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Disability Rights Florida asks to intervene in federal suit against Florida over care for disabled kids

The not-for-profit group, Disability Rights Florida, has filed a motion to intervene into the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit against the state of Florida, accusing the state of warehousing sickly and disabled children in geriatric nursing homes.

The motion and complaint alleges that "nearly 200 childen with medically complex needs who reside in nursing facilities throughout the state, are illegally segregated in institutional settings" in violation of the American with Disabilities Act, which forbids discrimination against people with special needs.

Miami civil rights lawyer Matthew Dietz has also sued the state over the institutionalization of children.

The federal suits have have alleged that health and social service administrators have so badly underfunded community-based care for sickly children that their parents have no choice but to place them in nursing homes, sometimes far from their loved ones.

The Disability Rights Florida motion includes several examples of disabled children being institutionalized, including a medically fragile 3-year-old boy who has been living at a Florida nursing facility since 2010 with congenital muscular dystrophy. Another involves a 9-year-old boy with cerebral palsey and developmental delay who has been in a Florida nursing facilty since 2004. 

Five children have died in Florida nursing homes during the last half of 2010 — and 130 have died since January 2006, according to state records. Medically fragile children who live with parents or in a community setting die in far lower numbers, records show.

Carol Marbin Miller contributed to this article.

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