Disability Rights Ohio filed the complaint Thursday in federal court on behalf of six Ohioans with disabilities and approximately 27,800 similarly situated Ohioans. The complaint alleges the state has not complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the U.S. Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C. and E.W.
State officials pushed back on the claims, saying the state is working with providers.
Why are they suing?
The lawsuit alleges people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who want to live and work in their communities can’t because of limited state funding.
Large intermediate care facilities have eight or more beds and are “highly regimented and controlled, with little privacy, independence, or personal autonomy,” according to the complaint. Facility residents have few if any interactions with people other than paid staff. If they work, most facility residents work in sheltered workshops, which the organization says further segregates people with disabilities.
Of the 5,800 individuals living in those facilities, 2,500 are on a wait list for a Medicaid waiver to receive services at home. Another 22,000 people who are not institutionalized are on the wait list.
Last year’s state budget allocated millions of dollars for additional waivers, but Disability Rights Ohio Executive Director Michael Kirkman said the money won’t fix problems with how the waivers are awarded.
Ohio is unique in that developmental disability services are provided through each of the state’s 88 counties. Medicaid waivers that cover services provided in homes and communities are partially funded with local dollars. Residency in an integrated care facility is covered by Medicaid, which Disability Rights Ohio says is a disincentive to move people out of the facilities.
“Where you receive services should not depend on where you live,” Kirkman said at a Thursday press conference.
Disability Rights Ohio raised its concerns with the Kasich administration in 2014. Negotiations followed, Kirkman said, but didn’t pan out. The lawsuit seeks a court order forcing the state to expand choices for people with disabilities.
What does the administration say?
In addition to Kasich, the lawsuit is suing the directors of the Department of Developmental Disabilities, Department of Medicaid and Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities.
Zach Haughawout, a deputy director with the state developmental disabilities department, said Disability Rights Ohio is not being truthful about its conversations with state officials to address their concerns. Haughawout said that department attorneys attempted to sit down with Disability Rights Ohio as recently as two weeks ago, ahead of the lawsuit. Disability Rights Ohio confirmed a meeting has been set up for next week.
Last year’s state budget allocated $300 million to expand community-based options for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. The budget created 3,000 new waivers to cover community-based options. Haughawout said 1,200 waivers will provide options for people who want to leave the facilities or would have no other choice but to go there.
“Rather than allow the Department of Developmental Disabilities the time to implement budget changes negotiated with providers, county boards of development disabilities, self-advocates, and family members, they’ve decided to subject Ohioans with developmental disabilities to their singular vision of what is best for them,” Haughawout said in an email.
Jackie Borchardt, cleveland.com, March 31, 2016 at 12:15 PM, updated March 31, 2016 at 8:17 PM
Disability Rights Ohio sues Gov. John Kasich, state officials