Colorado state capitol building

The Colorado attorney general’s office defended the state’s nursing homes Friday, fighting back against a federal lawsuit that claims thousands of disabled Coloradans have been unnecessarily held at nursing facilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Sept. 29 lawsuit from the US Department of Justice cites several complaints it has received alleging discrimination against disabled nursing home residents.

“Each year, many Coloradans with physical disabilities move into nursing facilities after becoming injured, sick, or homeless, or when friends, relatives, or paid caregivers can no longer take care of them,” the lawsuit states. “For some, a brief rehabilitative stay turns into a long-term nursing facility placement when the State does not provide the services they need to move back to their homes. As a result, some people who want to return home have stayed in nursing facilities for many years.”

The state argued that its transition plans for returning disabled residents to their homes and communities are adequate and that the DOJ’s accusations to the contrary are unsupported.

“Colorado has a comprehensive and effective working plan for adequately serving Colorado Medicaid members in the community,” the AG’s office claimed in its 31-page rebuttal.

The rebuttal also argued that the DOJ doesn’t outline any way to fix the alleged problems in the state and fails to recognize that major overhauls of the current system could add more complications and uncertainty to Medicaid programs that other residents rely on.  

The lawsuit follows seven years of legal fights between federal and state governments, including a years-long DOJ investigation that concluded Colorado was violating the ADA in March 2022. 

Colorado initially agreed to work to bolster its programs to transition nursing home residents back to their communities, but repeated meetings with the DOJ failed to produce a settlement. 

The recent lawsuit followed this breakdown in negotiations. The DOJ is now demanding that the state provide more at-home care to disabled Coloradans. Colorado, meanwhile, continues to maintain that it already has programs in place to provide the legally required services.