TALLAHASSEE, Florida – The federal government is suing the state of Florida in an effort to stop the state from placing disabled children in geriatric nursing homes. According the U.S. Department of Justice, this practice violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The feds are pushing for Florida to provide the necessary funding such that the children receive medical services in their homes or in community-based group homes. By segregating children with disabilities in nursing homes, critics say Florida is violating the law.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Professor Paolo Annino of Florida State University calls these kids “hidden children” because most Floridians are unaware of the state’s practice. He also says one of his clients, now 16-years-old, has been in a nursing home since the age of 1. The Justice Department claims that the average stay for these children is about three years but Annino suggests it’s much higher: between 10 and 16 years.
Secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Liz Dudek says her agency has been trying to move children out of adult nursing homes and has successfully discharged or diverted 31 children this year.
Annino says that Florida needs to do more and that are too many disabled children are sent to these homes or kept there unnecessarily even when they are medically stable.
“Florida can do this. It’s just simply a matter of funding and vision and when I say vision, I mean the idea that it’s a recognition that the law prohibits placing children in nursing homes for long-term placement and the recognition that nursing homes are not the appropriate place for a child to flourish.”
Dudek claims the lawsuit is “disruptive,” contending that the federal government’s aim is to control Florida’s Medicaid and disability programs.