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De-institutionalization: do reporters know it's a trend?
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Nov. 28, 2000 -- "While the number of people with developmental disabilities living in publicly-funded institutions in the U.S. dropped by 65 per cent from 1977 to 1998," reports Dave Reynold of Inclusion Daily Express, ( "in Nevada, they increased by 43 percent."

Reynolds, who tracks media coverage of "inclusion" issues, found that the Las Vegas Sun had done a good job of reporting this in its Nov. 25 story, quoting a particularly telling paragraph from reporter Steve Kanigher: "'This is another one of those reports done in another part of the country that does not understand the situation in Nevada,' said Jack Finn, spokesman for Gov. Kenny Guinn."

The study Finn was referring to was from the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago -- a "State of the States in Developmental Disabilities: 2000" report, available at )

Kanigher noted that "Jack Finn, spokesman for Gov. Kenny Guinn, had not seen the study but criticized it nonetheless." Kanigher's story is online at

The trend toward moving people out of institutions has been pushed by the Supreme Court Olmstead decision. (Accessible Society E-Letter 11/14/2000). News stories about state moves toward de-institutionalization, though, rarely cover the story as the national trend it is -- and even less often note the role of disability advocates in bringing it about. An exception is a Nov. 16 story from the Associated Press, which did note the Olmstead decision as a pivotal reason behind Indiana's Gov. Frank O'Bannon's executive order "calling for the state to create a long-term plan" to serve people with developmental disabilities "in the lest restrictive settings possible," pointing out that the move was triggered by a lawsuit filed by advocates in wake of the Olmstead decision.

A story from the Nov. 12 New Orleans Times -Picaynue is more typical. Headlined "New Medicaid waiver targets children," the story reports on a "new Medicaid children's waiver providing supplemental support to children with significant disabilities ... who will leave an institution to return home." This may or may not have been triggered by the OImstead decision, but we don't find out from reporter Susan Pic, who also makes no mention of the trend toward in-home services. This is all the more curious since Pic is not herself a reporter but an advocate -- the public relations coordinator for the Arc of Greater New Orleans, here writing a weekly column for the paper.

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