Saturday, August 17, 2013

Civil Rights Feds Tag Florida In ADA Suit Alleging State Unnecessarily Segregates Children With Disabilities In Nursing Facilities Rather Than Placing Them In Their Families' Homes Or Other Community-Based Settings

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):

  • The Justice Department announced [] that it has filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida alleging the state is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its administration of its service system for children with significant medical needs, resulting in nearly 200 children with disabilities being unnecessarily segregated in nursing facilities when they could be served in their family homes or other community-based settings.

    The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., further alleges that the state’s policies and practices place other children with significant medical needs in the community at serious risk of institutionalization in nursing facilities.

    The ADA and the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C.(1) require states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of persons with disabilities. The department’s complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory damages for affected children.
  • “Florida must ensure that children with significant medical needs are not isolated in nursing facilities, away from their families and communities,” said Eve Hill, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Children have a right to grow up with their families, among their friends and in their own communities. This is the promise of the ADA’s integration mandate as articulated by the Supreme Court in Olmstead. The violations the department has identified are serious, systemic and ongoing and require comprehensive relief for these children and their families.”

    Since late 2012, the department has met with Florida officials on numerous occasions in an attempt to resolve the violations identified in the findings letter cooperatively. While the state has altered some policies that have contributed to the unnecessary institutionalization of children, ongoing violations remain. Nearly two hundred children remain in nursing facilities. Deficient transition planning processes, lengthy waiting lists for community-based services and a lack of sufficient community-based alternatives persist. The department has therefore determined that judicial action is necessary to ensure that the civil rights of Florida’s children are protected.

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