Tuesday, December 22, 1998

Lawsuit targets lack of
home services for disabled

By Harold Morse


A lawsuit filed on behalf of five people with developmental disabilities claims the state violated their rights by withholding home- and community-based services even though the federal government authorized the state Medicaid program to provide them.

State officials had no immediate comment.

The suit -- filed yesterday by the nonprofit Protection and Advocacy Agency of Hawaii against the state departments of Health and Human Services -- says these benefits are authorized as an alternative to institutionalization.

An "eligible-but-wait-listed" arrangement prevents developmentally disabled people from gaining access to Medicaid services, the suit said.

While Medicaid will pay for institutional care, families that care for their developmentally disabled children at home are wait-listed and the children get no meaningful treatment from the state, it said. The absence of personal or day care, therapy or technology devices and services may result in regression and institutionalization, rather than transition to a group or care home, when family members are no longer able to provide care, the suit added.

Susan Chandler, state Department of Human Services director, said she had not seen the suit and reserved comment. "I know of one similar suit in Florida, but I haven't seen ours," she said.

Echoed William Christoffel, deputy director for health resources administration, Health Department: "I will withhold comment until I have a chance to take a look at the lawsuit."

A favorable judgment would immediately benefit some 700 people with developmental disabilities who are now wait-listed for -- but not receiving -- these services from the state, said the Protection and Advocacy Agency, adding that some have been waiting since the list began in 1981. Also, national data suggests there may be as many as 2,400 people with developmental disabilities who need home and community-based care in Hawaii, the agency said.

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