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Texas Agrees to Move Over 600 Residents from Nursing Homes

Nursing home abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins confirm that Texas and the U.S. Department of Justice recently agreed to move about 635 individuals with developmental disabilities out of nursing homes. The move is the result of plaintiffs claims that existing state policies requiring them to be in nursing homes violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The litigation between the plaintiffs and Texas, however, remains ongoing, and the parties are expected to continue efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement. In the meantime, most of the 635 Medicaid beneficiaries will leave the nursing homes where they currently reside and can chose between living on their own or entering into another assisted living alternative. The switch will occur in September 2013.

Texas will also be required to establish a program to assist disabled individuals in various ways, including educating them on how to avoid being placed in nursing homes unnecessarily, better alternative options, and formal diversion plans. Plaintiffs are pleased with the agreement, which will give them the opportunity to live in a community where they can fully participate in daily life.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) joined the plaintiffs’ efforts in 2010, when it became clear that Texas’ policies and procedures concerning disabled individuals violated with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), along with several federal statues and the 1999 Supreme Court ruling, Olmstead vs. LC. The 1999 ruling deemed unjustified segregation of disabled persons unconstitutional, and required public entities to provide community-based services to the disabled.

The U.S. Supreme Court made clear in the Olmstead ruling that forcing disabled persons to live in nursing homes was blatant discrimination, and that they must be provided the same opportunities to participate in their community as those without disabilities. Plaintiffs and the federal government claim that Texas is not complying with nursing home reform statutes concerning Medicaid, which require, among other things, that patients be screened before entering a nursing home to determine if they can be treated while living at home or in other, less restrictive settings.

The plaintiffs in this case include about a dozen individuals with conditions such as cerebral palsy, who hope to represent a larger group of disabled persons who have been inappropriately and illegally placed in nursing homes. The DOJ estimates this larger group to include about 4,500 individuals. They claim that this institutionalization has caused them great harm, forcing them to stagnate or regress in their conditions in ways that could have been avoided. They are seeking support from the state for various specialized services, such as living options, support options, and case management.

It goes without saying that anyone, not just disabled persons, feel more supported and show fewer signs of depression when they live closer to their friends and families. One reason for this is that they are able to receive more practical assistance – help with chores, transportation, or money. In the ADA, Congress confirmed the isolation of disabled persons as a serious form of discrimination.

In its Statement of Interest, the DOJ asserts that Texas unnecessarily institutionalized 4,500 disabled persons, thereby denying them access to already-existing community services and placing insurmountable barriers from such institutions, such as a decade-long waiting list. The document highlights stories of several individuals, all of whom lived at homes for long periods of time before entering nursing facilities, all of whom declined substantially in physical and mental health while residing there, and all of whom now wish to be given the option of community living, as they are entitled to.

It is an unfortunate fact that institutionalization severely diminishes the everyday enjoyment of life activities for residents, including relations with family and friends, work opportunities, educational advancement, cultural enrichment and economic independence. Diabled individuals are therefore entitled to community placement, according to the SCOTUS ruling, when it is deemed appropriate, when the individual does not oppose the arrangement, and when such placement can be reasonably accommodated.

Nursing home abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins will continue to report on this case as it unfolds. We are confident the courts will make the right judgment for the best interested of disabled persons in Texas. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a nursing home, you have the right to pursue a legal claim against the institution and any responsible parties, and should contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible.