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Judge Approves Settlement To Reduce Community Waiting List, Despite Pro-Institution Challenges
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 29, 2006

FRANKFORT, KENTUCKY--A federal judge has approved an agreement which calls for the state to reduce a waiting list for community-based services for about 2,600 Kentuckians with developmental disabilities.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood's ruling came Tuesday, just a few days after families of institution residents tried to block his decision.

"I'm not delaying justice for the people who litigated this case any longer," Hood said.

Hood's decision settles a lawsuit filed in 2002 by Kentucky Protection and Advocacy, which alleged that the state violated the rights of those Kentuckians by failing to provide the supports they need in the community, therefore putting them at risk of being institutionalized. It was based in part on the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. & E.W which found that unnecessarily institutionalizing people with disabilities amounts to discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The state and the advocacy office announced the proposed settlement in January, in which the state agreed to spend $45 million in home and community-based services over the next two years, and to try to get more than $180 million in state and federal funds to expand those supports to further reduce the waiting list.

According to the Courier-Journal, the Council on Mental Retardation and Concerned Families of Hazelwood were among the groups that attempted to block the settlement. They filed suit last Friday, claiming that the Protection and Advocacy case included language allowing the state to downsize and eventually close its institutions. In particular, they expressed concerns that the agreement keeps the remaining four facilities -- which house about 570 people with developmental disabilities -- from admitting new residents when existing residents die or move out.

State Medicare Commissioner Shannon Turner tried to reassure the families that, while the state might reduce the sized of the facilities, there are no plans at this point to close them.

Turner said some provisions give the state some flexibility in dealing with residents of Communities of Oakwood, an institution housing 280 people that in the past 15 months has received 15 "Type A" citations -- the strongest the federal government can issue for abuse and neglect.

Last fall, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid threatened to stop funding the facility, a move which state officials said would force the institution to close. The state is appealing that decision, while spending $9.1 million to an outside organization to operate the troubled facility for eight months.

Related:
"Families sue state to shield disabled" (Courier-Journal)

http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/06/red/0329a.htm
"Judge accepts settlement for retarded" (Courier-Journal)
http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/06/red/0329b.htm
"Consultant resigns before end of contract with Oakwood" (Associated Press)
http://www.kentucky.com/mld/kentucky/news/local/14202344.htm

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