Justice Department Sues Florida Over Shoddy Care of Disabled Children

The U.S. Department of Justice officially filed a lawsuit today against the State of Florida for its "deliberate indifference to the suffering" of disabled children and violating the Americans with Disabilities act.

The DOJ first warned Florida about the matter two years ago, but has decided Rick Scott's government, including the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Health and the Department of Children & Families have not made enough effort to rectify the situation.

The DOJ says Florida's practice of mandating that some disabled children be placed in nursing homes without giving families enough opportunity to care for their children in their own homes amounts to segregation and discrimination.

From the DOJ's statement:

As a result of the state's actions and inaction, the state has forced some families to face the cruel choice of fearing for their child's life at home or placing their child in a nursing facility. In one instance, the state cut one child's in-home health care in half. Her family could not safely provide care themselves to make up for this reduction in services, and they felt they had no choice but to place her in a nursing home. Another child who entered a nursing facility as a young child spent almost six years in a facility before the state completed her federally mandated screening.

"Florida must ensure that children with significant medical needs are not isolated in nursing facilities, away from their families and communities," said Eve Hill, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Children have a right to grow up with their families, among their friends and in their own communities. This is the promise of the ADA's integration mandate as articulated by the Supreme Court in Olmstead. The violations the department has identified are serious, systemic and ongoing and require comprehensive relief for these children and their families."

The DOJ says that while Florida has made some reforms, those weren't nearly enough. Nearly 200 disabled children remain in nursing homes. The Department is now convinced that Florida will not rectify those problems on its own and hence is taking legal action.

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Kyle Munzenrieder