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Citing Olmstead Decision, Georgia Settles Long-Term Care Suit

by Dave Reynolds (subscribe)

ATLANTA, GEORGIA--The State of Georgia has settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of seven people with disabilities who had claimed that the state's long-term care system violated federal law by forcing them into nursing homes.

The suit, which was filed in January of 2003, has prompted the state to make significant improvements in its home and community-based service system funded through Medicaid, according to a joint statement released Wednesday by state health officials and Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, which represented the plaintiffs. These improvements include enough funding in next year's state budget to help provide in-home and community supports to 1,500 people currently on a waiting list.

"We are pleased that the state has taken steps to increase funding and support for long term care in home and community based settings," said Charlie Lester, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs. "People are happier and healthier when they receive long term care in the most integrated setting possible like at home or in the community. As we look to the future, we expect the state of Georgia to continue this progress and to move toward making the provision of long term care in the home and community the rule rather than the exception."

None of the plaintiffs received compensation in the settlement. Four of the seven now live in homes in the community, Lester said.

"I feel better," plaintiff Patricia Redmond told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday. Redmond receives home health care services and supplies so she can live with her sister instead of a nursing home.

The plaintiffs had alleged that Georgia violated the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act when it failed to provide community alternatives for people in nursing homes and other institutions who wanted to move out. The suit was based on an earlier Georgia case, Olmstead v. L.C., in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that unnecessarily institutionalizing people with disabilities is a form of discrimination under the ADA.

"I am extremely pleased with this agreement which benefits these individuals as well as our state," said Governor Sonny Perdue. "Since the Supreme Court decision, Georgia has responded to the Olmstead mandate and continues to improve the services provided to disabled citizens. This case has elevated the awareness of critical issues for people with physical disabilities in nursing homes who could benefit from home and community based services."

Settlement will give disabled more home care (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Georgia to improve Medicaid services to disabled (Atlanta Business Journal)

Copyright 2006 Inonit Publishing
Article reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express international disability rights news service. Please do not reprint, republish or forward without permission.