Suit filed against Texas for extensive Olmstead violations

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Disability Rights Texas filed a class action lawsuit against Texas on December 20, alleging that potentially more than 4,500 people with disabilities are being unnecessarily institutionalized in the state’s nursing homes.

The lawsuit describes Texas’ 13 state-owned facilities, which house 75 to 600 individuals each, as providing no privacy and consistent violaters of the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead decision because of their failure to house these people in the least restrictive setting possible.

“The Individual Plaintiffs and the class are not able to leave the nursing facility to work, attend day habilitation programs or prevocational activities, and are deprived of the right to attend social, recreational or religious activities outside of the nursing home,” according to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Under federal Medicaid law, states are required to constantly assess the individuals in their nursing homes. When the review requirements are properly conducted, the state must provide resource for individuals with disabilities to transfer out of institutions if they “are determined to be able to reside in the community with appropriate services and supports.”

A 2007 audit from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that barely half of the residents in Texas’ nursing homes had been properly assessed. As a result, most of the individuals remain in the nursing homes for decades and do not attempt, or know how, to request a transfer to a more integrated setting.

“The operating philosophy of most nursing facilities is to care for people rather than to have them care for themselves,” the complaint states. “Consequently, individuals with developmental disabilities in nursing facilities often regress and deteriorate, losing basic skills and competencies as a result of their inappropriate confinement.”

The Arc of Texas and the Coalitions of Texans with Disabilities are also plaintiffs in the case, filed on behalf of six individuals between 26 and 46 years old. Disability Rights Texas is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.