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Interview with Talley Wells, April 21, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:17 - The Disability Integration Project / Starting work at Atlanta Legal Aid Society

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Partial Transcript: What's your job at Atlanta Legal Aid Society?

Segment Synopsis: Talley Wells talks about his work in the Disability Integration Project, which was a project started as a result of implementing the requirements of the Olmstead Plan. Wells talks about how he came to work at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, since both he and his wife, Laura Wells, wanted to work in disability and live close to family in the southeast. Wells explains that when he came to Atlanta Legal Aid in 2000, he worked as an attorney for general public legal work. In 2008, he eventually came to focus on disability work. Wells talks about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's mandate for Georgia to develop a Olmstead Plan in order to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act which promised timely integration for people with disabilities into the community.

Keywords: Americans with Disabilities Act; Atlanta Legal Aid; Olmstead Plan; Olmstead v. L.C.; Sue Jamieson; U.S Department of Health and Human Services; United States Supreme Court

00:07:28 - Department of Justice Investigation / The settlement agreement

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Partial Transcript: Now, you did something that was interesting because you left us ...

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer, Susan Goico, explains her role as the monitor of the voluntary compliance agreement between the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services and the treatment of people in nursing homes and hospitals. Wells explains that he was simultaneously involved in the investigations conducted by the Department of Justice over the affairs of Georgia state mental health hospitals. Wells explains that right before the presidential election of 2009, a settlement agreement was reached between the Department of Justice and the state of Georgia (concerning the reform of the Georgia mental health hospitals) that failed to hold accountability and set benchmarks for the execution of community integration as mandated through the Olmstead Plan. Wells explains that many other states had reached settlement agreements around the same time, which raised suspicion among advocacy groups as the agreements were drafted before the 2009 presidential election. Wells talks about the responding appeals by advocacy groups to request modifications to the settlement agreement to better represent the interests of the advocacy groups and stakeholders.

Keywords: Ari Shapiro; Bazalon Center; Cynthia Wainscott; Department of Health and Human Services; Georgia Regional Hospital; Government Accountability Office; National Public Broadcasting Radio (NPR); Office of Civil Rights; Voluntary Compliance Agreement

00:13:44 - Drafting a new settlement agreement / Creation of housing vouchers

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Partial Transcript: We all met here and basically had a big negotiation...

Segment Synopsis: Wells talks about the actions advocacy groups took in addressing the problems of the settlement agreement between the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and the Department of Justice. Wells recalls the meetings held between stakeholders, advocacy groups, and other concerning parties, known as the amici, in order to address the ways in which the settlement agreement failed to adequately enact the Olmstead Plan for the state of Georgia. Wells talks about how the meetings held in The Carter Center allowed for efficient negotiations in the efforts to draft a new settlement agreement. Wells recalls the eventual creation of housing vouchers as a way to provide the housing necessary for the integration of those with mental disabilities into the community.

Keywords: Carter Center; Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA); Department of Community Affairs; Dough Scott; Fuqua Center for Late Life Depression; Olmstead Plan; Sonny Purdue; Sue Jamieson; William McDonald

00:21:13 - Georgia housing voucher system

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Partial Transcript: And how unique is the Georgia housing voucher program?

Segment Synopsis: Wells explains how the circumstances regarding the state of Georgia's funding of social services led to the development of a unique housing funding program that relied on bridge funding, which assisted with funding housing costs for recently-released hospital patients. Wells explains that the revised settlement agreement between the Department of Justice and the state of Georgia concerning the integration of those with mental illnesses into a community was implemented instead of a previous Olmstead Plan that was drafted and never carried out. Wells talks about his concerns over the revised settlement agreement because it did not adequately address the needs of children and the provision of crisis-prevention care for those with mental illnesses. Wells adds that close to 6,000 people in the state of Georgia still need housing in order to participate in the community integration promised through the Olmstead Plan.

Keywords: Dr. Frank Shelp; Money Follows the Person; Olmstead Plan; Olmstead Planning Committee; William McDonald

00:28:12 - Complications in Georgia mental health care

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Partial Transcript: I think on the developmental disability side...

Segment Synopsis: Wells addresses the lack of community integration provided for people with developmental disabilities in the state of Georgia. Wells explains that the housing plans implemented by the state of Georgia through the settlement agreement have not yet assisted a large enough population of the recently-released patients from mental institutions. Wells explains that the reason behind the lack of integration services is due to the state's focus on the quantity of services (such as the number of Assertive Community Treatment 'ACT' Teams) rather than the quality of such services. Wells explains that though there has been progress in improving mental health care in Georgia, there is still more progress to be made.

Keywords: Assertive Community Treatment (ACT); Doug Scott; developmental disabilities; forensic hospitals

00:36:37 - Potential improvements in Georgia mental health institutions

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Partial Transcript: How do you think the settlement agreement has...

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer, Susan Goico, shares her wish to increase the quality of care for those who were recently released from mental hospitals and forensic hospitals. Goico talks about how the Department of Justice's investigations into Georgia mental health institutions catalyzed change that she claims would not have occurred otherwise. Wells explains that the collaboration among the entire mental health community and advocates in the state of Georgia is what led to the successful settlement agreements. Wells addresses the need for a common goal concerning institutionalized care for the state of Georgia and states his wish for the implementation of at-home care for all people, regardless of their disabilities.

Keywords: Assertive Community Treatment (ACT Team); Department of Justice (DOJ); Georgia Regional Hospital; Olmstead Planning Committee; forensic hospitals