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Thursday November 20th 2014

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Letter to the Editor: Stop isolating children with disabilities in nursing homes

ARC Gateway was saddened to learn, through the ARC of Florida, that the state may have institutionalized hundreds of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in nursing homes for years.

A series of letters between Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez and lawyers for the state suggest some children have lived in nursing facilities for more than a decade. The Justice Department’s latest letter accuses Florida of refusing to cooperate with its investigation and threatens to file a lawsuit.

While visiting facilities across Florida, the Justice Department discovered families who felt they had no choice but to place their children in nursing homes. Ironically, the state will pay for their institutionalization, but it will not provide the funding to support less expensive programs that would allow the children to remain in their homes with their families.

Isolating children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in nursing homes violates their civil rights. More importantly, children do not belong in nursing homes! Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this position in its 1999 Olmstead v. L.C. ruling, which said the Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with intellectual and developmental disabilities from being institutionalized.

It should be noted that while the current administration did not cause these problems, it certainly has the opportunity (and responsibility) to correct them.

It saddens my heart and deeply distresses me that the state of Florida would allow such treatment of a child. While none of these instances have occurred in northwest Florida, ARC Gateway stands in support of these children and The Arc of Florida. Collectively, we urge both sides not to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit. Let’s get these children out of nursing homes and back home with their families.

Donna Fassett
Executive Director
ARC Gateway