The University of New Hampshire Law Review


In 1975, the New Hampshire legislature enacted a progressive statute which mandated the Department of Health and Human Services “to establish, maintain, implement and coordinate a comprehensive service delivery system for developmentally disabled persons.” This law was innovative for its time; it decreed that individual service plans (ISPs) be developed for every client in the state’s service delivery system, guaranteed “a right to adequate and humane habilitation and treatment[,]” and contemplated the state’s area agency system as we know it today. The statute was a steppingstone for the 1981 class action lawsuit of Garrity v. Gallen. This was one of many class actions nationwide, and part of the deinstitutionalization movement. Prodded by the Garrity court’s order demanding the establishment of area agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) led the State of New Hampshire in creating a system of community-based services for the developmentally disabled. The birth of area agencies allowed the state to become the first in the nation to embrace deinstitutionalization.

Despite the state’s seemingly valiant history with developmental disabilities, DHHS refuses to provide home and community-based services to children and young adults. This is because DHHS assumes that all developmentally disabled students under age twenty-one qualify for special education and that residential placement is the responsibility of local school districts and their taxpayers. This Note examines the longstanding struggle between parents of children with developmental disabilities, school districts, and the State of New Hampshire. Part I explains state and federal special education laws; Parts II and III detail the history of deinstitutionalization; Part IV scrutinizes how the state broke its promise to children with developmental disabilities; and Part V proposes potential solutions to this deep-rooted problem.



First Page


Repository Citation

Elizabeth Trautz, Broken Promises: The Granite State’s Return to the Institutionalization of Children with Disabilities, 21 U.N.H. L. Rev. 231 (2022).