This report, released in January, 2018 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,' Office of the Inspector General, Administraton for Community Liiving, and Office of Civil Rights acknowledged the systemic shortcomings in protecting residents of HCBS waiver group homes from incidents of abuse and neglect. OIG found that up to 99 percent of these critical incidents were not reported to the appropriate law enforcement or state agencies as required. The report stated, “Group Home beneficiaries are at risk of serious harm. OIG found that health and safety policies and procedures were not being followed. Failure to comply with these policies and procedures left group home beneficiaries at risk of serious harm. These are not isolated incidents but a systemic problem – 49 States had media reports of health and safety problems in group homes.”
Ohio families of individuals who need and choose Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF) were granted intervention in the Ball v. Kasich class action filed by Disability Rights Ohio.
This is a very positive developmental in this case as ICF families have been given a place in this fight to protect the interests of their vulnerable family members whose homes, sheltered workshops and day programs are put at risk by this litigation.
Lead lawyer for the ICF families, William Choslovsky, stated,
“This is a great day for all intellectually disabled Ohioans. In his detailed opinion, Chief Judge Sargus nails it. He ‘gets it’ not just on a legal level, but also on a human level. As Chief Judge Sargus ruled:”
‘This litigation is complex and important. Excluding individuals with disabilities who will be directly impacted is not the appropriate way to make this case less complex.’ [Chief Judge Sargus, Opinion and Order, p.22]
“Only by having all intellectually disabled Ohioans at the table – both those who want to live in small settings and those, like our clients, who want to remain in their large settings – can all interests be addressed.”
“Put most simply, you don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. That is, expanding choice for some should not come at the expense of eliminating choice for others. Chief Judge Sargus gets that.”
Last week, Congress passed the 2016 Spending Bill. Several VOR members have been working with the Labor Health & Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee to try to get protective language written into the bill that would favor VOR's positions on choice and the rights of the I/DD population. While we succeeded in the House, the Senate LHHS Subcommittee did not agree and the House language was changed.
While we did not achieve the language we wanted, we did achieve some language which will hopefully be a step forward in bringing pressure on the Administration to address our grievances with federal policies which allow federal funds to support law suits brought in the name of individuals with cognitive deficits without their legal guardians’ approval.