people to share their thoughts about the agreement and in 2010, the Judge gave final approval.  This historic agreement reflects a momentous change in state policy for serving people with mental illness.  The Judge appointed an Independent Monitor with mental health expertise to oversee implementation and compliance with the Consent Decree.

What does the Consent Decree achieve?

  • Interested IMD residents will be informed of community-based options, receive individualized, independent evaluations, and be given the opportunity to live in the community (including permanent supportive housing) with appropriate services.
  • IMD residents who are happy with their current living situation will not be forced to move into the community and will have the right to refuse an evaluation.
  • All IMD residents who desire placement in the community shall transition to the most integrated community-based setting appropriate for their individual needs.
  • The State will provide appropriate community-based services and housing for people transitioning out of the IMDs, consistent with residents’ personal vision, preferences, strengths and needs, and come up with a process so people can receive community services before moving into an IMD.
  • The State will now be eligible to receive federal Medicaid reimbursements for medications and health care when an individual is receiving those services in a community-based setting.
  • Through September 2019, the State has provided over 2,500 people with services under the Decree, but was found out of compliance for not meeting the required transitions this past year.
  • Documents related to the case can be found at:

If you have questions about the case or the approved Consent Decree, please contact lead counsel Benjamin Wolf at 312-201-9740 x301 or

Last updated: January 21, 2020

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