Caring Health

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

November 23, 2012

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

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  • Sherri Myers November 23, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Donna, You are right on!!! I see this problem constantly, not just with children, but younger adults who do not want to be in nursing homes. And, you are right that the state is willing to spend a massive amount of funds to keep a person in a nursing home, rather than provide the support families needs to keep a family member at home. I had two calls last week from families trying to find ways to keep a loved one at home. Thanks for your tireless and compassionate work on behalf of persons with disabilities. We love you. Sherri Myers

  • RTDavis November 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    My experience in the late 90s, when I was on the verge of working in the field of special education, made it clear to me that the State of Florida had on the surface, at least, come a long way from its grotesque Sunland Center days (i.e., the pre-80s institutionalization of mentally and physically handicapped children and adults in large, “hospital” styled settings), but based upon my close observations of local facilities here in Escambia Country, I realized that the grotesque conditions had simply been cosmetically treated by using smaller, anonymous looking facilities (e.g., Pyramid on west 98, and the “nursing” home facility on University Parkway). Until children and adults with disabilities are more humanely treated, we as a culture ought to be ashamed of ourselves. In fact, why are we (in the form of government largess) so willing to give handouts to those who will not help themselves, but at the same time we cut back on support for those who cannot help themselves? Shame on all of us!

  • Ames November 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Gov. Scott did not accept the federal funds for the Money Follows The Patient program that would have directed funds directly to families who can care for their lived ones at home instead of them remaining in, or sent to, nursing homes.
    You will likely find a treasure trove of welcome information at the following website, http://www.healthcare.gov/
    Now, ask yourself why you didn’t already know this valuable information.

  • Mike Amerson November 23, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Rick, this doesn’t surprise my wife and I. We have a 6 year old Autistic son. He has Healthy Kids Ins through the State because you can’t get any other Co’ to write him and be able to afford it. We’ve been trying to get ABA Therapy approved for him and the Co’ says because of the size of their Co’, they don’t fall within the Law to be made to provide it. We tried Medicaid and they set him a monthly recurring deductible of 7100.00 a month that has to be met before he can have the services. The funny thing is the deductible is more than the monthly income I have. When you sign up for the Healthy Kids Ins’, they will tell you that ABA is covered. So it’s no surprise when I read that they won’t pay to keep the child in the home with the family, but will pay to take him away from them. The whole system is smoke and mirrors and no one including our current Governor wants to address the issue. With the stats being 1 out of every 88 kids being diagnosed with Autism, I hope his family doesn’t want any more kids. We are and will always be thankful for people like ARC that at least tries to keep checks and balances on how these children are treated. Thank you ARC.