The U.S. Justice Department is suing the state of Florida for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by unnecessarily housing roughly 200 disabled children in nursing homes and cutting services that would allow them to receive care at home.
Federal investigators went to six nursing homes across the state and were able to identify approximately 200 kids who could be receiving care at home and therefore didn’t need to be institutionalized.
Investigators found that the children in the homes share common areas with elderly patients and that they are rarely exposed to social, educational or recreational activities critical to development. According to the lawsuit, Florida is violating the ADA and infringing on the children's civil rights by segregating and isolating them.
Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek said in a statement Monday that 31 children with disabilities have already been released from nursing facilities this year. Dudek was critical of President Barack Obama's administration for filing the lawsuit. She said it "shows that Washington is not interested in helping families improve but instead is determined to file disruptive lawsuits with the goal of taking over control and operation of Florida's Medicaid and disability programs."
The lawsuit comes after the federal government threatened to sue in September if the state failed to make changes.
Attorney Matthew Dietz filed a similar lawsuit against Florida on behalf of more than two dozen children, Fox News reported. "(The state) pressures parents to place children in institutionalized settings and then gives them no way to get out," Dietz said.