California community services program returns to court

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A group of disability advocates filed a contempt motion against the state of California on March 22, arguing that it is violating the terms of a settlement it reached with the organizations in January to preserve a program that provides services for more than 35,000 people with disabilities at-risk of being institutionalized.

The move comes just days before the state was set to replace its Adult Day Health Care program, which provides services to individuals at approximately 280 centers statewide, with its newly designed Community-Based Adult Services program.

Under the settlement, individuals presumed eligible to transition into the new program are entitled to a face-to-face assessment. If the nurse determines that an individual is not eligible, then that individual is entitled to appeal to a nursing supervisor.

The advocates allege that the state is illegally denying some individuals access to the new CBAC services by allowing supervisors not only to review appeals, but to overturn determinations by the nurses that the individuals are eligible for services.

Noting that these supervisor’s typically make their considerations based on a four-page review, as opposed to to the extensive medical documentation and observations from the on-site assessors, the advocates argue that the state has created an unauthorized “second level of review” that is contrary to the settlement’s purpose of ensuring a smooth transition for people in need of essential services.

“There is simply no basis in the Agreement for a process by which a finding of eligibility may be overturned on an administrative review,” the advocates argue in the motion, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of California. “It defies logic and common sense, as well as clinical sense, that findings based on this wealth of information could be overturned by a paper review with any degree of reliability.”

As a result, many people likely eligible for services are likely to have their services and benefits delayed, causing “uncertainty and unnecessary anguish,” according to the advocates.

“This leaves Class Members to await an uncertain fate on March 31, and their ADHC providers in the untenable position of terminating eligible Class Members from a program that they believe is needed to maintain their health and independence,” the motion states.

The lawsuit was originally filed by Disability Rights California, the National Senior Citizens Law Center, the National Health Law Program and the AARP Foundation Litigation in 2010, after the state legislature voted to eliminate the entire ADHC program.

Disability Rights California is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.