Maine housing settlement approved

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The U.S. District Court for the District of Maine approved a legal settlement May 2 requiring the state of Maine to expand community living options for people with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities.

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The settlement, first announced in September 2011, requires the state to provide Medicaid-funded Home and Community Based Waiver services to fund services to ensure that more than 75 people people with these disabilities can transfer from state-run nursing homes to more integrated settings conducive to their needs.

“The thrust is to get people out of nursing homes and give them the option of living in the community,” said Staci Converse, an attorney with the Disability Rights Center, in an article in the Bangor Daily News. “Federal law has an integration mandate so people can live in the least-restrictive environment, so they can live in their communities.”

The Disability Rights Center, along with National Health Law Program and Maine Equal Justice Partners, represented three people with cerebral palsy who sued the state in  2009 for illegally segregating them due to their disabilities.

The settlement affects an estimated 121 people confined in similar situations.

The settlement also requires that the state Department of Health and Human Services contact all of the state’s nursing facilities within the next 30 days to remind them of their obligations to screen and identify patients with similar conditions, along with subsequent reviews to ensure compliance.

The court will retain jurisdiction over the settlement for three years, or until the settlement’s requirements are completed.

“The resolution achieves what our clients wanted from the state — a chance to live independently in the community and not be segregated from their peers,” said Jack Comart, the litigation director for Maine Equal Justice Partners, in the Bangor Daily News article.

The Disability Rights Center is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.