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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Disabled sue FL in federal court over waiting list

Disabled sue FL in federal court over waiting list

By Jim Saunders
03/28/11 © Health News Florida

Gov. Rick Scott and two state agencies have been hit with a class-action lawsuit alleging Florida has failed to provide needed services to 19,000 disabled people who are stuck on a waiting list.

An advocacy group and five named plaintiffs --- who have developmental disabilities such as mental retardation and cerebral palsy --- filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee.

The lawsuit centers on a waiting list for what are known as home- and community-based services, which help disabled people live outside of institutions. The lawsuit contends that the state is violating federal law and that some people have been on the waiting list for more than five years.

"Plaintiffs have been placed on waiting lists for enrollment ... where they languish for years without services, thereby placing them at risk of institutionalization and regression of skills and therapies learned from educational programs,'' said the lawsuit, filed by lawyers for the advocacy group, Disability Rights Florida.

The suit names as defendants Scott, Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudek and interim Agency for Persons with Disabilities director Brian Vaughan.

Shelisha Coleman, an AHCA spokeswoman, said in an e-mail this morning that her agency does not comment on pending litigation. Health News Florida was also seeking comment from the governor's office and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

The waiting list is part of a long-running debate in Tallahassee about the home- and community-based services program. Lawmakers and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities --- which manages much of the program --- have taken a series of steps in recent years to try to hold down rising costs, including limiting certain services.

Despite those attempts, the program has run large deficits. A House budget proposal released last week, for example, includes $169 million to cover a deficit this year.

The lawsuit focuses on people who are not able to fully take care of themselves and need varying levels of services to live in their communities. In many cases, the people live with family members.

But the lawsuit says that only people considered in "crisis" have been taken off the waiting list during the past five years and been added to the program. That can happen, for instance, when people become homeless or are considered dangers to themselves or others.

The lawsuit alleges Florida is violating the American with Disabilities Act, which requires efforts to integrate disabled people into communities. Federal law also is involved because the home- and community-based services program is run through what is known as a "waiver" to the Medicaid program.

Capital Bureau Chief Jim Saunders can be reached at 850-228-0963 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting

Gov. Scott to call for deep cuts at agency for disabled - APD

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gov. Scott to call for deep cuts at agency for disabled - APD


Gov. Scott to call for deep cuts at agency for disabled

.A $170 million deficit in the agency that serves the most needy in Florida has left Gov. Rick Scott with a tough call.

By Marc Caputo

TALLAHASSEE -- Due to a shockingly large deficit, Gov. Rick Scott is planning to invoke his emergency powers and make deep cuts to the rates charged by group homes and case workers who help the developmentally disabled.

Scott could announce a 15 percent rate cut as early as Thursday to close the $170 million budget gap in the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, according to lawmakers who were briefed Wednesday.

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Background on lawsuit in Florida concerning nursing home transition efforts

Information from the Florida Assoc. of Centers for Independent Living
Contact: Martina Schmid 850-575-6004, 528-1084,


In January of 2008 civil rights attorney Stephen Gold, the Southern Legal Counsel and the AARP Foundation filed a class action suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of Florida Medicaid eligible adults who were living in nursing homes. The suit, William Long, et al., Plaintiffs, vs Holly Benson, et al., Defendants, claimed the state was unnecessarily institutionalizing people by forcing them to use their Medicaid funds in a nursing home, rather than allowing them to purchase community based services.  In 1999 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C that it was a form of discrimination, segregation, to put people with disabilities into institutions if they could live, with some supports in a less restricted setting, like their own home.

·         In 2009 the lawsuit was placed in abeyance to allow Florida to implement the “Florida Nursing Home Transition Plan.   The plan included the legislature making available funds for more Medicaid waivers for persons with disabilities through proviso language under the nursing home line item in the Florida budget.

·         The state agencies named in the lawsuit, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Health and the Department of Elder Affairs, and the Florida Centers for Independent Living have collaborated to implement the nursing home transition program.

·         In 2010 the plaintiff’s attorneys determined that the state had not met its obligations in terms of not transferring enough people out of nursing homes and the lawsuit went to trial. The outcome of the trial is pending the judge’s ruling.

·         Long before the lawsuit, Florida state agencies have been interested in transitioning people out of nursing homes, asking the Center for Medicaid Services for additional waivers, applying for Money Follows the Person grants, and facilitating nursing home transition through other programs.

·         The state supports moving people from institutions because it is the appropriate course of action for many, many people, and in areas where nursing home occupancy rates are high it saves money. On average it costs $60,000 to live in a nursing home and $30,000 to live in the community. Also, moving people who can live in the community to the community, makes nursing home beds available for people who need them.