Class action lawsuit filed by DC disability services

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University Legal Services filed a class action lawsuit against the District of Columbia Dec. 23 for failure to provide a mechanism for people with disabilities to transition from large nursing facilities to community-based homes.

“(The district) provide few opportunities, if any, for Plaintiffs to obtain services in more integrated settings,” according to thecomplaint, filed on behalf of four people with developmental disabilities in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The district funds about 2,900 people with disabilities to live in its nurse facilities. Following the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision prohibiting unnecessary institutionalization, the district set a March 8, 2008 deadline to create an “Olmstead Plan” to transition individuals capable of living outside of nursing homes into community-based locations. The plan, drafted and circulated in 2009, is not finalized.

According to the complaint, the district has not provided funding for community-based options. It also has not created a system for evaluating the patients in the nursing facilities, or for educating them on alternative options.

The district also plans to, as of the beginning of 2011, reduce funding for home-based personal care aid services from its Medicaid State Plan from 1,040 hours to 520 hours per year per person, in further violation of federal law, the plaintiffs argue. As a result, more of these patients would be transferred into the district’s Medicaid Waiver program, which is capped at 4,000 patients, further eliminating options for people with disabilities looking to move out of the nursing facilities.

In 2006, the District received a five-year federal grant worth $26 million to transition 1,100 people from nursing to community-based facilities. According to the complaint, not a single person has been transferred with the grant’s funding.

University Legal Services is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.