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Florida to Change Nursing Home Policy for Disabled Children

Families of Florida’s disabled children whose medical needs are incredibly complex should no longer have to worry that they will be forced to send the child to an ill-equipped nursing home.

At least, as our Fort Lauderdale nursing home negligence attorneys understand it, that’s the goal of new state reforms handed down by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

The moves come on the heels of heartbreaking tales, published last year, of families who were forced to give up custody of their children to the state – only to learn those children were being neglected or not properly cared for by staffers at facilities that were designed for elderly people – not kids.

The proposed changes are numerous, and have yet to be formally approved. The ultimate goal is to increase the kind of in-home, community-based services that these children can access, which would in turn increase the likelihood that families can continue to care for them, as opposed to being forced to turn to institutionalization.

One of those changes includes assigning care coordinators for each child who receives private-duty nursing services through Medicaid.

Additionally, teams of parents, doctors and other health-based professionals would try to negotiate on a treatment plan that would first and foremost work to keep a child in their home. This would also serve to cut down on the number of regular hearings held by the state to determine whether a child should be kept at home or sent away.

The state’s Medicaid director called such hearings excruciating for loving families whose priority is to maintain the right to care for the person they love.

There are a number of issues that could contributed to the potential for additional services. For example, if a parent begins to suffer a medical issue of their own or has work schedules that fluctuate, it could directly impact his or her ability to care for the child and provide the necessary hours of care or services that the child needs. However, by working with a solution to keep them home with increased options for stay-at-home care, the decision wouldn’t automatically be a question of whether a child should be shipped to a nursing home.

The Department of Justice in previous reports has indicated that the state has come to this conclusion needlessly, senselessly – and at added cost to taxpayers, as well as the emotional toll for these families. In fact, a federal class-action lawsuit is currently pending in South Florida on behalf of at-risk children who were swiftly and wrongfully placed in nursing homes before the state took any action to try to work with families to keep them at home. The DOJ is specifically alleging that these actions are violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act – an assertion that AHCA officials of course adamantly deny.

Again, these changes won’t be automatic. They will still have to be wrung through the regular rule-making process, but many expect they will pass and be effective within the next three months or so.

In all, it’s expected some 1,600 children would be directly affected.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
State Plans Changes for Children in Home Care, Feb. 11, 2013, By Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

More Blog Entries:
Florida Medicare Fraud Investigation Cuts Harm Nursing Home Residents, Feb. 1, 2013, Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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