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Feds Sue Over Kids In Nursing Homes

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Federal officials are suing alleging that hundreds of children with disabilities are being unnecessarily segregated in nursing homes in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit Monday accusing the state of Florida of relegating nearly 200 children with significant disabilities to nursing homes who could be served at home or in other community-based settings.

Last September, the Justice Department warned Florida officials of ADA violations after an investigation found that state policies and practices limited access to in-home care for kids with significant medical needs leaving many families with little choice but to send their children to nursing homes. What’s more, the probe identified children who spent years at the facilities before receiving federally-mandated screening to assess whether or not the environment was the most appropriate for them.

Though the state made some changes since being notified of the investigation’s findings, federal officials said that after several months of negotiating, violations remain making legal action necessary.

“Children have a right to grow up with their families, among their friends and in their own communities,” said Eve Hill, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The violations the department has identified are serious, systemic and ongoing and require comprehensive relief for these children and their families.”

Kids living in nursing homes have limited interaction with individuals without disabilities and are often located hundreds of miles away from their families, according to the federal complaint.

In addition, the suit alleges that the state’s policies and practices put other children with significant medical needs who are currently living in the community at risk of similar institutionalization.

For their part, Florida officials said they have taken steps in the last year to improve an “already strong program” providing services for children with complex medical needs, indicating that more than 1,000 children are now receiving enhanced care services to help them return to or remain in the community.

“Today’s Obama administration action shows that Washington is not interested in helping families improve but instead is determined to file disruptive lawsuits with the goal of taking over control and operation of Florida’s Medicaid and disability programs,” said Elizabeth Dudek, secretary of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, in a statement.

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Comments (16 Responses)

  1. J Daniel says:

    Follow the money…some of these nursing homes get up to $500 per DAY for housing kids with disabilities. This is a new Florida law. Shameful.

  2. David Snow says:

    Florida and the state I live in: South Carolina, are obviously touchy about not expanding Medicaid in 2014 despite popular approval of the expansion. “…Washington is not interested in helping families improve but instead is determined to file disruptive lawsuits with the goal of taking over control and operation of Florida’s Medicaid and disability programs,” said Elizabeth Dudek, secretary of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, in a statement. One wonder’s how long these state governments can continue to work in opposition to their citizen’s best wishes.

  3. Kelly says:

    I am a parent of a child with disability and that is NOT ok to treat kids like that or their families. Since you people can’t seem to get it through your heads what you are doing is WRONG, then yes I applauded the Federal Government for stepping in and making your lives a living nightmare!! I hope that by the time they are done with you and your “administration” that you MA’AM will be looking for other work that doesn’t involve families with loved ones with disability.

    Just because a person has a disability, doesn’t mean that they should be treated like garbage and it doesn’t give you the right to act like donkeys! Either do your job RIGHT or go find another line of work!

  4. Kathleen says:

    As a mom of a disabled child LIVING in Florida…NONE of this surprises me…ive been waiting for 9 of his 12+ years of life…id move if i werent tied to agreement with older sons dad so he can visit…zero services in Florida

  5. L Adams says:

    I’m curious, what do the parents of these children have to say?

  6. Rob says:

    Florida should check out the programs in Alberta. We might not have the “perfect” programs, certainly on the leading edge though.

  7. patm says:

    Be careful what you wish for. Many of these medically complicated youth require the skilled care of a nursing home. To push them out onto the community will leave these vulnerable to neglect because of not having enough staff to turn, move, feed, clean, suction, and to do all the stuff taken for granted in a skilled care center. Not to mention staff that could sexually abuse them and no one will know.

  8. Betsy says:

    All individuals any age and with or without a disability should have a choice about where they live

  9. laurensdad says:

    L. Adams, If you want a parent’s perspective, see the story on Motherjones called What’s it Like to Wake Up from a Tea Party Binge? Just Ask Florida!. “Extravagances” like diapers and respite care have disappeared under Governor Scott according to my relative in central Florida who has an autistic son. He said things were better under Bush. I don’t know who this Dudek person is, but it appears she believes in a “boogeyman” named Obama.

  10. Electric_Pink says:

    I live in Georgia and the state is under the gun by the DOJ to move people in nursing homes and state hospitals to community-based living. What’s so unbelievable is that it costs less to support a person in their own home than in a nursing home or institution. Even medically-fragile people can have a certified professional come to their home, if that’s where the individual chooses to live, to receive necessary supports. The powers that be have to be careful not to place individuals in poorly-run group homes that can’t adequately support them. It’s a truly sad situation for people with disabilities who feel they have no control over their lives.

  11. Katherine says:

    To patm@ I have to respectfully disagree with your comment. Even if an individual is severely disabled that they need 24/7 supervision they should be able to be apart of the community if they choose to do so, since they are a person first and their disability is a part of them but it does not define them. Second caring individuals that do have guardianship if there was one place to the individual that has a severe disability should also have the right to choose where it is best placement for the individual they are taking care of. I agree that it’s not an easy decision for anyone however, writing on here that nursing homes is the primary choice for the medically complicated youth is uncalled for as well. It should be viewed as each person’s case. The point of living in America is that we have the right to choose in where we want to live, where we want to work, who we want to marry and what we want to do with our life as long as it does no harm to others or ourselves. Taking away choice is like being in a country that it’s totalitarianism and that is not what we as American people should advocate for. Plus vulnerability, neglect and abuse can happen anywhere to anyone

  12. heidi jackman says:

    let us not lose focus. children make up our future government. can you imagine what our world would be like without Einstein, A.G. Bell, D. Blunkett (Britain’s famous guide dog owner), Edison, Washington, Helen Keller, Beethoven. I’m sure glad their generations invested in their children. Just make it happen!

  13. Katherine says:

    @heidi jackman I agree with you Heidi The children do make up our future and the world would be bland place without different people displaying their abilities as a way to contribute to society or even the world.

  14. Dian says:

    I work as a psychologist n nursing homes n Ok. So far, I have not observed a child n nursing home care n an Ok facility I work n .

  15. PedsNurse says:

    As a nurse who worked at a pediatric long term care facility and also had a brother who lived in one, you have no idea what your talking about. Most of these parents never called, never visited, never a Christmas or birthday gift, never a phone call. Most of these children were better off in the facility then home with their abusive, parents who didn’t give a crap where there were, how they were doing or who was caring for them. These kids get more love and attention from their nurses then from their own families. No one forces your you to place your child there, you choose to.

  16. Sarah says:

    how do the feds define “other community based setting” and what are the options for parents with a severely disabled child that needs around the clock care? Is there substance behind these words or is it just rhetoric? I think if there were more community homes for children with severe disabilties then parents would opt for placement in those vs. placing their child in a nursing home. If they are going to forbid nursing home placement then feds should provide concrete housing options otherwise many of these families will not be able to cope and abuse and neglect will rise.

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