Florida healthcare regulators have acted with “deliberate indifference to the suffering” of frail and disabled children by offering parents no “meaningful” choice but to warehouse their children in nursing homes along with elders, the U.S. Department of Justice says in a lawsuit against the state filed Monday morning.
The Justice Department’s civil rights division accused the state of violating the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act — which forbids discrimination against people with special needs — by funding and managing its community programs so poorly that hundreds of children have been forced to live — and sometimes grow up — in institutions for the elderly.
Two years ago, the Justice Department told state health administrators that Florida’s system of care for frail and disabled children was discriminatory, because it failed to offer parents meaningful opportunities to care for their medically fragile children outside large, segregated institutions. While the state made half-hearted reforms, the DOJ said, the discrimination persisted.
The Justice Department, the lawsuit says, “has determined that compliance with the ADA cannot be secured by voluntary means” by the state. The DOJ is asking a federal judge to declare the state’s program for disabled children in violation of federal law and to force the state to cease warehousing children in institutions.
“Unnecessary institutionalization denies children the full opportunity to develop and maintain bond with family and friends; impairs their ability to interact with peers without disabilities; and prevents them from experiencing many of the social and recreational activities to contribute to child development,” the lawsuit states.
It adds: “Many of the institutionalized children remain in facilities for very long periods of time, even when it is apparent that their medical conditions would permit return to the community with appropriate supports.” Full story here.
-- Carol Marbin Miller and Katie Savchuk