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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

D.C. Still Faces Claims of Forced Hospitalization

WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge refused to dismiss a class allegations that the District of Columbia unnecessarily opted for nursing home confinement for people with mental disabilities to avoid expensive home care.

In December 2010, five patients suffering from a variety of mental and physical disabilities and receiving Medicaid funding for long-term care sued the city in an attempt to transfer the money used to confine them in institutions to programs where they could be treated at home.

"Federal law requires that the District of Columbia provide services to people with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs," the five patients stated in their class complaint. "But the District has failed to comply with this obligation, leaving between 500 and nearly 3,000 people with disabilities unnecessarily institutionalized in nursing facilities, segregated and isolated from their family and friends."

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle said the city spent more than $494 million in 2010 on all long-term care services, with 44.6 percent of that cash going toward home and community-based services under waiver programs.

"The annual average cost of community-based mental health services is less than treatment in a psychiatric hospital," the judge stated.

The city filed a motion to dismiss the claims, arguing that the patients failed to state a claim, that the city is entitled to summary judgment because they have a plan in place and because the individual defendants (former Mayor Adrian Fenty and other city officials) are duplicative of the city.

Though Judge Huvelle agreed on the city's last notion that the claims against the defendants are duplicative, she concluded "that plaintiffs' allegation that 'health-care professionals' have determined that community-based treatment is appropriate is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss." "To allege the necessary 'causal connection' between the District's actions and plaintiffs' injury, it is sufficient to allege, as plaintiffs do, that the District provides, administers and/or funds the existing service system through which plaintiffs receive long-term care services and/or that the District, in so doing, has utilized criteria or methods of administration that have 'caused [plaintiffs] ... to be confined unnecessarily in nursing facilities in order to obtain long-term care services, rather than facilitate their transition to the community with appropriate services and supports,'" Huvelle wrote.

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