State settles dispute with DOJ over community-based services for disabled children

PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services will change policies to ensure children with intellectual and developmental disabilities such as autism will get approved community-based services, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island and the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The changes are part of a settlement with DOJ and the parents of an autistic child of  alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The state agency will ensure every affected family receives a family care plan, allow families to receive services from different provider agencies and provide oversight to make sure children with disabilities receive authorized community-based services.

“Integrated, community-based services for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities are critical to keeping families together and ensuring that children receive care in a supporting and loving environment; no family should be forced to make a choice between care and separation from their children when adequate support is possible in a community setting,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha of the District of Rhode Island.  “That is what the ADA requires, what today’s agreement is designed to ensure, and what this office will continue to demand as we go forward.”

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The parents had accused the state of failing to provide their son with the authorized community-based Medicaid services that would help keep him home rather than be placed in a residential treatment facility. The parents feared their son would be forced to enter an institution since he only received half of the 25 to 34 mandated hours.

The child entered an an out-of-state residential treatment facility for several months following a U.S. investigation.

Under the agreement, EOHHS will develop an individual service plan to identify the community-based services necessary for the child to live at home and pay $75,000 in damages.

“The ADA requires states to provide disability services in the most integrated setting appropriate so that children can remain at home with their families,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Providing community-based services allows children with disabilities to live at home and avoid residential facilities. The Civil Rights Division will vigorously enforce the ADA so that people with disabilities can get services at home instead of in facilities.”