Disabled Adults Sue Illinois

     CHICAGO (CN) – Illinois illegally, and drastically, cuts in-home nursing funding for disabled people when they turn 21, though numerous lawsuits have successfully challenged the policy, a class action claims in Federal Court.
     Lead plaintiff Don Harris, through his mother Lisa Jorgensen, sued Julie Hamos, director of the Illinois Department of Health and Services, in federal court.
     Harris, who will turn 21 this month, is blind, developmentally disabled, and has seizures, spastic quadriplegia and severe scoliosis, his mother says in the complaint.
     He requires “approximately 12 hours a day skilled nursing level of care at his home at a cost of approximately $12,000 per month, so that he does not have to be institutionalized or hospitalized for his entire life at a rate of approximately $55,000 per month,” the complaint states.
     Harris receives government assistance to pay for his in-home nurse through the Private Duty Nursing (PDN) program.
     However, “enrollment in the PDN program is only available to persons under the age of 21. When those persons in the PDN program turn 21, the defendant’s policy and practice is to reduce the existing medical funding by approximately 50 percent based solely on the fact that the person is 21,” the complaint states.
     “This reduction in funding is no due to a change in the plaintiff’s medical needs but on the fact that the plaintiff’s funding at age 21 comes from a different state program, which has significant caps on funding. The reduction in funding will either result in the plaintiff becoming institutionalized (hospitalized) or if he remains in the family home without sufficient skilled nursing care, then he faces a strong possibility of imminent death or a life-threatening episode.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Harris’s mother claims that five other disabled plaintiffs have successfully sued Illinois for reducing medical funding at age 21.
     “Despite the fact that the defendant has not prevailed to provide reduced medical funding in these 5 separate federal and state lawsuits brought by similarly situated persons like the plaintiff who were turning 21, the defendant continues the same practice to date to reduce medical funding at age 21 as evidence by the plaintiff’s case.”
     What’s more, 23 medical fragile plaintiffs have obtained interim relief in a related class action, Hampe v Hamos, filed in 2010 in Chicago Federal Court, according to the complaint.
     It adds: “Plaintiff brings this lawsuit, individually and on behalf of a class, seeking injunctive relief to prevent the defendant from reducing the level of funding for medical care currently provided to the plaintiff and the putative class, which is necessary to prevent institutionalization (hospitalization), which is a more costly and a more restrictive setting than the current home placement.”
     Harris’s mother seeks an injunction requiring the department to maintain the same level of PDN funding to disabled people when they become 21.
     The class is represented by Robert Farley Jr., of Naperville.

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