The Massachusetts State House. Credit: APCortizasJr/Getty Images
The Massachusetts State House. Credit: APCortizasJr/Getty Images

Massachusetts settled a class action lawsuit Tuesday, promising to invest $1 billion to enable 2,400 nursing home residents to move to community and residential settings over the next eight years. 

Six disabled nursing home residents initially filed the class action suit in October 2022 in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts. They argued that a lack of state resources had trapped them in nursing homes despite their wishes to return to community-based care settings. 

Similar lawsuits have been in motion across the country in recent years, with residents and their advocates consistently citing the Americans with Disabilities Act as guaranteeing them the right to receive care in the least restrictive environment.

Under the terms of this week’s settlement, the state will further invest in community-based care, including creating new residential care settings and providing rent vouchers for disabled residents. 

The state also will create “Community Transition Liaison Program” teams to advise nursing home residents on their living options — with special accommodations made for residents struggling with mental illness. Every Massachusetts nursing home that participates in Medicaid will have one of these CTLP teams assigned to it, according to court documents

The state currently invests nearly $6 billion in community-based care annually. 

A potential blueprint

Reactions to the settlement from policymakers, providers and consumer advocates have been generally positive. Massachusetts officials were optimistic about the increased investment into community-based care in an official report released by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

“This settlement is a natural next step forward as our administration expands community living options available for individuals residing in nursing facilities,” said Gov. Maura Healey (D). “We continue to look for opportunities to reduce disparities and inequities for older adults and individuals with disabilities and mental illness in Massachusetts.”  

The agreement should be “a blueprint for other states,” according to Regan Bailey, litigation director for consumer advocate group Justice in Aging.

Provider leaders on Wednesday affirmed their commitment to providing safe discharges to community care.

“Massachusetts has and remains the entity solely responsible for determining clinical admission into a nursing facility for long-term care,” Tara Gregorio, president of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association told McKnight’s. “We continue to support and collaborate on efforts to ensure residents have access to safe discharges to the community.”

Gregorio also noted that nursing homes remain a vital part of the care continuum and asked that the state ensure they are given adequate state investment.

“Nursing facilities provide a vital service to frail elders and disabled individuals who can no longer be cared for safely at home,” she said. “It is critical that these core services be fully funded to ensure quality resident care and to allow us to continue to invest in our dedicated and diverse workforce.”