Court approves another pact that siphons facility residents

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Judge Nancy Torresen
Judge Nancy Torresen
In another strike against the traditional nursing home census base, a federal judge in Maine has approved a class-action lawsuit settlement that lets those with long-term disabilities live in their home or the community.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen approved a settlement in May involving three men with cerebral palsy who sued the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in 2009. They said the DHHS did not create opportunities for them to live outside nursing homes, which was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Nursing Home Reform Act.

Terms of the settlement include the DHHS offering home- and community-based services to those who live in nursing homes, or face a likelihood of moving into a facility. In her decision, Torresen wrote that the plaintiffs had a strong case, and that the settlement gives them close to everything they requested.

The case was certified as a class-action lawsuit last year and involved 121 people who had CP, epilepsy or other illness that make them eligible to live in a nursing home.

The Maine decision comes less than a year after Illinois reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit that required offering subsidized apartments to some Cook County nursing residents. That lawsuit revolved around whether Illinois was obeying the 1999 Olmstead Supreme Court decision requiring government agencies to place people with disabilities in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their needs.

The federal government has supported the push toward home- and community-based services, with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services enhancing rates and rules to  promote keeping beneficiaries in the community.

Additionally, the government freed up $3 billion in grant money in March designed to shift money away from institutional care and toward community services.