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Florida Under Fire For “Warehousing” Disabled Children

State officials and nursing home administrators in Florida are under fire from the federal government, which claims that disabled youth – some just infants – are routinely shuffled into nursing homes designed to care for elderly patients.

The U.S. Justice Department contends this is a clear violation of these young peoples’ civil rights.

Our West Palm Beach nursing home attorneys understand that such actions are often taken despite the objection of family members and even though these options often end up being far more costly than in-home care.

How is this happening?

In a two-dozen-page, strongly-worded letter to the state attorney general’s office, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division contends that it’s the result of millions of dollars in state cuts to programs that support the parents of disabled youngsters. Additionally, the state turned down $40 million in federal money that would have allowed some of these young children to stay in or return home and even repealed state laws that capped the number of children who could be housed in nursing homes with adults.

First of all, these policies run afoul of federal law. the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that people with medical conditions or disabilities should be treated and reside in community environments whenever feasible. It’s been well-documented that spending time in big, isolated institutions is not conducive to a healthy quality of life – and certainly not for those who are spending their critical, formative childhood years in these settings. The federal law, which was passed in 1990, has been used to shutter poor residential alternatives and move mentally disabled people either into group homes or back into their own homes.

But Florida, meanwhile, has turned to nursing homes to care for these children. These are facilities are not designed to handle the intensive care of younger people. The youth are often denied an education and are unable to spend time with their far-away families. Plus, they aren’t able to socialize with peers. Sometimes, they are simply plopped in front of a television for hours and hours on end.

It’s horrendous.

State regulators argue that they are in compliance with the law, and are providing all services that are medically necessary. The state further contends that this action arose out of a few contentious decisions that were made regarding individual children.

But the Department of Justice has countered that such individual decisions, given that they are applied without the appropriate consideration for the child’s welfare and without any apparent rationality, are indicative of a system-wide problem.

The federal department, in the course of its investigation, found that state policy is essentially designed to force families to send their children to institutions because the state refuses to help them cover the costs of care. This is despite the fact that it actually costs more to keep them institutionalized than to provide families resources to keep them at home.

Investigators visited mega-sized nursing homes collectively housing more than 200 kids in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Miami, Tampa and St. Petersburg. In one case, parents of a young girl said they both work, and state-funded medical care for the girl has been denied more than a dozen times, despite the fact that her condition hasn’t gotten any better. They are trying to avoid putting her in a nursing home, but say it’s a constant battle.

The bottom line is that Florida can do better than this.

When we house kids in institutions and nursing homes, we increase their chances of abuse and neglect.

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

Additional Resources:
Feds slam Florida for warehousing disabled kids, Sept. 6, 2012, By Carol Marbin Miller, The Miami Herald

More Blog Entries:
Martin County Elder Care: Widespread Nursing Home Neglect Reported, Aug. 16, 2012, West Palm Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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