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April 05, 2006

Kentucky Protection and Advocacy and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Reach Agreement to Increase Community Support for People with Mental Retardation and Related Conditions

For Immediate Release Contact: Maureen Fitzgerald
January 26, 2006

Kentucky Protection & Advocacy, the Commonwealth's Disability Rights Legal Advocacy Agency, and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, have reached an agreement that will increase funding for Medicaid services for people with developmental disabilities and move the state away from Medicaid's institutional bias toward a preference for community-based services.

The agreement marks the culmination of the civil rights class action lawsuit, Michelle P., et al. vs. M. Birdwhistell, et al., filed in federal court in 2002 by four individuals with disabilities who were living at home with aging caregivers. The plaintiffs sought to require the state to provide Medicaid services in a timely manner so that they could stay in community, home-like settings rather than live in institutions such as nursing homes or large state-run intermediate care facilities.

"This agreement will commit state health officials and the executive branch to seek a substantial increase in the amount of money in the Medicaid program that is devoted to services for people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities," said Ken Zeller, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. The shift in emphasis from institutional care to community services is expected to free up an increasing level of funding over a five year period for community-based services while not ignoring the preference of those who choose institutional care for themselves or their loved ones. "This is about people being able to choose to live in communities and receive the services they need to participate and interact socially with their non-disabled peers,” said Mr. Zeller. The Settlement Agreement becomes an Order of the Court when finally approved and the Court will retain jurisdiction over the case for a period of two years for enforcement purposes.

"We look forward to working with the Cabinet to reach a goal we all share, which is to build community supports and monitoring systems so that people can live, work, and play safely in home-like settings in typical neighborhoods," said Maureen Fitzgerald, director of P&A.

In the 2006-2008 biennium the settlement calls for: