Judge blocks cuts to California in-home services

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The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issue a preliminary injunction January 19 forcing the state to delay a planned 20 percent across the board cut to in-home care services for people with disabilities and the elderly.

The plan, would have forced “thousands and thousands of people who really need these services to be dumped off, and only if they clawed their way back on would they regain their hours,” the injunction stated, according to a news release from Disability Rights California.

The plan also would have affected more than 372,000 individuals currently receiving care through the Medicaid-funded program.

The court blocked a similar plan in 2009, in response to a class action lawsuit filed  by Disability Rights California, the Disability Rights Legal Center, the National Health Law Program and the National Senior Citizen Law Center. In 2010, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard arguments in the case.

The groups filed another lawsuit following the legislature’s latest attempt to cut the program’s services. The cuts were scheduled to go into effect January 1, but the court blocked the cuts through a temporary restraining order issued December 1. A preliminary injunction, such as that issued by the court January 19, differentiates from the temporary restraining order in that it is only issued if the judge thinks the plaintiffs have a likely chance of winning their case at trial.

In the preliminary injunction, the court questioned the notifications the state had planned to send to in-home care recipients, suggesting that they violate the recipients’ due process rights to receive a timely and clear notice of changes to their services.

The court also questioned the state’s continued reliance on its Functional Ranking and Index for determining eligibility for in-home services. The index has been criticized by disability rights groups as flawed and disproportionately harming people  with mental disabilities.

As a result, the plaintiffs contend, the cuts could force thousands of people to move into institutional settings, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s integration mandate requiring states to provide services ensuring people with disabilities can live in the least restricted settings according to their needs. The Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the integration mandate in its 1999 decision Olmstead v. L.C.

“(These cuts) would also deprive tens of thousands of additional (In-Home Supports Services) recipients of critical IHSS domestic and related services that have previously been found necessary to permit these individuals to remain safely in their homes based on a numerical “rank” that was not designed to determine eligibility, has never been used for such purpose, and is not a reasonable measure of need or eligibility,” the advocacy groups stated in their most recent complaint.

The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs January 9.

State deputy attorney general Nimrod Elias has said the state will likely appeal the preliminary injunction to the 9th Circuit, according to an article in the San Jose Mercury News.

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