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DOJ files suit in segregation of children

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Florida over failure to provide adequate care to disabled children who wound up being wrongfully institutionalized in nursing home facilities. The complaint cites violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), in which the Justice Department said nearly 200 children with disabilities and significant medical needs were “unnecessarily segregated” in nursing homes for long-term care.

The lawsuit, which seeks compensatory damages for the affected children, stated the children could have been treated in their homes or community-based settings, but that Florida failed to provide access to the necessary services to make that possible.

Meetings between The Justice Department and Florida have been ongoing since late last year to resolve the alleged ADA violations previously highlighted in a so-called findings letter.

The lawsuit explained “serious, systemic and ongoing” violations continued in the state, due to a lack of sufficient community-based alternatives to care for disabled children in nursing facilities.

Highlighted cases involved situations in which Florida health officials allegedly left children in nursing homes for years before the children received the screening needed to evaluate whether they required institutional treatment.

In portions of a letter posted on the Department of Justice website, it states: “As a result of the state’s actions and inaction, the state has forced some families to face the cruel choice of fearing for their child’s life at home or placing their child in a nursing facility. In one instance, the state cut one child’s in-home health care in half. Her family could not safely provide care themselves to make up for this reduction in services, and they felt they had no choice but to place her in a nursing home. Another child who entered a nursing facility as a young child spent almost six years in a facility before the state completed her federally mandated screening.”

“The ADA requires public entities to ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs,” an official with the DOJ said.

Officials for Florida could not be reached for immediate comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale.

Discrimination and segregation, particularly in the case of disabled persons, whether by a private party, corporation or a government, involves the same implications, all of which are illegal. In cases such as this, legal representation is paramount. Rely on an attorney with expertise in disability claims to give the best representation in these matters.

Source:  The US Department of Justice, “Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against the State of Florida for Unnecessarily Segregating Children with Disabilities” No author given, Jul. 22, 2013

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