Judge dismisses federal lawsuit accusing Florida of 'warehousing' kids in SNFs

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A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Florida health officials alleging that they unnecessarily housed hundreds of disabled children in nursing homes across the state.

The state was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2013, claiming a 6-month investigation found that officials violated the American with Disabilities Act by unnecessarily institutionalizing children.

In his opinion, filed Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Zloch ruled that the U.S. Department of Justice did not have the legal “standing” under the ADA to sue Florida over the issue. Instead, Zloch said, the ADA only allows lawsuits filed by people “alleging discrimination,” which does not include the DOJ.

The ruling “eviscerated 26 years of federal enforcement,” and could leave hundreds of children with disabilities to grow up alongside elderly nursing home residents,

Matthew Dietz, a lawyer whose lawsuit on the issue spurred the DOJ to intervene, told the Miami Herald.

“This renders the rights of these kids with disabilities a sham,” Dietz said.

As of 2013, an estimated 200 disabled children were living in nursing homes, while additional children were at “significant risk” of being admitted to such facilities.