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Florida Children Being Sent To Adult Nursing Homes, Federal Government Threatens Legal Action Against State

Federal investigators have threatened legal action against Florida health officials if they do not work to resolve allegations that “children with disabilities are being sent to adult nursing homes unnecessarily.” The U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to Florida officials saying that the state is violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act because they have allowed more than 200 children and infants with disabilities to be sent to adult nursing homes, often without a “clear path to return home.”

In the letter, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said, “We hope you will reconsider your unwillingness to cooperate with our investigation.” Investigators requested information from Florida health officials over nine months ago, but have received nothing from the state. Perez also stated, “If a mutually agreeable resolution is not possible, we will not hesitate to take swift and appropriate legal action.” The U.S. Department of Justice has resolved similar violations in other states, including Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and Delaware.

State law officials deny the allegations against them. Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek stated that she is “open to meeting with the DOJ to clarify the misunderstanding.” She stated that children are “receiving the ‘medically necessary’ services that they need.” She also stated that her staff met with the children’s parents so that they feel their children are in the best place and that the efforts were “well received.”

Federal investigators contend that they continue to receive panicked calls from parents and that the state has “slashed in-home medical services for disabled children,” leaving them no place to go other than nursing homes. “The state has cut funding for 24-hour in-home nursing and other home based services for children on ventilators, feeding tubes and other complicated technology,” and parents who are unable to care for their children have no choice but to send them to nursing homes that does not have the proper equipment or staff to help their children. Investigators visited several nursing homes and found that children were not exposed to “social, educational and recreational activities that are critical to child development.”

Feds threaten lawsuit over kids in nursing homes, September 26, 2012.

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