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DOJ Proposes Overhaul of Florida's System for Treating Children with Disabilities

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DOJ Proposes Overhaul of Florida's System for Treating Children with Disabilities

January 17, 2013

In a settlement proposal thought to be dated December 14, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) tells the state of Florida it must stop slicing in-home nursing services for children with disabilities, stop ignoring requests from doctors who treat these children and stop sending hundreds of children to geriatric nursing homes where they are often isolated from their families and peers in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Olmstead court ruling. (In the Olmstead case, the court determined people with disabilities must be served in settings that are as integrated as possible with people without disabilities.)

Earlier this year, the DOJ sent the state a letter outlining its concerns over the state placing hundreds of children with disabilities in senior nursing homes, where they did not receive adequate education or social interaction. Additionally, the DOJ criticized Florida for cutting Medicaid services that made it possible for parents to keep children safely at home.

The proposed settlement says that Florida must:

•    Stop requiring parents or other family caregivers to provide care that commonly is performed by skilled nurses.
•    Rein in the activities of a private company the state contracts with that has been accused of arbitrarily denying nursing care to families with children with severe disabilities.  
•    Consult with children's primary doctors before cutting services provided to them, and provide justification for denying care requests. Additionally, the state must certify that cuts to care for children will not result in the child being forced into a nursing home.
•    Stop cutting in-home nursing care when neither the child's condition nor the parent's ability to provide care has improved.

On the same day that the "confidential" settlement proposal was obtained by a media outlet, the heads of three state agencies held a news conference defending the housing of children in nursing homes. The DOJ has threatened to sue the state under the ADA for what it claims are civil rights violations of these children. At this time, it is unclear what the state's official response to the settlement proposal is.

Source: The Miami Herald via Governing Daily