The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania filed a class-action lawsuit [PDF] against the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services on January 19, accusing the state of failing to adequately provide community-based health care and housing services, forcing people with disabilities into institutionalized settings.
“It is outrageous that beneficiaries of the Consolidated Waiver in Pennsylvania are entitled to services, yet cannot timely secure them,” DRN’s Legal Director Kelly Darr said in a news release, referring to the state’s program for Medicaid-funded home and community based services. “The lack of timely access to Consolidated Waiver services has in too many cases resulted in unnecessary institutionalization, often by Court Order.
“The forced institutionalization of individuals with intellectual disabilities could have been avoided had the state provided the approved services that these individuals wanted and to which they are entitled.”
Since July 2012, at least 30 individuals in the state have been unnecessarily institutionalized, the lawsuit states, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Many of these stories are captured in the 74-page complaint, which alleges a variety of systematic violations of the Medicaid Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The lawsuit accuses the state of lacking in crisis-based services, particularly for respite care, that are essential for certain individuals to live independently in their homes.
For these individuals, the state allegedly fails to reimburse community based, rehabilitative care providers at a rate sufficient to incentivize them to participate in state, as opposed to private, programs.
This problem is further compounded by the state’s cap on start-up funding for providers seeking to enter the market for community-based care, further reducing the supply of necessary providers. For people accepted into community-based homes, the DRN argues the state provides insufficient transition services.
“DRN has worked for years to address these issues with DHS, through advocacy and even litigation on behalf of Consolidated Waiver participants whose inability to timely access residential habilitation and other services resulted in or placed them at serious risk of unnecessary institutionalization,” the lawsuit states. “While DRN’s interventions sometimes succeeded in securing some participants with the services they need, the systemic flaws that gave rise to the crises remain and, as a result, the problems continually recur.”
The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Pennsylvania and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.