Civil Rights Protections

SAMHSA works to protect the rights of the most vulnerable individuals with mental and/or substance use disorders by ensuring they are treated with dignity.

SAMHSA supports communities where individuals with mental health or substance use issues are treated with dignity, compassion, and respect. Learn how SAMHSA is implementing laws and regulations related to civil rights protections:

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA – 1990 (PDF | 112 KB) establishes requirements for equal opportunities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications for citizens with disabilities, including people with mental illnesses and addictions.

In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the landmark Olmstead decision directing the ADA to uphold the rights of individuals with disabilities to receive health care in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs. In most cases this means a community-based setting. SAMHSA has been a key member of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Coordinating Council on Community Living and has funded technical assistance opportunities to promote integrated services for people with behavioral health needs, including a policy academy – 2012 (PDF | 2.2 MB) to share effective community integration practices with states.

For more information on the Olmstead decision, review the United States Reports, Volume 527: Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court at October Term, 1998, June 10 Through September 28, 1999 (PDF | 3.4 MB) (report page 581; PDF page 616).

Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Program

The PAIMI Program’s (CFR Title 42: Part 51) regulation details the requirements of protection and advocacy services receiving federal assistance under the PAIMI Act of 1986. SAMHSA’s PAIMI Program – 2012 protects the rights of adults with serious mental illness and children or youth with serious emotional disturbance in the community as well as in care and treatment facilities. The program also protects those who are at risk for abuse, neglect, or rights violations. Under the Act, governor-designated protection and advocacy systems located in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia receive grant funds from SAMHSA to support protection and advocacy services.

Biennial Report to Congress, the President, and the National Council on Disability

The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act) requires the HHS Secretary to submit a biennial report on the goals and outcomes for the Protection and Advocacy (P&A) programs. These reports are submitted to the President, Congress, and National Council on Disability every two years and identify the goals and outcomes of P&A programs. Section 114(a)(1) of the PAIMI Act requires that the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disability (AIDD) Report include a statement describing the activities, accomplishments, and expenditures of State Protection and Advocacy Systems which serve individuals with mental illness. This statement is prepared by SAMHSA and is being forwarded for inclusion in this Report as an Appendix.

Biennial Report for Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012 (PDF | 1.7 MB)

Last Updated: 03/10/2017