In an attempt to consolidate and eliminate bureaucracy, in 2003 a bill was proposed at the Legislature to merge the Department of Human Services and the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Servicers (formerly the Department of Mental Retardation) into one department: the Department of Health and Human Services.
In February of 2000, in response to the federal Olmstead decision requiring services for people with developmental disabilities in the least restrictive environment possible, the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services created the Workgroup for Community-Based Living.
Despite a growing understanding that community-based services were a better choice for individuals than institutionalization, switching from a consolidated and hierarchical system to one of many service providers helping smaller numbers of clients follow personalized plans for success was difficult, and the path forward had many hurdles to overcome.
While Maine was working to build a system of care for people with developmental disabilities outside of institutions, a legal case before the Supreme Court finally codified the idea that people with developmental disabilities had the right to life in the community.
Furthering the gains of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, the ADA protects people with disabilities from discrimination not just from the government, but from employers and businesses that provide public accommodations.
This act was the first federal law that protected the civil rights of people with disabilities, providing that people with disabilities could not be excluded from or denied participation in any program that received federal funding - including schools, healthcare, and government assistance.
The IDEA law of 1990 built upon the the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 - further enshrining the main elements of an inclusive education.
This law broke the Department of Mental Health and Corrections into two separate agencies.
The Legislature passed a law into statute requiring the Department of Human Services to provide in-home and community support services for adults with long-term care needs.
The new law gave a bit more freedom for marriage, but still denied anyone “impaired by reason of mental illness or mental retardation to the extent that he lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make...responsible decisions” the right to marriage.