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New Freedom Initiative on Community Based Living (Executive Order #13217)

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As a part of the New Freedom Initiative, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13217, "Community-Based Alternatives for Individuals with Disabilities," on June 18, 2001. The Order calls upon the federal government to assist states and localities to swiftly implement the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C. (which holds that unjustified isolation or segregation of qualified individuals through institutionalization is a form of disability-based discrimination prohibited by Title II of the ADA).

Executive Order 13217 directed six federal agencies, the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Education, Labor and Housing and Urban Development and the Social Security Administration to "evaluate the policies, programs, statutes and regulations of their respective agencies to determine whether any should be revised or modified to improve the availability of community-based services for qualified individuals with disabilities" and to report back to the President with their findings. Though not named in the Executive Order, the Departments of Transportation and Veterans Affairs, the Small Business Administration, and the Office of Personnel Management also have joined in the implementation effort. Together, these agencies have formed the Interagency Council on Community Living under the leadership of the Secretary of HHS.

Because any plans to improve community integration of people with disabilities should include the ideas and advice of the people who are most affected, the President ensured that public input would be a central component of the federal review mandated by the Order. To encourage the broad participation of people with disabilities, family caregivers, providers and advocates in the public input, the Interagency Council on Community Living sponsored a national listening session in Washington, D.C., a national teleconference, and published a Federal Register notice soliciting written public comments. This public input process was concluded in September, 2001.

HHS presented President Bush with Delivering on the Promise: Preliminary Report of Federal Agencies' Actions to Eliminate Barriers and Promote Community Integration on December 21, 2001. On March 25, 2002, HHS presented President Bush with HUD's final report, along with the other individual agencies' reports that were completed under the Executive Order.

HUD's final report represents the initial steps that are necessary for enhanced community integration. But these are just the first steps. HUD looks forward to continued collaboration with federal, state, and local governments, together with people with disabilities, and other stakeholders, to develop additional recommendations to fulfill its charge and the promise of full community integration for all Americans with disabilities.

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