Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Fla. Nursing Home Treatment for Children

A lawsuit filed against the state of Florida seeks class action status on behalf of disabled children who were allegedly placed in nursing homes unnecessarily, instead of providing services in their home.

The complaint alleges that the state has cut so deeply into funds for in-home services that families had no recourse but to place their children in nursing homes to receive needed care. The U.S. Department of Justice hit the state with a similar lawsuit in July.

According to claims raised in the nursing home class action lawsuit, the children were taken hundreds of miles away from their family, deprived of access to education, and not given social or recreational activities. They rarely leave or even go outside and must share common areas with elderly residents. The complaint seeks to cover about 200 children and their caregivers.

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The complaint indicates that the placement of the children into nursing homes is the result of a scheme by Florida Republicans that expanded nursing home care and cut in-home services.

The Justice Department has raised similar issues, claiming that the state is violating the American Disabilities Act, resulting in children being placed in long-term care, often for years at a time, when they would be better served by staying at home. The federal government’s lawsuit says the state is forcing the institutionalization of the children.

About 3,300 children are in danger of requiring institutionalization under the state’s current policies, the Justice Department claims.

“Unnecessary institutionalization denies children the full opportunity to develop and maintain bonds 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 that contribute to child development,” the Justice Department’s claim (PDF) states. “Other children with significant medical needs who reside in the community and receive private duty nursing or personal care services have also been harmed by policies and practices limiting community-based services.”

State officials deny the allegations, saying that it is the parents’ decision to place their children in nursing home and that state investigators can find no problems with the conditions in which the children are being treated. The state has told parents that in-home services were being reduced over time and warned them that they need to learn how to perform medical intervention on their children themselves.

The state has pulled back from some of those demands and says of the 200 children who were allegedly placed in nursing homes due to program changes, 31 were released and sent home this year.


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