A bill requiring court hearings to determine the future status of all 900 patients at Forest Haven, the District of Columbia's home for the mentally retarded, was approved yesterday by the D.C. City Council's committee on human resources and aging.
The committee's recommendation for council enactment climaxed about three years of work on the bill, which contains a strong statement of civil and legal rights of the retarded.
Among other provisions, it requires housing and treatment of the retarded "in a setting least restrictive of personal liberty."
Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), chairwoman of the committee, said the measure would be presented to the full council in September. She said its passage is vital to carry out a recent order dealing with the future of Forest Haven, issued by U.S. District Judge John J. Pratt.
In his order, Pratt required that about one-fifth of Forest Haven's 900 patients be moved from the facility in Laurel over the next two years to community treatment centers. He also blocked further admissions to Forest Haven in the meantime.
The proposed bill, sponsored by Arrington Dixon (D-Ward 4), would require that Superior Court hearings be held within three years to determine whether each patient should remain at Forest Haven or should be moved to another location.
The bill also removes a longtime requirement that the family must relinquish guardianship of a patient to the D.C. government in order to gain admission to a city-financed residential facility.