Parties in federal lawsuit on community integration for people with disabilities reach tentative settlement

By Adam Herman, OACB
Published Friday, October 18, 2019

On Friday, October 18, 2019, Judge Edmund Sargus of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio took the first step toward accepting a proposed settlement agreement between plaintiffs and defendants in the lawsuit Ball v. DeWine. The proposed settlement now must be shared with the many members of the plaintiff class participating in the case for their review and consent prior to being formalized in mid-December by the court.


Ball v. DeWine was filed by Disability Rights Ohio (and a group of similar plaintiff counsel representing both in-state and out-of-state disability rights organizations) in March 2016 on behalf of a small group of people with developmental disabilities and their family members who believed they were being denied opportunities for community-integrated services in Ohio.

At its most basic level, Ball v. DeWine alleged that the rights of the plaintiffs were being violated under federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), due to the way Ohio’s developmental disability service delivery system was structured, funded, and otherwise managed by several state agencies and Ohio’s 88 county boards of developmental disabilities. While county boards were not originally named as defendants when the lawsuit was filed, OACB was successful in petitioning the court to be added as an intervenor-defendant so that county boards would have an independent voice at the negotiating table.

Over the course of approximately three and a half years, plaintiffs and defendants engaged in pre-trial communications, procedural motions, and settlement discussions in an effort to avoid a long and protracted legal battle in federal court. This effort appears to have been successful if the proposed settlement agreement is accepted by the court at a final fairness hearing on December 17, 2019.

This information is presented as an initial summary only. More information about the implications of this settlement will be shared with OACB members at a later date. Members with questions should contact OACB at

What is in the Proposed Settlement Agreement?

Under the proposed settlement agreement, the State of Ohio has agreed to undertake the following actions within the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) to address plaintiffs’ concerns regarding access to community-integrated services:

  1. Continue providing and expanding access to state-funded Individual Options (IO) waivers for people who choose a waiver after options or pre-admission counseling.
    DODD will provide a total of 700 state-funded waivers over the first two years of the agreement, giving priority to exit and diversion waivers for people who want to receive services in the community but are currently living in an intermediate care facility (ICF) or are at risk of being placed in an ICF despite wanting community-based services. For the next two years, DODD will request funds from the legislature based on an assessment of the future needs of people across Ohio.

  2. Continue providing programs for integrated, affordable housing and integrated employment and day services.
    DODD will provide $24 million in capital housing assistance for state fiscal years (SFY) 2019 and 2020, to be available primarily for people receiving exit, diversion, or conversion waivers related to intermediate care facilities (ICFs). In SFY 2021 and 2022, DODD will project the continuing need for capital assistance and request budgetary approval for not less than $12 million dollars. In addition, DODD will request $250,000 to fund new transformation grants for providers delivering integrated day and employment services.

  3. Expand options counseling and pre-admission counseling programs.
    DODD and county boards of developmental disabilities will extend options counseling and pre-admission counseling programs to people who live in eight-bed intermediate care facilities (ICFs). These two counseling programs provide people with information about community-based waivers and the opportunity to discuss their options to receive services in the community. Under this agreement, no one who currently lives in an ICF will be required to move into the community, and those who are considering ICF care will still be able to make that choice.

  4. Continue peer-to-peer and family-to-family programs and exploratory community visits for people who have not yet made decisions on whether to live in an ICF or a community-based service setting.
    DODD will continue to fund programs that connect people who are considering community living with families and individuals who are already living and working in community settings. County boards will continue to provide opportunities to visit community programs and see what types of service options exist in a person’s preferred geographic area.

  5. Continue follow-along visits for people after they have left ICFs.
    The department’s Community Resource Coordinators will continue to visit people who have moved to the community to assist in resolving any service problems they may have. These visits occur 60, 180, and 365 days after transition from an ICF of 8 or more beds.

County Boards Offered Critical Facts, Context, and Expertise

As the result of participating in this lawsuit from its very early stages, county boards were instrumental in helping plaintiffs and defendants arrive at the terms in the proposed settlement agreement. While plaintiffs and state agency defendants referenced subject-matter experts in a variety of areas (and were subject matter experts in their own right), it was frequently Ohio’s 88 county boards of DD—represented in the proceedings by Franklin J. Hickman of Hickman & Lowder Co. LPA and Lori Stanfa of the Ohio Association of County Boards of DD—who were recognized as the most reliable sources of factual information, statewide context, and operational expertise throughout the proceedings.

Since 1983, the Ohio Association of County Boards of DD (OACB) has been the unified voice of Ohio’s county boards of DD before state and federal policymakers and the courts. All 88 county boards are members of the organization, and the organization’s governing board consists of representatives from county boards distributed evenly across the state by both geographic region and size. The organization has demonstrated throughout its history that it can fairly and adequately represent a wide variety of opinions within its membership about many complex issues. Once again, and with the strong support of its members, OACB was able to help guide Ohio’s DD service delivery system through a time of transition and change.


Image: Legal Gavel & Closed Law Book  |  Author:  |  Creative Commons License

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