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NY Agencies Sued for Unnecessary Institutionalization

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A suit was filed on Thursday in the Southern District of New York against defendants the New York State Department of Health, Mary Bassett, New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, and Kerri Neifeld. The class action complaint alleges that the defendants kept the plaintiffs, who all have disabilities, in institutionalization for longer than necessary due to their inadequate methods of administering residential opportunities and services.

The plaintiffs are all Medicaid recipients with developmental disabilities. They argue that they are ready and able to leave their institutional settings in favor of community-based living, which they believe will provide them with richer and fuller lives.

If they are to live in a community, the plaintiffs assert that they want Home and Community Based Waiver (HCBS Waiver) services and certified residential opportunities.  These include “case management services, habilitation services, pre-vocational services, and pathways to employment.” They contend that none of these services are provided as long as they remain in institutional settings.

Although the defendants often administer the aforementioned programs and services, the plaintiffs explain that they have never been provided the programs and services despite the defendants deeming them eligible. They assert that the defendants also “failed to provide the plaintiffs with their statutorily guaranteed right to a fair hearing,” a hearing which was prompted by their failure to provide the plaintiffs with the aforementioned residential opportunities and services.

Ultimately, the plaintiffs determined that the defendants did not have an adequate method by which they would administer their community-based residential opportunities and HCBS Waiver services to individuals like the plaintiffs, who were eligible. Instead of compelling residential opportunity providers to find placements for individuals like the plaintiffs, the defendants seek that the providers voluntarily agree to find placement. Since the defendants do not give any sense of urgency to the residential opportunity providers, individuals with disabilities are often left in a “crisis of needless and widespread long-term institutionalization.”

One of the plaintiff’s explained that they had remained institutionalized for over six years while waiting for the defendants to provide residential opportunities and HCBS Waiver services.

The complaint cites three violations of the Medicaid Act, two violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and two violations of the Rehabilitation Act. The plaintiffs are seeking class certification, favorable judgment on each count, permanent injunctions requiring the defendants to provide the plaintiffs with HCBS Waivers within 60 days, ensure they receive community-based residential opportunities, ensure the administration methods do not lead to unnecessary institutionalization, and more. The plaintiffs additionally seek litigation fees, a trial by jury, and any other relief deemed proper by the court.

The plaintiffs are represented in the litigation by Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP.

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