Paige Barton spent 15 years in an Ohio institution before proving her self-sufficiency. She became a leader of self-advocates in Maine, eventually forming the advocacy group Speaking Up for Us (SUFU).
The second decade of the 21st century ushered in big changes to state government. An economic downturn and a new administration ushered in alongside others in an austerity-based, small government movement led to budget cuts and staffing freezes at the Department of Human Services. Over this decade, waitlists for services exploded, especially for Section 21 services, which serve those who need daily support to live full lives.
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 impulse toward institutions continues as some community-based facilities for developmentally disabled persons grow in size and the people they serve become less integrated in everyday community life and less in control of their own lives.
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.
With public and policy sentiment turning towards the idea that people with developmental disabilities deserved the right to care in their communities and a full life with control over their choices, a new system needed to be built from the ground up.
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.